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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (warning- ranty)

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22 Oct 2019 12:22 #302657 by Michael Barnes
So, my birthday was on the 11th and my wife got us tickets to Disney World for this past weekend. We were mainly going to the Halloween thing at Magic Kingdom (which is AWESOME, BTW) but of course we also went over to the new, just-opened Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge over at Hollywood Studios – i.e., the kind of crappy park. I have nowhere else to rant about this so sorry TWBG, you get the brunt of it.

IT SUCKS.

I have never been so disappointed in a theme park in my life and to be honest, my expectations really weren’t that high as it just opened and one of the two rides isn’t even finished. But I did expect it to be at least cool, fun, and exciting. And for about 15 minutes, it is. You walk in and there’s Chewie fixing an A-Wing. There’s Easter eggs all over the place. Moisture evaporators, the turrets from Hoth, Gonk droids, thermal detonator coke bottles with all the writing in Aurebesh, Stormtroopers (First Order ,not Empire) walk around hassling folks, piles of miscellaneous detritus such as spray painted Pelican cases and piston heads from engines with maybe a B-Wing pilot helmet to mix it up. And you walk through this little market area and then there’s the Falcon, which at first is neat, but then it becomes kind of oddly dull- maybe because when you get up to it, it really looks _cheap_. That’s a weird thing to say about something that is obviously very, very expensive but from a production/art design perspective, it looks like a very complex plywood model with bad faux finishing and weathering. I found myself thinking “maybe they shouldn’t let you get this close to it”.

So at the Falcon is the ride, Smuggler’s Run. The queue was just 45 minutes so we got right into it. I guess some of this qualifies as spoilers so beware I immediately started feeling disappointed. It all just felt off. It leads you through a maintenance area (more spray painted Pelican cases) and into a hanger. Then you go into a preshow and are greeted by widely beloved and iconic Star Wars character…Hondo Ohnaka. I mean, I like Hondo and all…but raise your hand if you associate the fucking Millenium Falcon with Hondo. I heard _multiple_ people asking who he was, if he was in one of the movies, etc. The animatronic is good, but it felt _weird_ to see an expensive animatronic of a really minor EU-ish character.

Then you go through the padded tunnels in the Falcon and into the area with the chessboard. This was honestly _awesome_. This was the best thing about all of Galaxy’s Edge. You are in there with a small group, because it is after you are assigned your role (more on this asinine idea in a minute). So you have time to look around, sit at the table, take photos, and enjoy it before you board. Then it’s into the cockpit, which is also pretty god damned awesome. Looking out of the Falcon’s window is so cool. But then the ride starts and it all goes to shit.

The ride is actually a really, really shitty 1992 CD-ROM game. Everyone gets a role- you are either a Pilot, a Gunner, or an Engineer. The pilots “kind of” steer the ship with controls. Everyone else has a console to either their left or right where you are instructed to push flashing buttons. So the gunners hammer their buttons to shoot stuff, the engineers fire harpoons and repair the ship when it takes damage. The length of the ride is dependent on how well you perform, apparently, with better outcomes/endings if your crew does better. Of course, unless you have 6 people who have been on it before, you are going to have a short ride. Especially when the Russian grandma doesn’t even touch her console.

It is all such a terrible design and a poorly conceived concept- the way the buttons are positioned, you wind up spending more time looking to your side than at the screen in front of the window. Which doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t look or feel like SW at all- it feels like generic sci-fi video game stuff, regardless of seeing Kylo Ren’s shuttle and shooting TIE Fighters. Most of the time you are bouncing off of rocks because somebody’s 5 year old kid is steering.

We got off the ride and my wife said it best – “I can’t believe that was signed off on.” Star Tours is WAY better. And they still have it, we rode it. My daughter was the Rebel spy!

