Galaxy's Edge Opening Season Predictionsby Todd King, contributing writer
At the end of last month, there was a slew of news about Galaxy's Edge that revealed a few details about the park expansions in both California and Florida (read our extensive coverage from Alan S. Dalinka and Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix in our May 30 Walt Disney World Resort Update). This article provides a great quick summary of the Star Wars announcements from the Disney Parks Blog and the recent Galactic Nights, which held panels with Imagineers about the construction, then looks at the sort-of announcement of the parks' opening seasons, as well as the name given to the township we'll be able to set foot in next year at the edge of the galaxy.
In Disneyland, Galaxy's Edge will open exactly a year from now, on June 21, 2019. Well, that doesn't mean June 21, exactly, although technically, it could be. Us rebels wanting to attend on opening day next year need to begin making plans as soon as possible. Annual passholders should read Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix's detailed report on blockout calendars.
It's all very foreign to me, but it seems to me that Disneyland is working to make that opening time go smoothly in terms of crowds, to make the opportunity to be the first ones there open to anybody regardless of whether they have an annual passport or not. Those officials planning this whole thing must have a monumental task—one that they don't want to turn into a fiasco. But how do you handle passholders—your most-devoted guests—while accommodating those who may not live nearby but who also want to be there?
Galaxy's Edge is a dream come true for Disney and Star Wars fans, but the truth is that it will be crowded—so, very, very crowded. That's the price you pay for the privilege of being there at the outset to experience it first. Consider the opening of Pandora: World of Avatar in Disney's Animal Kingdom last year. Many of the initials photos shared by guests showed tremendously long lines, but most everything else seemed postitive.
I truly wonder how the opening will go. There is such great interest welling up that I'm curious how Disney plans to actually handle those massive crowds and the accompanying foot traffic. The question likely won't be whether Disneyland will reach maximum capacity, but at what point in the day it happens (the park follows strict occupancy levels set by the fire marshal).
Disney parks know all about crowd control and has learned valuable lessons about it dating back to Disneyland's own opening almost 63 years ago. Will the AT-ATs keep walking all day? Will Stormtroopers keep out those cheating to get through? (See reference to Solo: A Star Wars Story there) Will the cantina run out of blue milk? They can't run out of blue milk!
As for Walt Disney World and Galaxy's Edge in Disney's Hollywood Studios, the opening season is set to be "late fall 2019." While fall begins September 21, a "late fall" opening could technically be as late as December 21; but when we think fall, we often don't think December. My guess is that we're looking at an opening sometime in November—October is still early fall in my book. The nice thing about Disneyland's opening in summer is that kids are out of school. For Disney World, late fall means school's in session. Honestly, does that really matter? Kids are present in vast numbers every day of the year in Disney World. A late fall opening for the Star Wars land won't put any damper on attendance by children with their parents. I reckon the weeks after Thanksgiving and up to the end of the second week of December are possibly the lightest crowds you can get these days. Lest we forget, Star Wars Episode IX will be released on December 20, 2019, so all things Star Wars will be a bit fever-pitched around then, not to mention the temperatures and humidity (which actually aren't too bad in Florida around that time, all things considered).
Once both parks are open for a while—a few months to a year or so—I'm curious how attendance affects the parks overall. With the addition of a Star Wars hotel/resort, I believe we all (both park guests and Disney Parks execs) can expect a surge of crowds that will lead to a new status quo. While I'm looking forward to the opening, I'm more interested to the time when Batuu is one of many places you'll visit on a day in a Disney park (read: tolerable lines).
As for me, I'll be visiting Galaxy's Edge in Florida at some point since it's closer to me than California. However, I won't be there opening day. Or opening week. Or month. Within the opening 12 months is a possibility, however unlikely. I want to fly the Millennium Falcon as much as the next fan but I may not wish to wait in line six or eight hours for the privilege. I'm not convinced that this particular attraction is going to move people as quickly as the Pirates of the Carribean, but I'm also not expecting old Dumbo kinds of waiting. I could be surprised, but if Pandora's opening was any indication, the waiting is the journey.
