I grew up with Star Wars. I was seven years old when the first movie came out and my dad had to pretend I was 12 when he took me to the cinema (the movie was called “Krieg der Sterne” in Germany and had a FSK 12 rating). So I was super-exited when Disney announced a “Star Wars Land”, although I thought to myself “Disney craziness plus Star Wars craziness: that place will be packed!”. So I decided to pay Orlando one last visit, just before they open the dark ride “Rise of the Resistance” and things start to get out of hand.
It wasn’t the worst time to visit Orlando, as Disney had vastly expanded their Extra Magic Hours. Although we only stayed at a Disney partner hotel we could take advantage of one hour before the park opened every day at every park. At Hollywood Studios we could enter the park three hours early and while getting up for a theme park at 5am to be at the gate at 6am feels strange, it was great fun to enjoy sunrise on Batuu.
With Star Wars Land Disney really pushed the limit, as the new “land” is quite different than other areas. There are no lines to have a picture taken with a character like in Ecpot or Magic Kingdom. Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren and all other characters just roam the place … and they stay in their roles while doing so.
For the most part they use Aurebesh instead of the latin alphabet which can lead to some confusion.
While I really like the concept, I think – as of now – it does not completely work. It’s not Disney’s fault, I think that people will have to get used to this new idea, which, when it works, will give visitors a way deeper level of immersion. By now people seem to rather “want a photo with the Wookie” than playing a role themselves.
And – especially for foreign guests – interaction is sometimes a little bit awkward. While I was taking pictures some Storm Troopers came up and asked for identification. I was already looking for my passport when the idea came to me to just wave my hand (Jedi style) and say “You don’t need to see the identification”. Guess what: That worked!
There is one concern I have about the land though: I know that Batuu is in another timeline and Darth Vader or Yoda or R2D2 or C3PO would not fit in there, but: I would really like to see them, as they stand for the Star Wars I grew up with.
Lukily they have the Millennium Falcon! Flying the falcon is big fun, although I ended up as an engineer every time, which is the least “interactive” position. Waiting for your mission to begin is the best part as the inside of the falcon looks exactly like it does in the movies. These are the moments when I enjoy being in an American park, because in Germany or France this place would be a mess after a few days.
I really look forward to 2020 when I’ll bring some friends and we’ll explore the new ride together. As of now, I am really curious how this whole area will develop, how people will adapt to the new concept and how it will affect crowds in Orlando.