The Cantina turned out to be a huge disappointment too – it sounded really cool, and they had some fun looking cocktails. It’s the only bar in WDW other than the 33 Club. You have to have reservations to get in. But here’s what blew my mind. We got through the door and were escorted to a large circular booth…with like, two other groups of people. So you are sitting at this bar table with random strangers. It was awkward and weird – especially because here we were with our two kids sitting at a table with adults we didn’t know that were drinking. It’s very controlled- two drink maximum, and you can’t walk around and look at the place. There is no band. Just some animatronic “DJ”. It was really fucking stupid. Rather than spend $50, we got up and left.

I thought about getting a blue milk from a stand outside, but then I read what it was…it’s like tequila or vodka with coconut oil. Apparently it’s really slimy. No thanks, not for $15.

The one big highlight was the Droid Depot. It’s _really_ cute. All my kids wanted was to build their own droids so we caved in and let them do it ($200 for 2, ouch). It’s a Droid shop, and you go to these conveyer belts and pick from the assorted parts that go by to assemble an RC toy. You can do a BB or R-series astromech and there are several options for most of the parts. You put it together and go to an activation station where it comes alive. It’s basically Star Wars Build-a-Bear. Kids flip out over it and it’s really fun to do. BUT…it’s also poorly conceived. The droids are pretty big and heavy, and they give you a crap box to put it in that won’t last the day. The random assortment of parts is hit or miss…so if you really want a black R5 head, you may or may not ever see one come out. The R units have buttons on their controllers that are useless if you don’t buy additional accessories.

We did not do the lightsaber thing. $200 per. I love the picture on the Website that shows a family of five doing it together. “Hey, we spent $1000 on Star Wars toys at a park we paid $1000 to get into!”

Here’s the big problem, and why the whole thing is a massive flop. It does absolutely nothing to speak to nostalgia. It tries to immerse you in this “all new” SW world called Batuu that…is really just kind of a knock-off of Tatooine. There is no reason it shouldn’t have been Mos Eisley. But it is almost 100% sequel trilogy stuff, with virtually no elements that go back to the OT. I love Kylo Ren with all my heart, but I don’t get giddy seeing him like I would have if Boba Fett or some Ewoks were walking around. And it’s all one-note- kind of this generic, overdone “SW grunge” thing. It’s like the art directors picked up on that “hey, SW has a lived in feel” line and just hammered it into the ground. At no point did I feel immersed or engaged.

Apparently, there is a lot of interaction and “immersion” in this Disney Play app. You complete “missions” and I guess things happen like if you lose cargo on the ride someone may come up and say “hey, bounty hunters are looking for you.” I never saw anything like that happening. I dinked around with the app for about 10 minutes and was like “forget this shit”. Who wants to walk around the park faffing around with an app like that?

I keep comparing it to the Wizardling World, which I love…and how there even getting to it is such an amazing experience, taking the train at King’s Cross and walking through the wall to get to platform 9 ¾, going into Honeydukes’ and Ollivanders’…so much atmosphere and charm. But Galaxy’s Edge is just so sterile and misguided almost completely from top to bottom. It’s like walking into a land based on a crappy EU comic book, not a SW film.

By contrast, yesterday we went to Animal Kingdom and to the Avatar stuff. It was _incredible_. The ride is absolutely breathtaking from the queue to the actual experience. The land is beautiful and awe-inspiring. The theming is so well done, and it maintains the themes of environmental responsibility and preservation from the film. I dunno, maybe the B-Team of Imagineers was put on SW? Or maybe the lower stakes and lower expectations for Pandora worked in its favor. That ride though…it just blew me away. I was shaking and almost in tears at the end. It’s just beautiful. It’s also brilliantly framed- the preshow is the best I’ve ever seen. We only had to wait 45 minutes (it was posted at 120) but it can go up to 3 hours +. Actually might be worth it.
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22 Oct 2019 12:37 #302658 by Shellhead
Hondo who? I don't Star Wars anymore.

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22 Oct 2019 12:46 #302659 by ChristopherMD

Michael Barnes wrote:
And you walk through this little market area and then there’s the Falcon, which at first is neat, but then it becomes kind of oddly dull- maybe because when you get up to it, it really looks _cheap_. That’s a weird thing to say about something that is obviously very, very expensive but from a production/art design perspective, it looks like a very complex plywood model with bad faux finishing and weathering. I found myself thinking “maybe they shouldn’t let you get this close to it”.
.


