I don't remember the first time that I watched the original Star Wars. Likewise, I have no memory of watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time. In my memories they were always there, like the sun. I'm sure I watched them both on TV or video because by the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983 I was all in. Return of the Jedi provided me with my moment. The moment so many others have had as well. The birth of passion for something that will stay with you for life.
Star Wars has provided moments for so many and for so long. Moments of excitement, fear, fun, adventure, hope. Moments that inspire imagination, moments of escape, moments of bonding with those around you and with others around the world. Whether these were small moments shared with friends while playing with action figures or big moments shared with hundreds in a movie theater or personal moments reading a comic or novel, these moments add up to a cumulative experience that define Star Wars fans and our passion for these stories.
I was recently blessed with experiencing one of the most cathartic Star Wars moments of my life. I visited Galaxy's Edge at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California and it left me speechless. Truly. To describe it in one word is a fool's errand. With that in mind, will you join me, for the next few moments, while I share my experience on Batuu? A place that, while existing in a galaxy far, far away is, for the first time ever, available to us in a galaxy not far away at all.
I visited during a time when only those with reservations were able to access the land. I secured these reservations by booking a night in the Disneyland Hotel as part of my family's summer vacation. Our reservation was for the second day of our stay from 8AM to noon. For those of you that may have reservations, this next part may be helpful, reservation wristbands are to be picked up inside the park at the Star Wars Launch Bay attraction two hours before the reservation begins. Yes, that means my family and I were walking through Disneyland gates at 6AM! This was quite surreal because the only people in the park were employees and those of us getting ready to go to Black Spire Outpost on the outer rim planet of Batuu.
We received our wristbands and were directed to a waiting area in Tomorrowland. There, we waited with a growing crowd of enthusiastic Star Wars fans for about ninety minutes. For a bunch of groggy, scruffy looking nerfherders, the energy was palpable.
We were then marched, as a group, from Tomorrowland to the Frontierland entrance of Galaxy's Edge, where our wristbands were scanned before we were allowed to proceed into the land. Pro tip: it would be beneficial to have a plan before going in. Because what happened next happened fast. A resident of Batuu equipped with a staff wrapped in yellow cloth, held high in the air, called out, “This way, to Oga's Cantina!” and then another Batuuan with a blue clad staff called out, “This way to Savi's Workshop!” A choice needed to be made. Go to the right and secure a reservation to Oga's Cantina or go to the left and get your reservation to build a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop.
These attractions are two of the most popular things to do on Batuu and if you are interested in both it is best to divide and conquer. Keep in mind, anyone who builds a lightsaber needs to be present when getting your reservation because you pre-pay for it and are then given a time to be back at Savi's. I chose the lightsaber. Thankfully, due to our very early wake up call we were some of the first to enter the land. With that said, a full group for Savi's Workshop had already filled up. We made it in to the second group of the day and were told to come back at 8:10AM.
The lightsaber building experience was magical and impressive. I don't want to ruin anything for anyone so I will just say this: the lightsaber that is built is worth every penny of the $200 price tag. It is not a toy. It is a unique collectible constructed during an emotional experience steeped in Star Wars lore.
Upon exiting Savi's Workshop, my oldest son tapped me on the shoulder, pointed and said, “Look.” I turned. There she was. I was looking at the Millennium Falcon. But only part of her. From that particular vantage point I was looking at the rear half on the cockpit side. I froze. Slowly, I began walking toward the ship. The ship that I have been watching my whole life defy the odds, run from the Empire, save the day. The ship that, years ago, had fit in my hands and had flown countless missions in my imagination. That ship was now larger than life and right in front of me. With a few steps, she came into full view.
I felt like everything stopped. I stared in wonder, bewildered. Now before you write me off as an overly emotional buffoon who exaggerates wildly, let me say this, the people who built this land, this ship, this experience, they nailed it. I truly mean that they have succeeded in bringing a unique, authentic and immersive experience to us. When I looked at the Millennium Falcon, I was not looking at her on a screen. I was not looking at a toy or a model or a coffee mug or a puzzle. There she was, bigger than life. Steps away from me. Every wire, every dent, every blaster mark there for the eye to see. This ship is a truly remarkable achievement that deserves to be seen, even if Star Wars is nothing more than a movie to you.
Of course, as soon as I regained my wits, I looked at my wife and said, “What a piece of junk!” And then we immediately went to the entrance of Smugglers Run. This ride is pure joy and rollicking fun. For an '80's kid like me, just sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon was a dream come true. I could stand in line for hours and not complain because the queue is brilliant. There is so much to see and appreciate. So much could be said about this ride, but those are stories for another time.
This was just the first hour of my visit to Batuu. I could go on and on about Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities and shops in the marketplace, but I will leave you with a couple smaller scale highlights.
At one point, two stormtroopers stood on a platform above the landspeeders on display. I went to the foot of the platform and hollered at them. I told them that there was more to life than being a stormtrooper and it wasn't too late for them to get out. I was met with a stern warning to move along, but I persisted. I told them that FN-2187 got out and they could too. I don't think that they appreciated that because I was then told that they would be keeping an eye on me. Thankfully, no harm came to me or my family.
Lastly, on our way out of Galaxy's Edge, we ran right into that wonderful walking carpet himself, Chewbacca! I threw my hands up and yelled “Chewie!” and walked in his direction. He complimented my Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes t-shirt and I got to ask how his arm was doing (remember, he took a nasty shot from a blaster in The Force Awakens). It seems to be giving him some pain but is a lot better. We hugged and he went on his way. I hugged Chewbacca!
I really think that ninety second encounter sums up my experience in Galaxy's Edge the best. Fun. Joyous, emotional, dream fulfilling fun. The list of moments that this wonderful thing we call Star Wars has provided me grew exponentially in four hours on a hot summer morning in June of 2019. It truly is a magnificent time to be a fan. ‘Til the Spire, friends and may the Force be with you!Powered by Sidelines