Did you know that a basement couch doubles as a trash compactor wall? Or that wrapping paper tubes make excellent lightsabers? Or that the gap between those two fences for that utility easement around the block is actually a trench on the Death Star?
When you are a Star Wars-obsessed kid in the late 1970s, you learn all of these things. My friends and I imagined ourselves as Luke and Han in the trash compactor next to that basement couch, as Darth and Obi-Wan battering those cardboard tubes into limp waste, and as X-wing pilots flying through the neighborhood on that famous trench run. But after a couple of summers role-playing every moment of George Lucas' 1977 film, our adventures began to feel a bit stale.
We never gave up on Star Wars, of course. We just ran out of scenes to reenact before The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980 and gave us a new set of worlds and conflicts to fire our imaginations. So in the meantime, we started making up our own Star Wars stories.
And that is what Scott Trowbridge and his team at Walt Disney Imagineering have gotten to do with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge... though with a much, much larger budget that we had back when I was a kid.
With this 14-acre and (rumored) billion-dollar land, Disney has not recreated one of those scenes that my friends and I played as kids... or any of the other famous scenes or locations from the Star Wars universe that followed. Instead, Disney has chose to create a platform to allow us to do what we did in between the films — to live our own Star Wars stories.
Set in the Black Spire Outpost on the new planet of Batuu, this is a place both famous and forgotten, in the center of everything but far off on the Galaxy's edge. In other words, it's anything that you want it to be.
Want it to be the launching pad for an adventure flying the Millennium Falcon? Check.
Want to walk into the Cantina and drink to the tunes of Modal Nodes? You can.
Want to build a droid or make a lightsaber? Yup, you can do those things, too. (For a price, of course.)
Or if you don't want to wait in any of those queues and just explore this canvas that Disney has created for you, that opportunity awaits, as well.
Despite Black Spire Outpost not being a previously established location in the Star Wars universe, this place feels like it belongs in that canon. Disney's Imagineers have studied the work of Ralph McQuarrie, the concept artist who created the visual language of the Star Wars universe. Here you see quotes from Tatooine, from Jedha, from Takodana. But as Trowbridge said in a panel presentation at today's media event, Star Wars is not science fiction, spun only from the imagination of George Lucas or anyone else. It is grounded in the reality of places from around our planet Earth, from the marketplaces of Marrakesh and Istanbul to petrified forest of Arizona.
And the spires of that forest provided the inspiration for Black Spire Outpost - just enlarged to a fantastic scale. It's one thing to have to imagine a Star Wars planet in your backyard. But it's a heck of a lot easier to get immersed in the story when you can see that fantastic setting for real, standing all around you, with a cast of residents welcoming you in.
That's the benefit of Disney's capital budget. I spoke with Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek today, who spoke at length about Disney's motivation in creating this land any how it serves the company's vision.
Disney has built immersive, single-IP theme park lands before, with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure and Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Heck, you could ever argue that Disney has been doing this ever since it opened Tom Sawyer Island. But when Universal opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in 2014, it set a creative standard that Disney collective corporate ego could not allow it to ignore.
But Disney has not chose to out-Potter Potter here. Indeed, it's done something unique with Galaxy's Edge. Disney has created an immersive IP-inspired land. It's not a recreation of the icons, setting, and characters from the Star Wars franchise. Instead, this is a story-telling platform inspired by that franchise, awaiting your imagination and sense of adventure to create a new story, one just for you and your family.
So is this a step forward? Or one to the side? Or (Disney hopes not), a step back? Like everything else in Galaxy's Edge, that up to you to decide. If you walk in wanting and expecting to spend time with Luke, Leia, Han, and Vader... you will be disappointed. If you walk in looking for a traditional theme park experience, with attractions, food and beverage, and shopping, you likely will enjoy this, but might not fall in love.
But if you approach Galaxy's Edge as Disney hopes you will, as a fan willing to dive deep into your own Star Wars story, to become one not with the Force but with the Franchise, you might find a new home on Batuu.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens to advance reservation on Friday and to all Disneyland ticket holders on June 24. The land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort on August 29.
Update: Here is our continuing coverage:
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