She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.

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22 Oct 2019 13:01 #302660 by Michael Barnes
Sure, but Han Solo is dead in this SW experience.

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22 Oct 2019 13:09 #302662 by charlest
Heard similar things from another person who went recently. We're going in March and maybe my low expectations will allow me to enjoy it.

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22 Oct 2019 13:19 #302664 by Joebot

Shellhead wrote: Hondo who? I don't Star Wars anymore.


He's an unbearably obnoxious recurring character from the Clone Wars cartoon. That is indeed an odd choice to use as the face of the park's biggest attraction.
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22 Oct 2019 14:02 #302668 by bfkiller
Wow, that is very disappointing. Doubly so because they had to remove Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue (one of my favourite stops at Disneyland) to accommodate it.

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22 Oct 2019 14:26 - 22 Oct 2019 14:27 #302669 by Not Sure

It does absolutely nothing to speak to nostalgia.


Kids don't have nostalgia yet. That's why you take them to Disney World.
Last edit: 22 Oct 2019 14:27 by Not Sure.
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22 Oct 2019 16:30 #302677 by charlest
I think you'd be surprised at the number of people who go to Disney World without kids.

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22 Oct 2019 17:33 #302678 by Erik Twice
It's a shame you had to go through this because Galaxy's Edge being dissapointing has been widely discussed by theme park enthusiasts.

As far as I'm told, they basically opened the whole area before it was truly finished. Apparently this is a growing trend in theme parks, as they often open new sections without even the "key" attractions. Disney hoped the Star Wars name would be so big and so successful they would make millions just by having the theme. As crazy as it might sound, I think they overstated how popular the brand is, specially amongst younger people.

(You actually mention Animal Kingdom which apparently also opened before being finished. As far as I'm told, the park was supposed to have a mythological area that never came to fruition.)

The app is a clear stopgap for the fact the area is not finished and it's missing rides and such. But hey, the merch is there, isn't it? =p
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22 Oct 2019 18:37 #302680 by mc

Erik Twice wrote: Disney hoped the Star Wars name would be so big and so successful they would make millions just by having the theme.


Well, at 200US a pop for multiple bits and pieces, not including the price of entry, they're probably doing all right with it.

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22 Oct 2019 18:51 #302681 by Michael Barnes
It’s true the park isn’t finished and it shows the marks of a troubled development...apparently the second ride, Rise of the Resistance, has had some problems and may be delayed. They may very well correct course and stop doing stupid shit like training employees to act like they don’t recognize the names of OT characters not in the ST. Maybe by the time Charlie goes they’ll straighten out some of the issues. Most parks have troubled openings, it’s a massive undertaking with lots of moving parts, hundreds of creatives involved, construction, menu development, prop shops, etc. involved.

But I think some of the issues aren’t fixable. The Smuggler’s Run ride is just -trash-, I actually think it is worse than the Transformers ride at Universal. Anyone giving it a positive review is having some kind of Stockholm Syndrome or something.

The merchandise mostly sucks! I didn’t see anything I wanted. There is a pet shop with some OK stuffies, a Bantha and a Porg puppet were pretty cute but the others were junk. The Tauntaun looked like crap, and there were some others that I actually didn’t even recognize. Shirts were bad- my bootleg ass 1983 Star Wars Arcade Game shirt was better than anything they had. Cosplayers might go for the Jedi robes or something I guess but there wasn’t anything I was even remotely tempted to buy. But, then again, we bought $200 worth of Droids which is the most we’ve ever spent on park merchandise.

I think the nostalgia was really, really important in making this work. It needed to be -timeless-, which is something the ST isn’t quite yet. It is VERY SW 2019, not 1977. Which is weird given how over the top nostalgia is in the other parks. I think there was a certain degree of hubris involved in the whole thing- I think Disney misunderstood the value of the SW brand and the Disney-specific character and settings. I’m definitely a SW fan, I live FA, R1, and TLJ. Solo is OK. But all of it made me really sad that they blew it so badly and it almost feels like they WANT to push out the OT.

