It All Began with a Book: Galaxy's Edge Planet a Setting in New Star Wars Bookby Todd King, contributing writer
"You've seen this place?" asks Luke Skywalker to Rey, who had recently arrived at Ahch-To and was now curious about the Jedi textbooks in the sacred tree.
Rey replies, "Only in dreams," realizing then that her visions were more than just dreams. For us, this was a moment where she revealed to Luke her connection to the Force. She's found herself at the origin point of the Jedi where the first books of its teachings resided. The Jedi began with books.
When I think about the coming Galaxy's Edge Star Wars land, and while watching this scene from The Last Jedi, I consider how the designers of the park wanted the place to look new, to be an original location—and at the same time, how they wanted the place to feel familiar. As far as aesthetics go, they knew it ought to look like a place that came from these films. It should be a place from a Star Wars fan's dreams. Disney, being the company all about making dreams come true, is working hard to make it all happen.
In constructing Disneyland and the subsequent theme parks, Disney always began with the story. From Main Street to Tomorrowland, you were journeying through stories of quainter times and future hopes. You would pass the threshold of an old Antebellum house and suddenly find yourself on the edge of a lagoon, where boats take you into a living story of pirates by the ocean shore.
Disney films often employed a framing device of an opening book to begin the adventure as if to say, "You are now entering the book, going into the story itself." Cinderella, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Ichabod and Mr. Toad are only some examples of this. Of course, these are movies that came from books. What about Star Wars? Did it come from a book? Yes and no.
George Lucas first created Star Wars by writing stories. He had a lot of the ideas of the story jumping around in his brain just like any of us who feel the call to write have ideas that are also bouncing about in our minds; we become writers when we finally structure these ideas into a document.
Lucas imagined that his story, set in space, would be a tale handed down from an earlier, perhaps ancient, time. The story originally carried the title, Journal of the Whills, letting the reader know at once that this all would come from a manuscript. In the same way, some Disney films started and ended with a book. Lucas said that the beginning of the tale he was writing, "was meant to emphasize that whatever story followed came from a book" (from The Making of Star Wars, J.W. Rinzler). Even though the final product of the first Star Wars movie turned out much different from these initial writings, the one important idea that never left was the idea of the beginning text, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." That phrase tells us that this is a story, a tale, something handed down, perhaps from a book, and is not much different from other tales, fairy tales, beginning with, "Once upon a time."
I think it is only fitting that the first mention of Batuu, the setting for Galaxy's Edge, comes from a book.
As the countdown begins for the 2019 opening of Galaxy's Edge, we get a little tease about the park's content from an upcoming Star Wars novel. In July, the new book by Timothy Zahn, Thrawn: Alliances, will be released, and it follows a special mission conducted by a slightly unlikely alliance between Grand Admiral Thrawn (a character created by Zahn in his first Star Wars book, Heir to the Empire from 1991) and Darth Vader (you can read an excerpt here).
There is a disturbance in the Force, but there are some other problems. Vader thinks the disturbance is Kanan (from Rebels), but the idea is dismissed by the Emperor. Vader's mention of Kanan places the time of this story squarely between episodes III and IV. The most interesting part of the story excerpt is that the mission will take place on Batuu. Does that name sound familiar? Batuu, says the Emperor, is at the edge of the Unknown Regions. For one thing, that is an area said to be the origin of Supreme Leader Snoke—but I'm getting ahead of it all. The planet itself has special significance in the Star Wars realm: it is the setting of Galaxy's Edge.
Events in Thrawn: Alliances could tell some of the story of Batuu, its people, its history. We don't know what this mission is about yet, but after it is over, will there be evidence within Galaxy's Edge of events that happen in this book? Will characters that Vader or Thrawn meet there that will be present when we make our visit in person (although they might be older)? Will some of the promised interactivity and immersion draw on happenings from Zahn's story? The placement of Batuu in this new Star Wars canon adds to the history of Batuu, giving a bit more aura to Galaxy's Edge without it needing to appear in a movie.
I can't help but wonder what impacts the book will have on Galaxy's Edge. What is the significance of the Millennium Falcon there? Will the Solo movie have a brush with this planet or with this mission (since it does take place near the same timeframe)? The possibilities are delicious, especially when thinking that Batuu has something to do with Darth Vader's past. Would this have something to do with Ahsoka Tano? I mean, Palpatine mentions Kanan, but the disturbance is not him. It wouldn't be a big jump to conclude that Ahsoka figures into this—and she is a big part of Vader's past. Perhaps the creation of Galaxy's Edge by Disney Imagineering has more impact on the book than the book has impact on Galaxy's Edge. I just like the idea that somewhere in the park we can imagine a piece of graffiti that could read, "Vader was here."
This is an example of Disney, Lucasfilm, and an author building up a multi-tiered experience together. I like, however, that this all begins with a book (unless, again, Solo shows us something… I mean, could that shady gambling place where Lando and Han make that famous bet be on Batuu?). Overall, it makes Batuu more than just some random port in the galaxy. It becomes a crosspoint for several storylines and possibly a few character arcs.
What, finally, will this really do for our experience in the park? It layers it. Enriches it. Does it take away from this being our journey and our story in this universe? Will it then just be the place where such-and-such happened? The Imagineers have been saying that we create our own destinies here, but will this story add to it or will it detract from our immersive experience? It will all begin with a book.
Having Batuu be a setting in this story may seem like an insignificant choice, but since decisions such as these are often handled by Lucasfilm's story department, it's a big decision. It's not just a place to mention, but it will become a place with a past (the excerpt refers to events that have already happened) and will affect the present story of the book (the things that are about to happen in its pages). After the book is out, then what? What happens next on Batuu? That's where we will come in—to a place we know, but have only seen in our dreams.