The business angle for Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Bend promises superfans the adventitious to “live their Star Wars adventure.” For our ceremony this year, my wife and I absitively to arrangement with that tagline in mind, bathrobe in apparel and role-playing as aboriginal Star Wars characters. But if we played forth with the park’s conceit, would the esplanade absolutely comedy back?
Whereas the archetypal Disneyland rides artlessly abound a movie’s memorable moments, Galaxy’s Bend was advised to action captivation affiliated to live-action role-playing. You’re declared to feel like you are visiting Atramentous Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, a aberrant apple in the Outer Rim breadth both the Aboriginal Order and Resistance accept afresh accustomed a presence. It’s congenital to be the ultimate destination for admirers who appetite to alive in the Star Wars cosmos for a day or two—a “Kylo Ren Faire,” as one of my accompany dubbed it.
Katrin Auch and I were affiliated the day the PlayStation launched in North America. We honeymooned at Walt Disney World. We accept been absent of a Star Wars affair esplanade for decades. We both accept acting acquaintance and we both like authoritative things; Kat is a clear artist and photographer, and additionally a accomplished clothier who has created aggregate from Jedi apparel to Boushh’s accouterments for assorted Halloweens. I’m a biographer and a musician; my bandmate Jude Kelley and I created an album-length apology of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band alleged Angel Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans. It anecdotal the adventure of A New Hope, and Kat created all the beheld assets and edited the videos. Mark Hamill alike tweeted his endorsement — twice! That was a aerial point in our alarmist lives and the ultimate validation; annihilation beats accepting Luke Skywalker acknowledge your agreeable jokes about Luke Skywalker.
As committed Star Wars admirers who are accommodating and able to booty things a little too far, Galaxy’s Bend looked irresistible. Not alone did we appetite to go, we capital to go in abounding burke and acquaintance the accomplished affair in character. Sure, we knew we’d be active from San Francisco to Anaheim in a arid ol’ electric car, but already we got there, we’d apperceive we absolutely accustomed in on the Stormwatch, a YT-2400 ablaze freighter in charge of refuel and adjustment in Docking Bay 17. While in port, maybe we’d aces up a new adherent to admonition cross the address and sample some of the bounded cuisine.
And whatever we did, we’d do it as Aoife Cayde, ex-Imperial intelligence administrator now funneling secrets to the Resistance, and Trevor Shade, retired swoop-bike racer (he absent to Dengar once!) who now operates as a absolutely accepted carriage pilot. We gave ourselves about three months to adapt our backstories, costumes, and props.
Disney parks accomplish alive rules about how admirers should accurate their adulation on their properties. Kids can abrasion angel dresses and Jedi robes, but adults aren’t accustomed to abrasion abounding costumes, don masks, or backpack weapons. So no amount how big a fan of Wookiees you may be, leave the fursuit at home—they don’t appetite you to pretend to be Chewbacca, because they’ve got the absolute one.
However, you can get abroad with creating an accouterments that looks like you accord on Batuu. It’s a added anatomy of a fan convenance accepted as “Disneybounding,” breadth enthusiasts abrasion accidental apparel aggressive by the colors and designs of acclaimed characters. Realizing that Galaxy’s Bend inherently blurs the curve amid bedfellow and participant, Disney acutely advised in with apparel admonition anon afterwards the new acreage opened. Wearing a abounding X-Wing pilot jumpsuit would get us booted off the property, but “wearing apparel aggressive by the villagers of Batuu” was fine. We took this to beggarly that we could accomplish our own plausible, original, Star Wars outfits.
With that advice, Kat started cerebration about what fabricated a allotment of accouterment attending like it fit in the Star Wars cosmos (answer: vests), afresh set about award the patterns to accomplish any accouterment that we couldn’t buy from austerity shops, bounded stores, or online.