But then again, the fireworks show is all about nostalgia with film clips...that you watch and think “yeah, why isn’t there a ride that puts you in the trench run or on a speeder bike”?

The Slinky Dog ride is awesome and it also just casts into relief how shitty the ride is in particular.

Re: Animal Kingdom- I love it, it’s my second favorite after Magic Kingdom. It was in fact supposed to have a fantasy area and you can see traces of it here and there- the benches outside the park show the silhouettes of animals including a dragon. I love the different regional areas, the zoo elements are beautifully executed and the attractions are thoughtful and well executed.

The Pandora area is so, so good...the main ride is just incredible. You link up with a Na’vi and ride a mountain banshee on a bike-like seat. The attention to detail is insane- the environments you go through have different smells, the wind blows your hair back, and you can feel the banshee breathing and moving.

As far as adults going- I fully intend to continue going until I am unable to do so, with or without my kids. As anti-corporate as I am, I love Disney and their parks are simply the best theme park experiences bar none. Apart from this SW debacle, which they may very well correct over time.

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22 Oct 2019 18:56 #302682 by Michael Barnes
Another point Erik made- that the SW name doesn’t have the brand power with kids as it once did. This is absolutely true, and it really showed. There really weren’t a whole lot of kids in the area, mostly young to middle aged adults and above.

I think Marvel is likely a much stronger brand at this point across demographics. It kind of makes me wonder if SW land is really just too late.

But there again, Avatar is 10 years old and not nearly as widely worshipped and loved like SW and that area works.

I found myself really, really wishing they had an Afrofuturist Wakanda area in the Africa part of Animal Kingdom.
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22 Oct 2019 19:26 - 22 Oct 2019 19:31 #302683 by Not Sure

charlest wrote: I think you'd be surprised at the number of people who go to Disney World without kids.


I think you'd be surprised at how many times I've been to Disneyland. Two trips to Disney World, once pre-kids and once post. Shit, I even went to Shanghai Disneyland on a whim during a business trip (that was a pretty weird Disney experience).

So I'm not unaware of adult Disney fans (or Wizarding World fans), I practically am one . But for reals, the Disney parks have always been for kids, to create that lasting nostalgia. Stuff just isn't as magic as you get older, and catering to the wrong age group is cutting off the future for the present.

Launches often go poorly. Over on this side of the country we watched Disney California Adventure struggle for something like a decade before the Pixar stuff sort of cemented it together.

It sounds like the cantina experience is exceptionally poorly thought out. Mixing kids and alcohol doesn't go well (although I know perfectly well that every park except WDW Magic Kingdom and Disneyland itself has someplace to hide out and get a drink that doesn't require a $30,000+ membership).

But I'm not terribly surprised that they didn't sink all this money and time into recreating a movie from 1977. The fact that they're using more recent stuff is likely to be part of the strategy to continue releasing Star Wars material. They're building that brand for people who grow into it, not people who have lived and breathed it for 50 years. Because I've met those people, and we're never satisfied anyway.

Sorry you had a bad time, Michael. We deliberately skipped Disneyland in favor of Universal earlier this summer, because the new land had just opened and I didn't want to fight a crowd for typical unfinished, untuned opening.
Last edit: 22 Oct 2019 19:31 by Not Sure. Reason: clarity in addressing
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22 Oct 2019 19:30 #302684 by Not Sure

Michael Barnes wrote: But there again, Avatar is 10 years old and not nearly as widely worshipped and loved like SW and that area works.

I found myself really, really wishing they had an Afrofuturist Wakanda area in the Africa part of Animal Kingdom.


Avatar doesn't have 50 years of inconsistency and muddled stories that you to train park staff not to argue about, either. Sadly, that Avatar stuff was all built just after our last trip over there and I'm not sure if or when I'll have a chance to see it.

But if they build Wakanda world I'll fly across the country to see that.

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