Ever since it was first announced, theme park fans and Star Wars fans alike have been looking forward to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opening at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Now that it's 2019 the new land is almost here in both parks, but the more I look at it the more I'm afraid this new land might be getting ready for a serious problem, the crowds. Of course, the insane crowds that are to be expected are always a problem in theme parks, but in this case the crowds may actually hinder the experience that guests are supposed to have at Galaxy's Edge.
While nobody has any clue just how popular Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is going to be in the long term, estimates are expecting that between 150,000-200,000 people could show up on opening day when the new land opens at Disneyland this summer. If those numbers are accurate, we can probably expect similar numbers at Walt Disney World in the fall when the same new land opens there. In the case of Disneyland, that's somewhere between double or more the number of people that Disneyland can actually hold.
Expectations are for a lie several hours long just to get into the park, never mind the lines inside the park for getting into the land or getting onto either of the E-ticket attractions. There will also be lines for food and lines for drinks, especially anybody who wants an adult beverage, as Galaxy's Edge will house the first location in Disneyland to serve them to the public.
While the numbers of people probably won't be quite this insane after opening day, even if half the number of people show up, Disneyland will still reach capacity and with most of those people wanting to experience the new land, the lines there won't be shrinking anytime soon.
This will be annoying enough for any theme park guests. While lines are to be expected, they're never fun. But in the case of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, these lines could be much worse because they won't simply slow down the experience of going on attractions, they could actually prevent people from experience the land the way it's meant to be experienced.
One of the things that Disney Parks has been pushing since the very early days of this new land is the way it will be "immersive," in a way never before experienced. While I still have a lot of questions about exactly what that means, we do have some details. The entire land is designed to be a part of the existing Star Wars universe, everything in the land will take place at Black Spire Outpost on a planet called Batuu. The events that take place, like the two major attractions, will happen after the original Star Wars trilogy but before the one that is currently being produced.
We know that even the gift shops within the new land will only sell items designed to look like they were produced on the planet. There won't be a Star Wars t-shirt in sight.
However, the immersion is set to go even further. The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run attraction will put a set of guests in control of the famous starship, and the experience could apparently have a number of different outcomes depending on how guests perform. It's also been said that this performance could come up again elsewhere in the land, one example given is that somebody in Oga's Cantina could reference it while you stop in for something to drink.
And this is where I'm afraid the crowds might cause things to break down. While the idea of going on the Smuggler's Run attraction and then dropping by the cantina to continue the story sounds awesome, will it still be amazing if it takes half a day (or longer) to accomplish these two tasks?
Imagine standing in a five-hour line to find your seat in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, before heading over the cantina and finding there's no room. There will certainly be a line for this as well, there frequently is at the most popular eateries, even the ones that have been open for years. Because people will be spending more time eating and drinking than they spend on any given ride, the wait could be as long or longer than the attractions.
Even once you get inside and get a chance to have whatever interaction is possible, with an animatronic bartender or whoever, will it still fell like part of an immersive story, will whatever happens be worth it considering the wait?
There will likely be more than just one or two simple interactions to help create the immersive atmosphere, but Galaxy's Edge is going to be so crowded for so long, who knows how well anybody will be able to experience any one part of it, never mind all of it.
A land that makes you feel like you're part of your own Star Wars Story sounds like the sort of thing many of us fans dreamed about as kids. It sounds like the most fun you could possibly imagine, but if there are parts of the experience that you can't even get to because of the crowds, it really doesn't matter how great it is. It's not going to feel immersive if you find yourself moving from one line to the next with long gaps between experiences.
To some extent, this was going to be impossible to overcome. Even on what's considered a "light" day Disneyland and Walt Disney World can still be crowded and there will always be lines, but there's a difference between an attraction with a 40-minute wait or one that's over two hours or more. There's a difference between going right to your dinner table (even if you have to make reservations) and having to wait an hour for it.
At the end of the day, Disney has no control over how many people show up to Disneyland or Walt Disney World on any given day, nevermind when a brand new land is opening. Building the land to not simply accommodate, but cater to, that immense crowd, is probably impossible, but in the end the crowds could mean that the true Galaxy's Edge experience, the way the land was meant to be seen, might not be possible to see for several years, until the crowds drop to a reasonable level.