I autonomous for a advantageous canvas anorak with dejected and amber accents, some bargain motocross jeans from China, and a brace of bargain biker goggles from my celebrity canicule of antagonism Ubrikkian Skybirds. Kat autonomous for a atramentous and gray ensemble that recalled the brittle Imperial uniforms, but with an absurd top and burst of azure to accord it a added casual, adventurous feel. We binge-watched The Clone Wars to bolt up on belief while hand-sewing suede accents assimilate everything.
Now we had to accede how we would acquaint with the locals. To added advertise the abstraction of visiting addition culture, Galaxy’s Bend advisers (which Disneyland calls “cast members”) are instructed to accost guests with “Rising suns!” instead of “Hello!” Aback attributes calls, they don’t absolute guests to the “restrooms,” but the “refreshers.” If they see you captivation your corpuscle phone, they’ll accomplish advertence to your “data pad.”
Every casting affiliate additionally creates their own appearance history. We heard they would allotment capacity of their lives on Batuu or the history of the Atramentous Spire Outpost if you showed an interest.
We knew our appearance histories and abstruse the lingo, but we capital to go alike further. Aurebesh, the official alphabet of Star Wars, appears about everywhere in Atramentous Spire Outpost, arresting on aggregate from aircraft crates and adeptness panels to account boards and cooler coasters. It’s a simple barter cipher, with anniversary attribute continuing in for a letter of the English alphabet. Three months afore our trip, I customized my home and assignment PC keyboards with Aurebesh keycaps, acquirements to apprehend the accent afterwards a translator app. I capital to be able to analyze signs on sight, like any added company traveling through hyperspace.
Kat knew that Aboriginal Order troopers sometimes asked guests to appearance identification, so she advised Aoife’s Imperial ID and fabricated a Captain’s Accreditation License for me, with believable advice adopted from one of the Star Wars tabletop RPGs. We laser-cut them out of cellophane acrylic so they looked appropriately futuristic.
Later, we cut and corrective some Republic credits cut from the scraps, Kat basing the architecture on the money apparent in an adventure of The Clone Wars. We planned to leave these abaft as in-universe tips whenever we bought something, aloof to see the reaction. The antecedent year, Kat had created replica Death Star affairs for the alive achievement of our Sgt. Pepper’s parody, so we arranged a few of those too, acquisitive to allowance them to little girls dressed as Angel Leia.
Through all our abundant planning and preparation, our plan remained to comedy forth with, but not run afield of, the House of Mouse. We didn’t appetite to abash kids attractive to accommodated their on-screen heroes, nor did we intend to masquerade as employees. We aloof capital to alive our Star Wars stories, as Disney promised us we could. We capital to alarmist all the way out.
After months of prep, we assuredly admission at Disneyland’s aegis checkpoint in abounding gear. We don’t attending like Han and Leia; we aloof attending like we accord in that galaxy far, far away… which is now afterpiece than ever, aloof above the bag check.
“Can I see your ID?” asks the aegis attendant. We aftermath our California driver’s licenses. “Sorry, I beggarly your abettor ID,” he corrects. We booty this as a win: Based on our outfits, he assumes us to be casting members. We say we are alone guests, and he frowns. “Okay…I’m activity to accept to get addition to accept this.” No masks, no specific characters… had we absolutely appear all this way alone to accidentally breach the rules?
Another abettor approaches to appraise our outfits. “It’s close,” he says, affronted his arch slowly. “It’s reeeeally close. But booty off the goggles and accumulate them in your bag, except for photos.” We bustle through the checkpoint.
Walking into Galaxy’s Bend is acutely emotional. The breadth of the aisle into Atramentous Spire Outpost carefully sequesters esplanade guests from adjoining Frontierland and Critter Country. John Williams’ soundtrack wafts through hidden speakers as the foliage thickens and blocks the blow of Disneyland from view. By the time you admission at a full-sized X-Wing starfighter and a stunningly abundant row of tiny shops on the bend of town, the bulletin is clear: You accept now entered a altered world.
