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From the day it was first announced, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was being promoted as not only the largest, but the most unique and immersive new land that Disney Parks had ever created. I'm here to say...it's true...all of it.
The first official guests are walking into Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge for the first time as i write this. However, I got to experience the new land yesterday and, quite simply, I've never experienced anything like it. For the fan who has always wanted to be part of the Star Wars universe, this is likely as close as we may ever get.
The first thing that you notice are the things you stop noticing. As I approached Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu for the first time, the din of the crowds at Disneyland faded away. Part of this was certainly because the crowd I was with was smaller than that which will normally fill the land, but beyond that, the land itself makes little noise. There's no ambient music playing as you'll hear anyplace else in Disneyland. What you hear is the sound of alien insects chirping all around you. Batuu isn't quite a wilderness but it's not a bustling spaceport either.
Black Spire Outpost itself isn't a collection of buildings so much as it's one massive structure full of passageways that take you from one place to another. I wouldn't say it's quite big enough to get lost, but figuring out your way around takes a minute. Most lands at Disneyland or Walt Disney World only have one path that takes you past everything you need to see. That's not the case here.
In fact, figuring out what you need to see can actually be a challenge. Other than the Millennium Falcon of course. Seeing that is a must, and when you witness it for the first time, it blows you away.
As part of the land's immersive theming, there isn't a great deal of signage. The normal Disneyland signs telling you which way to go to get to whichever land or attraction aren't there. Even when you walk by a shop, the sign above the door is in Aurebesh, the alphabet of Star Wars, and it's worn to show age so it's far from clear where you are. Some places, like Savi's Workshop, where one can build their own lightsaber, are supposed to be hidden (the First Order frowns on what they're doing after all) and I literally walked past the place twice looking for it before I realized where it was.
Disney uses the term cast member to denote all of its employees, based on the idea that everybody helps make the show happen, but on Batuu the word used is inhabitants. The people who work at Black Spire outpost are part of the experience. One inhabitant who was sweeping up got a big smile on his face as I walked by with my new lightsaber (discretely wrapped in a black case and slung on my back). He made it clear he knew I had done something underhanded. Another, who claimed to be a friend of Savi's, complimented me on my fine "walking stick."
Character experiences at Disney Parks are a staple of the trip. You get in line, you wait your turn, you snap a photo. Here you'll still see characters, but the circumstances are entirely different. You might see Chewbacca or Kylo Ren walking around the outpost, but not at the same time and certainly not near each other. Chewie might be willing to stop for a picture, but Kylo Ren is going to tell you to get away from him.
At one point I was simply having a seat when a pair of First Order Stormtroopers walked by. They approached a seemingly random guest and questioned him regarding rumors he was part of the Resistance. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice an inhabitant. She's holding up part of her costume as to shield her face if the troopers look her way. She waits for them to turn so their back is fully toward her, and then she quickly hurries away. She never drew attention to herself. This wasn't part of a show. This was simply how her character was to react if she ever saw Stormtroopers.
Disneyland's attention to detail is without parallel. Everything has been considered so that when you're on any given ride, you feel like it's the only thing that's real. However, in the end, there's never any question that you're inside a theme park.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is something else. As I made my way out of the area during my all too short time there, I actually found myself prepping my bag for security. I figured it was going to need to get searched as it always is when you enter Disneyland Resort. I must have left Disneyland at some point, right? I had been somewhere else and was only now returning to my own world.