Star Wars Rebels Interactive Adventure and the new Rogue One Trailerby Todd King, contributing writer
News broke this past Saturday that actor Kenny Baker passed away only days before his 82nd birthday. We owe him some gratitude for bringing the character of R2-D2 to life. It may seem strange to some that Mr. Baker brought to life a robo,t but R2 was always presented as a living character, even with feelings. Mr. Baker always portrayed R2 as a tenacious droid who is loyal to the end.
Without speaking, without a face, without much mobility, Baker probably had the toughest job from an actor's point of view. How do make a trash-can shaped bot relatable to audiences and loved by fans? Producers of the movies could have simply operated R2 as merely a machine by remote control, but it would not have had the same effect. Need an example? Watch the blooper reel on your Phantom Menace DVD and you'll see plenty of problems when R2-D2 was without Kenny Baker. He bumped into walls, fell over, and just had a hard time of it. Granted, Baker wasn't always in the machine for every scene especially those involving a lot of forward motion on his rollers, but when R2 is at his best when he is interacting with other characters, especially C-3PO, played by Anthony Daniels.
And when R2 is interacting with other characters there is more than a hint of humanity; he looks around curiously, he wobbles with delight, and he hunches over when sad. The timing and art of these movements could not have been done by a machine and would not have endeared us to him. Kenny Baker brought the little droid closer to us because we could sense that human touch inside that blue metal body. My condolences to Mr. Baker's family in honor of the beloved actor.
Let's talk about a rumor: Star Wars land (or whatever it may finally be named) might open when the Episode VIII movie premieres. That's ambitious. Could it really be ready to open in a mere 16 months? It seems possible for a Disney construction project, right? The thing is, this is no ordinary construction project. The Star Wars area will be 14 acres walking areas, façades, shops, backstage areas, restaurants, and—according to the concept drawings—mountains. That's not to mention that for Disneyland, it represents the park's largest expansion in its history.
For Disney Hollywood Studios, it is still quite substantial, especially with Toy Story Land on the way, too. And these builds are going on simultaneously! We talk a lot about "Disney magic," and well, that magic isn't just for guests in parks that are already built—it's also for the employees and workers who set the stage for the magic to happen. They may not rush this build, but they are already working on these attractions at all hours of the day and night to get them ready for guests. Is their goal to finish by next December?
What an opening day that could be!. Imagine it's December 15, 2017, and Disneyland and Walt Disney World both hold simultaneous events that begin with the premiere of Episode VIII and, once the credits finish rolling, finish when the ribbon is cut for Star Wars land. If the park models some of its terrain after scenery from that movie, then the effect on the guests present at that time would be incredible. I don't think it's going to happen this way, however, because it would seem that one event could take away the focus (and press) from the other event.
Each event—the movie and the opening of the park—should probably get its own time to shine in the news. My limited business sense would lead me to believe that each event is enough to fill up news columns for weeks on its own. But still, if both events did take place in December, it would be an extravaganza unmatched in park history. I imagine such a prospect might be tempting to some Disney execs; it would be different and amazing and big and just blow everyone's minds. But you can't do it just because it would be cool—you've got to have some mind to the business, which I don't have.
Disney has been good about timing things such as Star Wars Celebrations, trailer debuts, press releases, toys going on sale, etc. And all that is to lay the ground for just the right amount of hype. So, does this still mean a December 2017 opening? Difficult to see… always in motion, is the future.
Disney parks get augmented reality Star Wars experience
That's more than a mouthful. A new Augmented Reality (AR) experience is coming to Disney parks in the States with the "Star Wars Rebels Interactive Adventure." The DIsney Parks Blog offers up an announcement offers up an announcement and some details regarding this new role-playing adventure that is available at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
With a smartphone and $500, you get a plethora of equipment has you role play as a rebel spy while dressed in the uniform of an Imperial officer. It begins in your resort room, where you're greeted with the uniform and other trappings to infiltrate the Empire and deliver information to the rebels. Ezra from the Rebels TV show greets you on your phone and gives you instructions about what to do and where to go.
With the AR phone app, you find stations around your resort hotel to collect and transmit data secretly to the rebels. But your mission cannot be completed without a visit to "Star Tours: The Adventures Continue," where you finish your tasks around the queue, in the line and probably at the exits as well. Upon completion, you return to your room and receive a medal for bravery. The medal is even fashioned after those that Luke and Han received in A New Hope. You also get a lightsaber and several other gifts to take home with you so you can continue with more activities through the smartphone app.
I must say, this interactive role-playing within the parks sounds like a fantastic idea. I mean, you get to role play as a rebel, and be in disguise as a member of the Empire—immediately, you feel cool. You're not just on a mission, you're on a SECRET mission… in Star Wars… in a Disney park! The concept itself sounds so fun and makes me wish to be a kid again. As an adult though, kids can share the adventure but for each person to get all the prizes and toys, each would need to be signed up and paid.