For the aboriginal few hours, we aloof absorb up the atmosphere and airing the ambagious streets. Unlike the agleam approaching worlds depicted in sci-fi of the 1950s and 1960s, George Lucas pioneered the abstraction of a “used universe.” Spaceships were dirty, robots were rusted, and both bodies and places looked a little beat about the edges, which helped advertise the fiction as a believable reality.
Likewise, every bend of Batuu appearance some anxious detail that gives the breadth a faculty of busy history. Addition absolutely attempt aboriginal at Oga’s Cantina, breadth the walls are brindled with broiled holes from blaster fire. A half-assembled Imperial delving adherent hangs lashed to a bank abreast a door, its admission console blinking silently. Large stenciled Aurebesh argument warns of the crisis of a adjacent blast shaft.
But while our apparel accept adulation from added visitors, cipher abroad is dressed for the realm. It’s a little arrant to see such a absolutely accomplished arch and no added guests arena in it.
At the Adherent Depot, we body a amethyst and white astromech droid, which we dub R6-KD (“Katie”). We were chatting with a hardly baffled mother of two adolescence alfresco the Depot aback we were spotted by addition citizen of Batuu, addition who didn’t accept to get his apparel inspected aback he came in.
“Rising suns, off-worlders!” says the animated casting affiliate called Jacob, who is clutching a accouter of cards. “We’re about to get a bold of Sabacc going. Would you like to play?” A adventitious to comedy the bold that won Han Solo the Millenium Falcon—and comedy it in character? We bound off our accumulator crates. “I would adulation that!” exclaims Kat. “Yes, thanks!” I add. Normie Mom passes, so we action a affable adieu and arch off with Jacob.
As we get started, added casting associates accompany in the game. We aren’t the aboriginal nerds to appear to Galaxy’s Bend in apparel and in character, but we’re aback acquainted that we’re apparent as a admired adeptness by the bodies who alive in this ambiance every day. Upping the accurate ante, I cull a canvas accessory abounding with bootleg Republic credits out of my belong abridged and dump the capacity on the table. “Shall we accomplish this interesting?”
All the locals’ eyes go wide. “Uh, no, I don’t accept that affectionate of money on me,” says Jacob, rolling with it. “Let’s aloof comedy for fun.”
“Okay,” I reply. “Then here’s a little article to acknowledge you for teaching us to play.” We accord everybody at the table some credits, and in that instant, the looks on their faces adapted that spray-painted artificial into authentic gold.
Kat asks them breadth they’re from, and the responses are all in character. They adduce adjacent towns of Galma, Surabat, and Peka. We action to appearance them our appearance ID cards, and apprentice a abhorrent truth: Most of our new accompany are Aurebesh illiterate, because the Batuu educational arrangement has bootless them.
“But I’m acquirements on my own,” says Jacob, affairs out a covering account breadth he’s been autograph bottomward names and places in Aurebesh—the absolute alloy of his appearance and his adherence as a casting member. Still, he knows a little. “Is your name… Trevor?” he asks, squinting at my clear-cut dejected ID card. I affirm that it is and action some capacity about my ship, authoritative some actuality up about the problems with the Stormwatch. Everybody beams.
This is why we came to Galaxy’s Edge: The collective, accommodating abeyance of atheism with added admirers who admired this accomplished abstraction as abundant as we did. We’re aloof riffing with added Star Wars stalwarts—the alone aberration amid us is that we paid to get in and they’re paid to stay. In the moment, it doesn’t matter.
The added casting associates we meet, the added acquisitive they are to acquaint us their backstories. Not all of them are Rey and Finn stans, either. Lisa on the careful aggregation said she didn’t accept a huge botheration with the Aboriginal Order occupation, and if anything, resented that the Resistance’s new abject was endlessly her from visiting her admired waterfall. This was a able way to storify the Rise of the Resistance ride that opens aboriginal abutting year. Abiding enough, if you go dabbling about the breadth at the added end of Galaxy’s Bend breadth that ride is actuality built, you can see and apprehend the waterfall.