Titles, titles, and titles. The names of characters and places in the Star Wars universe have always been an integral part of the stories. Character names like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and even Jabba the Hutt are often used in casual conversation in our real lives. Location names like Tatooine and Hoth quickly conjure up images of hot deserts and frigid plains, respectively. George Lucas created so many titles and names that had to sound other-wordly but at the same time, familiar. The names had to be memorable and easy to pronounce but also have a bit of coolness and just a hint of nonsense. It's science fiction mixed with fantasy, after all, you can't escape a little silliness. So when Disney Imagineers had to create a name for this new park/land/place for Star Wars, they had to set about using the same criteria that guided all Star Wars naming conventions.
Galaxy's Edge, being the name of the park itself to us, needed to be the least risky name applied to this thing. It couldn't be too corny nor too boring. Including the word, "galaxy" was probably essential from the beginning. It's easy to consider why they used it: when you think Star Wars, you think of a galaxy "far, far away." Being at the edge of this galaxy fits well since this is the place where we will enter—you don't think you would enter a galaxy at its middle (although you technically could if you had hyperdrive). Luke and Anakin were from a planet in the "outer rim" of the galaxy and so it always seemed in the movies that the neatest stuff happened somewhere in deep space or at the furthest reaches of the galaxy. It sets this park as being a piece of the Star Wars realm but juuust on the outside--a place where not all the biggest actions of the movies take place, but a spot that offers a good vantage point on those actions. Besides, Galaxy's Edge sounds just cool enough and simple enough to get the point across.
Once you're inside, though, now you're away from Earth and on a new planet. We've known for some time that that planet is called Batuu. Batuu is a good simple Star Wars-like name. For me it sounds like "Klaatu" which is the name of one of Jabba the Hutt's skiff guards from Return of the Jedi. In turn, Klaatu's name is borrowed from the science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. So, Batuu, with its easily-pronouncable two syllables, has a good pedigree in its sound. It also rhymes with Jakku--I wonder if they're in the same solar system...
So, Batuu is the planet you'll be on in Galaxy's Edge. But you won't explore the entire planet, just one small village. Now that village has a name, too, which is "Black Spire Outpost." Again, simple and to the point. It's good. This name is mentioned in Solo: A Star Wars Story when L3-37 says that Lando couldn't have gotten to Black Spire without her and her extensive star charts saved in her memory. It's just a quick mention in the film but it's worth noting that the name is canon and has been mentioned as a place visited by characters from the movies. When we get there, we will see the Millennium Falcon. How it gets there is another story we don't know yet--we just know that it must be after Solo since the escape pod (between the front of the Falcon's mandibles) has been jettisonned. Worth noting also is that Han's old girlfriend, Qi'ra mentions a character named Dok-Ondar, who will be some kind of costumed character in the park. It was said by Disney that Black Spire Outpost gets its name from the terrain's environment: the thin steep rocks that give the park its look resemble dark spires. It fits fine and also sounds just slightly ominous. The First Order will be there after all.
All of these ideas add to the realism and authenticity we hope to experience in Galaxy's Edge. Like all places and names and titles in Star Wars, they have a history, they have legends. As in so many fantasy stories, the names themselves give meaning to the tale's world. Galaxy's Edge will be the name we see printed on the Disney park maps, but with the immersion the Imagineers hope to give us, we'll be entering the outer reaches of the galaxy, at its very edge, to a planet called Batuu, and finally exploring a small but fairly well-known market village named Black Spire Outpost. And who knows what threats and adventures await us under those foreboding spires? We now have our heading so get the coordinates into your nav computer, and make plans now because that little outpost is about to be the most popular destination in this galaxy. I'll get there, eventually, my ship doesn't go point five past light speed ... yet.