The fact that it culminates at Star Tours gives the mission a heightened sense of importance and adds to the fantasy. Sprinkle in that augmented reality that is popular with Pokemon Go, and that it stresses exploration and adds the amazing environment of the resorts and parks into the fun. Putting on the costumes enhances the role-play and might enable costumed characters like Darth Vader and Stormtroopers to interact with you.
You also get props for the adventure like a holocron—it is just like the one on the Rebels series that connects you with the adventures on the show. And who doesn't want a lightsaber? That's included as well—a unique one at that. And you keep the clothes for further cosplaying at home or at Star Wars gatherings and conventions. The banners and posters can decorate your room back home (more than just souvenirs). If you're a pin collector at Disney, the medal makes a great lanyard for holding and showing-off your pins. Everything about this is so cool… except one thing: the price.
Five hundred dollars is more than steep—-that is steeper than the bays at Utapau. For the adventure you already have to stay at a Disney Resort hotel and head into Disneyland or Disney's Hollywood Studios—things already not too cheap. There are folks out there who wouldn't bat an eye at that price tag, but for those of us who save for years for a Disney trip, something like this just seems out of reach, especially if you had more than one child who wanted to participate and reap the rewards, too.
Perhaps the price will go down after some early adopters run the program through its motions and the creative Disney Imagineers who designed this adventure can improve it. Maybe the servers running the game couldn't handle a huge number of participants at the beginning and the price keeps the user numbers low—who knows? But what I know is that this price tag will keep a lot of people (who would otherwise love to play it) out of the game. Is it worth the $500? Is it nothing more than a special version of Pokemon Go but on a smaller scale and with added props? Could there be other apps in the near future that utilize the augmented reality around the resort but without the added props or cost? Perhaps more games and experiences like this will come that will add just a little bit of magic to your vacation but not be a whole separate adventure.
My next questions are: is Disney testing the waters for some similar adventures in the coming Star Wars land? Could this be a sign of things to come? What kind of adventures could await us in the new park? Could the adventures be completely personalized to the user? Would Star Wars Land be teeming with interactive check points and activities? Could costumes you buy and props you carry have an impact on your game? Could the park offer new and unique rewards that change every so often?
I wonder if they'll go beyond AR and use near-field communication (NFC) technology with either smartphones or Magic Bands (or this recent rumored testing of foot-traffic sensors) to make customized actions happen. Maybe you could use your Magic Band or phone to interact with the physical parts of the park in new ways, like using the Force to lift and move objects and manipulate consoles.
One of the ideas of the new land is to give the guest an immersive experience and, in the concept art, we've seen characters from the movies walking around—so maybe some kind of interaction with them could happen through an adventure app. Maybe you're sent on a mission to meet a certain character at a certain place and time, and they give you the next clue, reward, prop, or simply a Fastpass to one of the rides, or even getting a coupon for a free glass of blue milk at the cantina. Maybe if you fulfill enough of your mission, you are part of a stage show at night or get to participate in some event. I can't imagine the kind of brainstorming going on at Disney Imagineering about things like this; I wish I was a part of it.
Whatever new adventures await us in Star Wars land, I just hope that all the fun and cool experiences aren't reserved only for those who pay more. Lots more. Yes, getting to the best restaurants and hotels are given to those who pay more than the rest, but for the last number of decades the mantra of the park is that once you're inside the gates, everyone's equal. Everyone can get in any line, everyone can get Fastpass tickets, everyone can watch the shows, and everyone can experience the magic.
If Star Wars land gets built with some kind of extra premium experience in mind that not everyone can get, then Star Wars land will be built on principles of division like no other land or park has before. It will reward wealth, or like some video games, be littered with microtransactions that are not "pay to play," but "pay to win." I may be on a false start here; I'm just conjecturing. Others before me have seen changes to the parks over the years that have changed previously established operations, and with new lands like this being built and with more massive crowds than Walt Disney could never have imagined, we will see changes. To what degree and how far will these ideas and attractions change the fundamental experience of a visit to a Disney theme park?
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Trailer (Official). Star Wars YouTube Channel.
Yet another reaction to the Rogue One trailer
I'm certain you've already seen the new Rogue One trailer that came out last Thursday. Regardless of your reaction, here is my positive take on it, with a lot of conjecture and educated guesses.
The trailer opens with shot of Jedha, considered a holy city by the Jedi. Perhaps this is the origin or birthplace of the Jedi, which, if true, could warrant a visit to it by Luke and Rey in Episode VIII. Jedha's architecture and design are very reminiscent of Jerusalem, complete with surrounding wall—so it already plays on our earthly idea of a holy city. But now the land is taken over by an invading Imperial force, as seen with the TIE Fighters zipping around the place. Double-winged shuttles taking off from the city remind us of the design of the iconic Imperial Shuttle from Return of the Jedi (and from The Empire Strikes Back, special edition, hrmph). It shows how the Empire reached out its power over the galaxy.
Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) appears with his bushy hair and seems a bit down. Our heroine, Jyn Erso, is there to bring hope. They seem very yin/yang, both with doubt and hope. We return to this scene at the end of the trailer, where it seems Gerrera is finally encouraged by Jyn.
There is another shot of the walled city, but from the outside at ground level, and we see that it is built over the rocks. A temple with a tall tower or steeple appears high on its skyline, which would be a great sight to those making a pilgrimage there; it has been mentioned in Rogue One press that Jedha is such a destination. Perhaps it actually is a temple that once was home to Jedi. Again, we see an image of the Empire taking over as the Star Destroyer (for the first time being seen near a planet surface), casting its looming shadow from above. In a later shot, a Star Destroyer is coming out of the shadows, and it made me realize there are lots of shadows in this trailer. Is this a Gareth Edwards thing?
We get a good shot of the U-Wing. A new ship to us, this is an old ship in the Star Wars timeline. It takes off, and we see more temples in what appears to be planet Yavin, where the rebels have their secret base from A New Hope. Then the U-Wing is shown flying over tall rock formations at night, which may either be on Jedha or on a new planet.
The character Baze, seemingly a hardened warrior, mentions that the Empire destroyed his home, and they are out destroying more. He then he shoots down some Stormtroopers. More Stormtroopers move into a town, marching and on tanks. The character Chirrut walks forward, saying he fears nothing, since he says, "All is as the Force wills it." He must be a spiritual character, a blind seer, a martial artist that takes down troopers with his staff. He is perhaps sensitive to the Force but is not a Jedi, and that may prove useful if the team has to go finding kyber crystals.
K-2SO continues the tradition of droids being comic relief since he is the only humorous thing in the trailer: first in explicitly stating he will not be killing Jyn Erso, and second, in offering a percentage failure rate in a manner like C-3PO did when telling Han Solo the odds in Empire.
Another shot shows the completed Death Star orbiting a planet, which I presume is Jedha according to its colors. Promotional posters show the Death Star in the sky above Scarif, the tropical-looking planet. Perhaps the Death Star does a bit more traveling in this one as it did in Episode IV. Then it eclipses the sun on Jedha (again with the shadow motif) in a cool shot.
Then we see a shot of Krennic, the Imperial officer, our supposed villain. He marches forward past other officers and troops to a viewscreen like the one we saw in A New Hope as the Death Star approached Alderaan and destroyed it.
There are scenes of war on Scarif with troops on the ground and X-Wings overhead. An Imperial tank destroys what could be a civilian building. Yes, you must show bad guys doing bad things. X-Wings over the nighttime planet, Baze launches a rocket to an AT-ACT damaging its head and causing it to reel back. This is followed by what looks like mountains tumbling down, and Jyn and Cassian are flying through it in an escape attempt—it doesn't look like we'll be short on action. This also appears to be planet Jedha—and so, something really bad is going to happen there.
It makes me wonder about the sacrifices the characters will make for this mission. The planet and its inhabitants could be victims. Maybe the Death Star is partially operational and can cause massive damage without being able to destroy an entire planet? This could be related to the imminent "major weapons test" mentioned by the character, Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebellion. Next, a TIE Fighter crashes into an structure full of Imperial officers. Oops.
Then we get an amazingly cool shot showing Jyn on a landing platform marching forward, blaster in hand. As she approaches the end of the walkway, which is a dead end (so she is approaching danger purposely), a TIE Fighter rises up to meet her head-on! Like the Star Destroyer before it, and in scenes from The Force Awakens, it is so cool to see these starships not out in space but terrorizing the planet surfaces. And in this image, Jyn shows her true courage. This is followed by a clip with Jyn on a ship with all the characters we've been meeting in these trailers who are now on her team—and she asks, "Are you with me?" It's almost a question to the audience, too. I'm with her.
Finally, Darth Vader. One second of the back of Vader, to be precise. We hear his breathing sound as he looks on a screen that may be showing the orbital path for the Death Star to take around a planet, and what may be a timer in the upper left. To me, it is like the screens shown when the Death Star approached Yavin in A New Hope. We don't know what role Vader will play in all this, but here he is presented as a shadowy figure who is perhaps behind everything that is happening. His presence made his mark on this trailer and in the hype for Rogue One, and it is certain his presence will make a strong impact on the plot and characters in the story.
The trailers seem to focus on the gathering of a team, members who all have their own reasons for combating against the Empire. It shows some of their motivations (destroying their homes, disrupting the force) for fighting, and that Jyn is the key to bring them all together and to bring hope to them all.
I'm giddy with anticipation for an off-beat Star Wars movie that can live and breathe and excite fans without the movie being about Skywalkers.
Let the real anticipation begin.