We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland's 'Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'
Disneyland fulfilled the promise of letting Star Wars fans ride the Millennium Falcon when they opened Galaxy's Edge (aka Star Wars Land) last May. With their new ride, Rise of the Resistance, they're trying to deliver on some other fan fantasies -- specifically, walking around a Star Destroyer.
The new ride -- which resides in a large portion of Galaxy's Edge that up until now was relatively sparse -- is one of the most ambitious attractions ever seen at Disneyland, with multiple ride systems coming together to immerse you in another world.
It's also one of the longest rides at Disneyland, clocking in at more than 15 minutes.
Imagineer Scott Trowbridge argued that it's not only Disney's most immersive attraction, but more immersive than anything from their competitors, either -- and when you're on that Star Destroyer, it's hard to argue with him.
We rode the new ride ourselves multiple times to learn everything you need to know about the attraction. We won't spoil every turn of the story waiting for you -- especially when it comes to the dramatic escape -- but here's what you can expect, plus more behind-the-scenes info from Disney's Imagineers themselves.
The adventure starts on a Resistance encampment. By "adventure," yes, we mean "line," but it's a line filled with little Star Wars details. This includes lockers full of guns, bombs, and other space weapons, along with Resistance uniforms and star maps.
Imagineer Kirstin Makela, a Disney art director, described at a press event how she tried bringing together the three different design aesthetics of Galaxy's Edge -- the Resistance, the Empire, and that of the ancient civilization of the planet itself -- starting with the line.
"My job as an art director is to think about how the people who inhabited these spaces would actually build these spaces," Makela said.
That means things like carving elements of the queue by hand to create the primitive look they were going for.
To make the wait more enjoyable, they've also recently upgraded their Play Disney app to include two new Star Wars missions -- you can choose to either play for the Resistance (good guys), or the First Order (bad guys). If you choose the Resistance mission, you'll help Finn manage to escape his position on the Star Destroyer -- if you choose the First Order, you'll be spying on our heroes and reporting back on their positions.
Make your way past the line and into an introductory pen, where you're greeted by adorable robot BB-8. He chirps at you while rolling around in an area just above you, and this impressive animatronic is followed up with another "oooooh" moment: a hologram transmission of Rey (actually played by Daisy Ridley -- no knockoff actors here) appears before you.
It's realistic -- we couldn't see whatever it was being projected on. Rey gives you a mission to reunite with General Leia (who sadly doesn't make an appearance in the attraction), and you even get a video appearance by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) welcoming you and your fellow recruits onboard.
Imagineer Margaret Kerrison, managing story editor, talked about how, as with other elements of Galaxy's Edge, they actually know the specific day in the Star Wars continuity where the adventures you're a part of take place.
THE TRANSPORT SHUTTLE
The whole experience blurs the lines between pre-show and attraction -- you could argue that the introduction from Rey and BB-8 is the pre-show, but the increasingly complex portions of the ride mean that you're getting deeper and deeper into the experience as you go.
You're led onto a transport shuttle, passing by a full-size version of Poe's sleek black X-Wing on the way. Unlike Star Tours, this transport is a standing-room-only affair -- thankfully, the jostling back and forth as the ship lifts off is significantly more subtle than Star Tours. There are screens on either end of the ship, allowing you to see the ship blasting off.
Be careful -- you're going to want to find a good vantage point to either see the rear screen, or the pilot animatronic and front monitors, as there are no viewports out the sides or the roof of the ship. Things don't go well for your little transport, despite assistance from Poe -- a First Order Star Destroyer pulls you in on its tractor beam.
ONBOARD A STAR DESTROYER
As the transport's doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They're empowered to be a little strict with you -- we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.
"I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer -- so hey, why not do it for real?" Imagineer John Larena said.
But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, "It turns out that it's actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale." The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy's Edge.
But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets.
You walk out onto the deck of the ship, filled with rows of Stormtroopers and a giant bay door, looking out into the milky blackness beyond. It's one of the most impressive pieces of the attraction, and a key photo/selfie opportunity -- but if you dawdle gawking at everything around you, like a TIE Fighter docked up above, the First Order isn't afraid to hustle you along.
You're marched past more Stormtroopers, including some with subtle animatronic movements, before being marched into a detention cell. General Hux comes to demand information from you, and he's joined by Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.
But no need to fear -- you're broken out by a member of the Resistance, literally burning a hole in the wall.
Kerrison said multiple times that they wanted to give you "feels" -- the same ones that Star Wars fans got when they first saw the movies, read the books, watched the cartoons.
"We want you to fall in love with Star Wars all over again," Kerrison said -- as well as helping people fall in love with Star Wars for the first time.
After being broken out, you're put onto another vehicle, this one driven by a reprogrammed R5 droid. You also get to see Finn (John Boyega) on the video screens, quarterbacking your attempts to get off this ship.
After all of that, this is really the heart-pumping core of Rise of the Resistance. It utilizes a new trackless vehicle system, meaning your new vehicle whizzes backwards and forwards, makes unexpected turns, and even can be moved up and down.
You'll weave through the legs of giant AT-AT Walkers and even have to face down laser fire from them, along with Stormtroopers firing their blasters. The laser effects were real enough to get us to jump in our seats, with more interesting uses of projection screens to make blaster fire seem to appear in mid-air.
Both projections and animatronics of Kylo Ren and Hux make an appearance in this adventure. Kylo cutting a hole in the ceiling with his modified lightsaber isn't quite as impressive as the special-effects-aided version in the ride's commercial, but they do create a real vibrating lightsaber that gives you some of that same feeling.
Kerrison said that they were trying to capture specific feelings -- like the feeling of meeting Kylo Ren face to face.
You'll also face giant laser cannons, a blow to the ship's hull, and an escape pod with a drop offering a mini-version of what you used to get with the Tower of Terror.
"You actually drive into those escape pods, which is actually a drop tower with a motion base," Larena said.
In other words, hold onto your stomachs. As you escape, the windows are also depicting a giant space battle created by Industrial Light & Magic.
The wait is finally over for you to check out the attraction for yourself -- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens to the public Friday, Jan. 17. And keep an eye out, as they've recently deployed an interactive R2-D2 droid in the land for you to make friends with.
Read more about Galaxy's Edge in our guide to the land.