Finally Experiencing Galaxy's Edge Part 2by Todd King, contributing writer
The Saga Continues
This is part 2 of my article trilogy about my first experience in Galaxy's Edge. You can read part 1 here which covers my journey on Rise of the Resistance from its long line to its end. In short, it was an amazing attraction that isn't afraid to take its time to let you soak it all in.
Speaking of soaking it all in, this article will cover my time between the two major rides (Rise of the Resistance and Millenium Falcon) where I explored Black Spire Outpost from the shops, to the food, and to a certain workshop.
The Outer Rim
One of the great aspects of being in a Disney land is the immersive theming and atmosphere. From pictures I'd seen of Batuu, it already looked like some other planet that could exist in the Star Wars galaxy. Every world in the movies has a distinctive feature, from the icy landscapes of Hoth or the forests of Endor, to the lush paradise of Naboo. Here's a rocky-like terrain with the tall spires of blackened stone protruding above that make it instantly recognizable. Whenever this land pops up in media or—gulp—in future films, we'll know it right away when we see it.
Disney has often used tall objects and forced perspective in giving a great sense of height to its worlds. The spires of this outpost are a good balance of alien-looking but with a terrestrial feel. We're in another world, but we're not so far away that we feel lost.
Bright suns over Batuu. Photo by Todd King.
When we get to the architecture, the designs are familiar to the realm of Star Wars. There's a sense of an amalgamation from various parts of the saga adapted to fit together into a coherent design. We see canopies and flag-like overhangs like what we saw in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, which give the sense of a real place to live. It's like a market but also an avenue of space pilots. It certainly has that lived-in look that's always been at the core of George Lucas's design principles for his universe. It looks like Star Wars, but it's also new. That balance was the goal of the Imagineers, and they accomplished it in spades.
The overhead decorations remind me of designs in ROGUE ONE. Photo by Todd King.
As good as this new design is, however, I can't help but long for the old. As much as I can appreciate and enjoy being in this new world where new stories can sprout and grow, I desire to step into the worlds I've always wanted to go. I want to step into and through the screen into places like Cloud City, the Rebel base, Jabba's palace, and other locations, where I wish I could be enveloped in and see from my own point of view. I get the Imagineers' ideas, but walking into a place "where it all happened" would create a deep visceral reaction that Black Spire can't induce.
What's Star Wars and Disney without merchandise? Galaxy's Edge serves our expectations again with items that are meant to be created and sold by Batuu inhabitants. Early news about these "handcrafted" items from 3 years ago let us glimpse at the kind of immersion Disney was creating, even with the old "exit through the gift shop" items. What I found when my feet traveled through this market, however, was a bit different. What I saw were plush items that are more what guests from Earth would like to take home. We see creatures from the movies, like wookiees and ewoks, but also from this planet as well, like Dok Ondar.
It wouldn't be a Disney park without plush toys. It wouldn't be Star Wars without merchandise. Local Dok is included. Photo by Todd King.
Well, these aren't generic; it's not an ewok, it's Wicket—it's not just a wookiee, it's Chewbacca. The native-shopkeepers idea isn't sustained in this regard. There are decorative items in the shop that look other-worldly and handmade, but they're displays and decorations (that is, not for sale).
Great details of shop displays are so good you wish they were for sale. Photo by Todd King.
So you're going to put a display of a toy-like item here and tell a Star Wars fan it's just for decoration and not for sale? Are you mad? Look at this stuff just "hanging" around.
A "mobile" of a battle between the Millennium Falcon and some TIE Fighters. Gimme gimme! Photo by Todd King.
Why aren't these items on the store shelves? That Falcon looks unique, and those TIE Fighters look so playable! But they seem to be out of reach...
This isn't to say some of the merch isn't unique and otherworldly—we do have a Star Wars take on the poseable artist doll in the form of Darth Vader, Boba Fett (below), and even Admiral Ackbar (not pictured):
Poseable sassy Vader dolls. Photo by Todd King.
While these aren't really action figures, they are figures. I'll admit they're cute and can strike a pose like anything—I just don't know what I would do with these. That's just my personal take. I would have fun putting these guys in poses and moods that would make for great photos and posts. However, on a shelf, what do these figures go with? There aren't similar backdrops or props or accessories that accompany these dolls. Star Wars characters and items occupy a place and I believe these need to be plussed. For example, where's Vader's lightsaber? Boba's rifle? Can you get all the bounty hunters to pose together? Are there enough to create a scene? Like the plushes, these poseable dolls are just there by themselves without a world to be in.
Poseable catwalking Boba Fett dolls. Photo by Todd King.
Okay, yeah, I still think these are cute, but how about lots of Mandalorians, huh?
Stormtrooper in-universe action figures as seen in ROGUE ONE. Photo by Todd King.
Jyn Erso dropped a Stormtrooper doll in Rogue One and it was shown on-screen briefly when a Death Trooper picked it up (and presumably kept it for himself?) and was a great detail showing how the Empire had swept the galaxy even to the point of making toys for the youth. This is like that Galaxy's army men or G.I. Joe dolls. It was a nice touch to make them available in the Disney parks and defictionalizing them. These were a visage of the in-universe ideas that could have been more widespread in the park.
