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Immersion. It’s a word used often when people are describing the experience of visiting the theme part attraction Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opens this week in Orlando, Florida. You are supposed to feel, once you enter the land, that you have stepped onto the fictional planet of Batuu. You can interact with shop keepers who sell goods you’d find on an alien planet. You can pose next to a life-sized replica of the Millennium Falcon, and even pilot the famous “hunk of junk” on a daring mission.
All of that, though, pales in comparison to the way that the upcoming new ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, places you INSIDE the Star Wars movies.
Oh sure. Theme park rides have been playing that card for a while now, and some of them – like the Avatar ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – actually deliver.
However, what we managed to see of Orlando’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (which opens in the park before the end of this year) was groundbreaking, historic and unlike anything we’ve yet to see in a park attraction. “Ambitious” is how our tour guides described it, and guys, they aren’t exaggerating.
You will walk on a Star Destroyer. Specifically, you will step right into this scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, complete with Kylo Ren and Hux trying to interrogate you for information.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be an immersive theme park attraction (there’s that word again) open to all guests of Batuu. Once you enter the exhibit, you will follow a hallway of rocks that will spit you out into an open area with two physical ships. One is Poe Dameron’s signature X-Wing fighter. The other is a troop transport ship.
It’s during this moment on the ride where BB-8 and a 3D hologram of Rey (Daisy Ridley) will approach you with a mission. They need you to board the troop transport ship and embark on a mission. Guests will board the first of multiple ride systems.
That’s right. Rise of the Resistance will make history at Walt Disney World by becoming one of the largest attractions at the park, and the first to use multiple ride systems as it moves guests through the exhibit.
Because they are still working on the ride as we speak, we saw an unfinished version, and our cellphones were bagged and tagged, so no imagery could escape. But we learned that the troop transport ship (the first ride system) eventually gets captured by a Star Destroyer, and be tractor beamed to the deck of said ship. When the door of the transport ship opens, guests all of a sudden will be staring down the army of The First Order.
And now images on a screen. I’m talking a MASSIVE soundstage that’s dressed exactly like the Star Destroyer from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are roughly 30 Stormtroopers staring you down. We’re told Kylo Ren will be there to begin interrogating you, because you know where Rey wanted to send you.
And that’s when you will get on the NEXT ride system.
This second ship will be motion based, similar to the Star Tours ride that has been at Hollywood Studios for years. It will be a craft piloted by an R5 droid, and things will not go according to plan as guests try to escape the Star Destroyer.
There’s even going to be a drop element as your craft exists the Star Destroyer, simulating the motion of dropping from beneath the ship and eventually rocketing off into the safety of outer space.
I can’t stress how cool it was when the doors of the first troop transport ship opened up, and we found ourselves on the deco of the First Order’s Star Destroyer. You literally felt like you had stepped into a Star Wars movie, and the effect was immersive (last time, I promise).
And the ride’s not even close to being finished. Though Galaxy’s Edge will be open in Orlando by the end of this week, Rise of the Resistance has targeted a December 5 opening date. So there’s still plenty of work to be done. And yet, the tour still conveyed the awesome way that this boundary-pushing attraction is changing the way that theme park entertainment grabs guests and places them in the stories they adore.
There’s a trailer for the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction, to give you a better idea of what I have been trying to say:
This is going to be something extremely special, Star Wars fans.