Interacting with Rey and Chewbacca on Batuuby Todd Pickering, contributing writer
By now we are all well aware that there is something new at the Disneyland resort and coming very soon to Walt Disney World and that is Stars Wars: Galaxy's Edge. The character meet and greet is also a new concept in this new land and it is pure magic. We spent a morning watching Rey and Chewbacca individually and then as a team and we couldn't have been more pleased to witness the fun first hand.
Grab your Entertainment Guide upon entering the Park
When it comes to entertainment at the Disneyland Resort you may have well learned by now that grabbing the weekly entertainment guide is a simple must do. Upon entering Disneyland you may get these to the left entrance of the tunnel under the train depot that leads onto Main Street USA. You may also get these at any information booth from a plaid cast member and the custodial staff usually carries them. When you look up Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge you will find this simple statement:
"Explore Black Spire Outpost on the Planet Batuu. While visiting the planet, Stormtroopers will be ensuring compliance throughout your stay. And, keep a close eye for Chewbacca, Rey, or Vi Moradi."
There are no locations or times listed. The key words here are "explore" and "keep a close eye." Black Spire Outpost is not part of Disneyland. It is another world. No one there knows much about our planet let alone Disneyland. Go on up and talk to anyone working at say the Milk Stand and they will tell you where they live and if they have ever been off of their home planet Batuu and even the name of their pet Porg (these critters have stowed away on the Millennium Falcon and have been introduced to this planet). Talking to cast members is great fun in this new part of the park but it's the iconic characters that Star Wars fans come to meet. If you have never seen a Star Wars film in your life you will still be entertained by watching the joy of the children (and adults) upon seeing these characters. To meet Chewbacca and Rey though you must venture out of the city center because the First Order has driven the Resistance into the forested area amidst the ancient ruins of Batuu.
Do not worry if autographs and pictures of Star Wars characters are in order for you or your little ones. Also listed in your guide you will find that at Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland they still have meet and greets of "Star Wars Characters." The most recent listing doesn't specify the characters and it lists the times of 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Make sure you grab a guide to note the times. We should also point out that this information is on the Mobile App but the printed page is a great way to save on precious park battery energy.
Reclaiming the Magic
As wonderful as it is holding royal audience with three princesses and getting autographs and photos, there is nothing more magical for children than getting to hang out with some of their favorite characters. There are no meet and greets; they will take pictures while you hold a data pad (that's what they will call your mobile phone), but they do not pose for long and need to get about their business. While walking through the land we observed Rey sitting with a girl who got to have a great conversation with a popular character from the Star Wars saga. We noticed many people walk by and not even notice them. Rey kept it so intimate and sincere that we were almost hesitant to take a photograph. Chewbacca was observed scaring an unsuspecting off-worlder was who busy checking her data pad. Everyone's reactions were priceless. He later met up with a big fan and connected with her by styling her hair. There is a little Wookie in all of us apparently and she was beyond delighted to have met Chewie. These meetings remind us of the days when all of the characters simply walked about the resort and weren't so mobbed. It is amazing how keeping things eye to eye and more intimate calms the crowd and our observation was that this seems to be working beautifully and people are really taking to this new style.
Chewbacca and Rey on a Mission
One of the first things we caught Rey and Chewbacca doing was working on one of the space ships. These areas are raised platforms (for optimal viewing) with gates so off-worlders cannot go on up. The ships make noise and they can connect and disconnect power cables and work on computers. When they spotted a little girl all dressed up in pilot gear complete with helmet they simply had to recruit her. Chewbacca makes those great gurgling Wookie noises we love and Rey is completely engaging. When she takes the hand of a little one of course the parents crowd in to snap a picture or two but the crowd for the most part is nothing but polite and becomes engaged with the interaction.
It is hard to interrupt this little girl who is clearly having the best memory she will have of her Disneyland Resort trip. This is due to the utter commitment and focus these cast members have including the red headed woman who is the handler of these characters. Rey and Chewbacca walked into an area with power droids and asked for this little one's help and they pulled on cables and pushed buttons. It is at this point that you realize that you are not on a high speed roller coaster or waiting in line but living through the wonderment and imagination of a child. Even if you don't engage or are shy all seem to enjoy whether they are living it or just observing.
Merchandise helps tell the Story
Location is also key for keeping a decently low profile. It is our observation that Star Wars fans really enjoy the merchandise. The merchandise area for the Resistance comprises two carts called Resistance Supply used for stocking up on supplies as the Resistance prepares to defeat the First Order. The story is told with every detail including merchandise. We observed that while parents shop the kids are left to wait for them to pay or make up their minds and they can talk to Rey and Chewbacca while this happens. It keeps with Rey and Chewbacca's objective of finding recruits. Kids are more attuned to the storytelling and observing everything as their minds are still expanding. Many times we heard the parents say something like, "Look, it's Chewbacca." Well after the kids had spotted them and even engaged sometimes for a bit.
Entertaining a Group
When the crowds start to gather more and Chewbacca and Rey have spent enough time with a few individuals it is time to engage a larger group. Rey asks everyone to gather around and pulls the crowd off to a side area so as not to disturb the flow into the city center. Black Spire Outpost is now swarming with Stormtroopers and it is important that everyone be the best spy that they can be. A little test to pick the best spy needs to happen now. Everyone is carefully lined up and Rey explains that herself and Chewbacca will go to the end of the pathway up by the gated area. They will turn their backs and then the new recruits will sneak up on them. When Chewbacca and Rey spin around everyone must freeze or they are out. The best spy will be named after this exercise is complete. (Spoiler Alert: This is a children's game commonly called Red Light/Green Light but most of these participants have never played it with Rey and a Wookie before!) The other thing worth noting is that once again this isn't a traditional Disney show. This game is for the recruits only. Rey did not raise her voice so as to be heard by the crowd. She looked these young men and ladies in the eye and talked to them. Just simply talked to them. It makes them feel special and important and with their backs turned to the crowd you could still read that without seeing their faces.
When a fun and about eight minute activity ends like this people have the Millennium Falcon to pilot or a lightsaber appointment or maybe an Oga's Cantina reservations so the crowd just naturally disperses. But the story continues. A young lady dressed very appropriately for Batuu still has stories to tell and Rey and Chewbacca need to get information from the city center. So sneaking into the city center is next. Watching the four of them gingerly and methodically making their way into Black Spire Outpost far from the wooded comfort of their Resistance pals becomes more exciting. This snapshot shows the concentration and the earnestness of our rag tag troupe. It shows how high stakes these missions are. It shows commitment and engagement. The Blue Milk is worth a picture for sure but that high price you pay for that beverage keeps the budget for such amazing entertainment that the Disney Company excels in.