A Look Around
The kind of Disney park magic I enjoy is the spontaneous entertainment. In Galaxy's Edge it's not too hard to spot Rey, Chewbacca, and First Order Stormtroopers moving about as if in their daily routine. For example Rey in what appears to be her Last Jedi attire (her coolest look) interacting with guests from the repair bay roof. She would pose for distant pictures and answer questions. Other times Chewbacca would either join her there or busy himself below, working on some of the speeders in the garage (again, "going about his day"). I missed Kylo Ren's appearance by his ship—he probably showed up while I was in line for Rise of the Resistance. Since we're still in pandemic times, the interactions were spaced apart, but I didn't mind one bit. Just having them there is a treat. One day I hope to return when the characters can be on the ground with us but regardless: more of this please!
Wait, there was more of this, since I got to see Vi Moradi sneak up on some Stormtroopers without them knowing she was there. She would duck behind a corner and tiptoe right behind them and stay out of sight at their heels! It was so much fun to watch that I forgot to take a photo or video… but just know that when Vi shows up, things get fun!
Good to see Rey not as a hologram. She interacted with guests from a safe distance. Photo by Todd King.
Dok Ondar's Den of Antiquities was a bit more to my tastes for a galactic gift shop. Again, the decorations were just as (or more) interesting than the items for sale. Speaking of the items for sale, the Legacy Lightsabers were certainly a sight to behold. I couldn't stay longer than I did (otherwise I would have been there all day and left with a lot less money). Besides, I had other lightsaber plans.
TIE Echelon sans Kylo. Photo by Todd King.
Regarding the design of the buildings, I can again appreciate the spot-on Star Wars look—but as a wayfinder, the rounded walls and borders were quite a bit "samey" around the park, making the spots of interest less distinct. They need to stand out with a little more individuality, especially since it's really hard to tell them apart on the park map, let alone in 3D space! Having said that, it does make the discovery of these locations a bit more rewarding when you get there.
The Jedi statue not only marks the entrance to Dok's shop, but also beckons you to the nearby entrance to Savi's Workshop. Photo by Todd King.
Start of the Jedi
As mentioned, I had lightsaber plans. I reserved a spot at Savi's Workshop to take part in a custom lightsaber build. I was looking forward to this event just as much as the rides! It did not disappoint.
Jedi tapestry outside Savi's has that weathered look. Photo by Todd King.
I showed up at my reserved time and the cast member had me scan a QR code to bring up the selection of lightsaber-themed parts. I laughed a little inside, because I'd already chosen my theme months ago. I chose "Peace and Justice," which to me looked the most like classic lightsaber hilts. About 12 of us padawans, with our plus ones, entered the darkened workshop, and each took a spot at a workbench-like space around a large oblong table. Savi took his place in the room's center, and our training began with a little history lesson.
He broke into storytelling mode with great sincerity. You could tell he possessed passion for this job. Lights dimmed, music queues played, voices of the Jedi could be heard speaking from the Force beyond. To truly enjoy this experience, you've got to let yourself go—and they sure made it easy to do so. I took it all in as he told us about Kyber crystals and famous (and infamous) Force-users who chose certain colors for their ambitions—with lights and music changes with each story beat. It made you feel young at heart.
The helpers brought around the Kyber crystals for us to pick one, and while younglings in fiction usually go through an intense trial through icy caverns to find the crystal that calls to them, I was pleased to be able to stand in cool air conditioning and grab the crystal that I called to. I chose green because it was the one Luke chose to build his own lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. The helpers then brought out our preselected theme pieces to start building. While this part felt a little rushed, I enjoyed the simplicity of the process, and choosing pieces made it feel unique to me. I had a little trouble with one of the center pieces but so did the helper. She quickly grabbed a replacement part and then it screwed on just fine (I mean, I had no formal Jedi training before).
We inserted our hilts into the light chambers and all at once, we ignited our blades and wielded our elegant weapons. There were audible gasps and beaming smiles. With a tear in my eye, I held up the blade I'd longed for since my earliest memories. That child in me felt complete.
My skills are complete. I constructed my own lightsaber.
Since then, part of my daily routine at home includes turning on my lightsaber and meditating on the mysteries and virtues of the Jedi. Really.
Use the Fork
How the Rontos get roasted. This heat lamp in the shape of a pod racer engine emanates otherwordly tastes. Photo by Todd King.
While I didn't try the blue or green milk (hey, I gotta save something for next time!) I did partake in a good ol' Ronto Wrap from Ronto Roasters. We all have our favorite Disney park foods like Dole Whips and churros… and one my faves the Monte Cristo sandwich—but probably because of my Star Wars bias and my love of wraps with tangy sauce juicy meat and coleslaw, the Ronto Wrap is probably my new number-one. Say what you will about my limited palette, but I love these things! I tried a recipe of it at home over a year ago, and I think I was close—so I have every reason to try again (besides, I also now have the official Galaxy's Edge cookbook thanks to a certain special someone I'll mention in part 3).
So, of all the weird and unnecessary additions to the Star Wars Special Edition movies, I've come to accept the ronto! It's now more than just a Jawa's beast of burden.
The Little Things
I could go on and on about all the little details throughout the land and the callbacks to the saga, but I've gone on long enough. That said, I can't go without mentioning the following little tidbit:
A fun cast member detail to a stanchion named 'GONK 2' after the Power Droid. Photo by Todd King.
An enterprising member of the Resistance has to keep things in order, and this little label of masking tape absolutely brought a smile to my face. See for yourself:
The author in Galaxy's Edge. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Well, I was also smiling because as I was enjoying my fresh ronto, some friends appeared in the background... and another friend appeared in person!
To be continued...