With the opening day of Disney World’s version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge days away, the ride that won’t be ready for another three months is generating the most excitement.
As part of the media preview for Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney gave a reporters a tour of part of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — the larger and more ambitious of the 14-acre land’s two rides alongside Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run.
As explained by Disney, the ride puts guests in the middle of a big battle between the First Order and the Resistance, starting by boarding a Resistance transport ship where you’ll stand and hang onto to the overhead bars.
“Along the way, however, you will be captured by a First Order Star Destroyer,” Disney said in a blog post. “The action then ramps up as you seek to escape the clutches of Kylo Ren and the First Order – with the help of some heroes of the Resistance.”
The show building is large enough to fit two full-size AT-AT walkers and a Star Destroyer hangar bay with dozens of stormtroopers, as depicted in the photo released by Disney. This scene is where the trackless vehicles load for the vehicle — even though it’s not the first ride vehicle you board or the beginning of the attraction.
Reporters on the scene were effusive in their praise. Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider said the media “broke into applause” when they gazed upon the Star Destroyer scene. Chris Taylor at Mashable said he had a “stupid grin plastered on my previously jaded face” after the sneak peek. Orlando Business Journal’s Richard Bilbao described it as “jaw-dropping and other-worldly in terms of design.”
The fact that Rise of the Resistance attracted more attention from the media preview isn’t surprising; after all, Disney World’s Galaxy’s Edge has been open to Disney employees and annual passholders for nearly a month and its Disneyland twin is now three months old.
Behind the scenes, however, Rise of the Resistance is reportedly having difficulties. Discussing the ride on the Aug. 26 episode of the Disney Dish Podcast, writer Jim Hill said “they haven’t been able to keep it operating for more than a hour at a time.” The attraction is set to open Dec. 5 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and on Jan. 17, 2020 at Disneyland.
Whether from Rise of the Resistance or the land’s opening in Central Florida, Disney some positive press on Galaxy’s Edge. The Anaheim version may have been a victim of its own hype, as low crowds were reported throughout Disneyland in weeks after the May 31 opening. Disney reported a 3 percent drop in attendance at its U.S. parks during the last quarter, though Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger framed it as a problem with marketing, not the land itself.
“We feel great about the product we created,” Iger said on Disney’s Aug. 6 earnings call. “It’s just going to take some time for things to work themselves out in terms of how the marketplace is reacting.”
In contrast to the controlled opening in Disneyland — where advance reservations limited to four-hour slots were required for the first three weeks — Galaxy’s Edge in Florida will instead rely only on extended hours to handle crowds. From Friday through Sunday, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will open to all guests at 6 a.m. Starting Sept. 1, the 6 a.m. opening will be limited to those staying at Disney hotels.
Publicly, Disney is saying its crowd control strategies are working as intended.
“The fact that we don’t have backed up lines is actually going according to plan,” Bob Chapek, the head of Disney’s parks division, told reporters during the media preview. “That’s not a great guest experience. We don’t define success as 10-hour waits.”
Chapek’s last comment could be some not-so-subtle shade throw towards rival Universal Orlando. Its major 2019 addition, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, attracted reported waits of 10 hours on its opening day and has struggled with operational issues and near daily shutdowns since debuting in June.
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