Bringing Galaxy’s Edge To Life At Star Wars Celebration Chicago
by Erik Amaya
Key members of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge creative team appeared at Star Wars Celebration Chicago on Saturday to discuss the upcoming Disney Parks lands and reveal a few surprising new details about the major expansions to Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
And for fans of beloved Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels character Hondo Ohnaka, the group confirmed voice actor Jim Cummings will reprise his role for the animatronic version of Hondo inside the land’s major “anchor” attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. According to Lucasfilm story group member Matt Martin, Hondo comes into possession of the Falcon through an uneasy alliance with Chewbacca — the story of which is detailed in a Star Wars novel called Pirate’s Price — but for the purposes of the groundbreaking attraction, Honda will be the riders’ boss as they take control of the legendary spaceship.
But more than just ride the attraction, guests will pilot the ship, solve engineering issues, or even man gunning stations to shoot down approaching TIE fighters. Each flight crew’s actions will change the outcome of the ride and even the look of the Falcon as guests disembark. According to Lucasfilm Creative Director Doug Chiang, “the iconic [Falcon] hallway is going to look different depending how you fly.”
Coming back to Hondo, he added, “Hondo is phenomenal boss, but he doesn’t take too kindly to people who bring the ship back in bad shape.” In fact, guests’ performance on Smugglers Run will follow them throughout their day at Galaxy’s Edge should they choose to take part in the continuing story.
The story, which includes a secret war between Resistance agents and an occupying First Order force, will be told via cast members in character and a new Star Wars data pad embedded in the Disney Play app. As lead Smuggler’s Run producer Asa Kalama explained, “as you enter Galaxy’s Edge, your phone becomes a Star Wars tool” capable of translating the Aurebesh language dotting the landscape — and appearing on specially designed Coke bottles — hacking into droids and First Order tracking devices, scanning contents of crates, and tuning into local com chatter.
The app will also feature an ongoing contest between the Resistance and the First Order for control of Galaxy’s Edge key setting: Blackspire Outpost on the planet Batuu. Guests can choose a side and use the app to help or hinder the First Order’s surveillance of the region.
Guests will also be able to get closer to the Resistance on the other “anchor” attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Positioned as an experience in which guests can join the Resistance, they will soon find themselves arrested by First Order operatives and transported to an orbiting Star Destroyer. According to Disney Imagineering Portfolio Creative Director Scott Trowbridge, the experience will be “epic” as guests come into contact with Kylo Ren, Rey, and Poe Dameron. The attraction will not open with the two Galaxy’s Edges this summer, but from Trowbridge’s description, it will be worth the extra wait. “This is biggest attraction we’ve ever built,” he said. “It should be epic because it’s Star Wars.”
Beyond the two rides, Galaxy’s Edge will feature a fully immersive Star Wars experience. “We get to play with all of the sense,” said Disney Imagineering Creative Director Chris Beatty. “[We asked] ‘What’s the texture, what’s the grit that brings it to life? What are the smells?’” The alleys of Blackspire Outpost will be filled with he smell of ronto meat roasting on a flame provided by a disused podracing engine. “The mynock jerky is delicious,” he said.
Sound will also be important, with John Williams returning to provide Galaxy’s Edge with a new suite of themes. The local cantina will also feature the latest hits from Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes and a form of blues provided by an “all-droid band.”
Those Modal Nodes tracks and droid blues will be hosted by DJ Rex, the former Star Tours pilot. Crash-landing on the planet during the final battle of the Galactic Civil War, he was soon reprogramed to play music at the cantina. Paul Reubens, who voiced Rex in the original version of Star Tours, reprises his role.
And, as it turns out, one more Star Wars veteran will returns as some guests will receive a message from Yoda, voiced once again by Frank Oz.
But new characters will also populate the world. Beatty spoke about Doc Andar, an Ithroian shop owner realized by animatronics. Guests will have to barter with him as they try to buy special items in the shop. His story also extends past the shop as he is also the local mob boss. And, as Trowbridge explained, “he is not the nicest guy on the planet.”
Nonetheless, his shop will have lightsabers, but Beatty added guests will have the option of searching out another character called Savid who can show them how to create their own lightsabers. “They will be one of a kind,” he said. “They are the highest end lightsabers we’ve developed.”
These one-of-a-kind details are part of the overall goal with Galaxy’s Edge. As Kalama explained, “guests can ride the rides and buy the items if that’s all they want. But tor those that want to, you can take on this [Star Wars] persona.” The added immersiveness will allow guests to play in the biggest, most realized Star Wars playgrounds ever devised.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens May 31st at Disneyland and August 29th at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.