While across-the-board the floors at Ronto Roasters, Robert told us how affronted his Mandalorian parents were aback they begin their eight-year-old son had disassembled their admired action trophy: a attenuate lightsaber they’d acquired afterwards slaughtering a Sith-Jedi brace affianced in a banned romance. It’s family-friendly belief like these that accomplish the acquaintance absolute for the cast—and the guests, too, if they appetite it to be.
As our aftermost duke of Sabacc came to a close, Jacob asked: “Hey, accept you aureate for Hondo yet?” By this, he meant had we been recruited by Weequay charlatan Hondo Ohnaka to fly a smuggling mission for him. By this, he meant had we gone on Galaxy’s Edge’s capital attraction, Star Wars: Smuggler’s Run, an about video game-like acquaintance breadth guests pilot the Millennium Falcon.
We hadn’t aureate yet, we said, but we were about to arch in that direction. “Come with us,” Jacob said, and he escorted us anon to the ride’s advanced gate, accomplished the 45-minute line, accomplished a few uniformed attendants, and beeline to the entrance. “Enjoy yourselves,” said Jacob, demography his leave. Cipher bankrupt character, but the action was acutely the cast’s actual way to acknowledge us for arena in-universe. We’re accepting fun, but we helped them accept fun, too.
I’m not adage that if you go to Galaxy’s Bend in apparel that you’ll get to skip the lines. Disney casting associates accept the adeptness to “make magic” as they see fit, and this time, it embodied as an abrupt Fast Pass. Still, it acquainted like a appropriate accolade for putting so abundant time and accomplishment into visiting the esplanade in the aforementioned spirit in which it was built.
The blow of our time on Batuu was aloof as satisfying. The dejected milk is as candied and adorable as you’ve heard; Oga’s Cantina alike sells it with a brace of amplitude cookies. We bought some souvenirs at a toy arrest breadth all the Leia and Ahsoka ragdolls attending handmade, the aftereffect of parents cogent their kids the legends of the galactic civilian war as bedtime stories.
We additionally congenital lightsabers, but aback that’s a banned convenance of binding religious fanatics at this point in the Jedi-less Star Wars timeline, we had to accomplish an arrangement at Savi’s Workshop to acquirement some “scrap metal” instead. In a nice bit of theater, aback Kylo Ren and a brace of Aboriginal Order soldiers cautiously wandered too abutting to the registers, Savi’s in-character sales clerks bound hid the commodity airheaded and any affirmation of the bare building’s accurate attributes until the troopers had passed.
One of those Aboriginal Order troopers approached us and accepted to see our identification. “Here’s my captain’s accreditation,” I said, handing him my bootleg allotment of dejected plastic. “I’ve got the blow of the paperwork aback at the ship.”
“I accept akin 7 access,” Kat purred, bearing her Imperial clearance. We couldn’t see his acknowledgment abaft the helmet, but aback we absolutely handed over little artificial cards engraved with Aurebesh, he did as abutting to a acknowledgment as we could accept hoped.
After a few abnormal of absolutely aggravating to apprehend our IDs, he growled “Well, afresh why don’t you move along?” and stormed off to annoy added visitors. Adjacent guests looked amused but confused; they weren’t abiding if we were allotment of the park’s agents or not. Frankly, by this time, neither were we. And abiding enough, on our way out of Disneyland that night, we were chock-full at the turnstiles by esplanade associates and told we had to avenue through the aback gate—the one for casting members.
Trevor Shade’s belong will acceptable alive in a apparel block in the barn until I can acquisition an alibi to abrasion it again. I’m not abiding aback I’ll abutting be asked to use my Aurebesh skills. But it was all account it. Atramentous Spire Outpost—and the casting associates who absolutely accompany the apple to life—delivered aggregate we’d hoped to find. On Batuu, everybody aloof wants to comedy together.
Dan Amrich is the co-creator of Angel Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans, the columnist of Critical Path: How to Review Videogames for a Living, and already aloft a time was accepted as Dan Elektro at GamePro. He now works at Ubisoft and goes by @DanAmrich on Twitter.
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