"Now more than ever..."

I had the opportunity to attend a Disney training session yesterday, offered by Out of Dodge Travel's district sales rep. Disney divides up the country into internal sales district, so there's always a Disney employee who is (somewhat) local and who works with travel agencies.

If you're anything like me, you've probably taken note of everything that's being built at Walt Disney World, but you haven't really been paying attention too much to the details. I have no doubt that some fans have been endlessly watching this stuff to try and find the inside scoop on details and items that haven't been announced just yet. I can be that way with some of Disney's announced project, but I'm not much of a Star Wars fan. I know that may seem sacreligious to a lot of folks, but I've never really been able to get into the franchise. That started when I was a kid, and my family would sit and watch Star Wars together, I was bored to tears.

I think, more than anything, that feeling stems from a serious disinterest in anything sci-fi. When Disney announced Pandora, my initial thought was, "WTF?!". I had never seen Avatar, so I made it a point to sit down and watch it. It was okay, but I felt the same way that I've felt about Star Wars. In a word, I felt "meh".

But as it happened, my wife had a work conference in Orlando in July of 2017. That conference was planned well before any sort of details about Pandora had been released. So we were there within a few months of it opening. Despite that disinterest and "meh" feeling, I was impressed. I was really impressed. Disney is known for its attention to detail and immersive experiences, but I thought that my feeling about the source material pre-determined that I wouldn't care. I was dead wrong. In fact, I think that really helped keep my expectations in check. Maybe die-hard fans of the film felt differently?

When it comes to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, I'm very excited to see it. But I'm still finding it hard to really watch for and catch all of the details about this new land. So having this training was a really wonderful opportunity to catch up on all of the details that are already out there that I've missed. So let's dig right in, shall we?

©Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.
© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.

The first piece of anything at Disney is the story. The Imagineers come up with the story first because that will guide all of the design decisions. Every single detail is informed by that story. So what's the story behind Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge? In Disney's own words:

On the edge of the galaxy, between the Unknown Regions and Wild Space, there is a long-forgotten planet named Batuu.

Batuu’s largest village is a settlement known as Black Spire Outpost, which has become a thriving destination for those who would prefer to go about their business unnoticed—scoundrels, rogues, smugglers and, recently, whispers in the woods reporting sightings of individuals associated with the Resistance.

News of the Resistance has drawn the attention of the First Order, eager to stomp out any remaining flickers of opposition to their absolute control.

Amid this brewing conflict, sits an exotic outpost surrounded by a beautiful landscape dominated by the petrified remains of towering ancient trees, from which Black Spire Outpost draws its name. The modern village is built on the remains of crumbling structures built by a long-extinct civilization.

Now you are invited to visit this beautiful and treacherous village of secrets, built upon secrets.

The truth is that I don't know what Disney has in store for the Star Wars franchise. But as someone who's not really in touch with the films, something jumps out at me about this storyline. It leaves a lot of room to incorporate existing Star Wars characters and locales and then bring in new elements as new films are released.

The land itself will open in phases beginning with Phase 1 on Thursday, August 29, 2019. Phase 1 will allow Guests to enter the land, and experience what it feels like to walk through an actual Star Wars location. You'll also find:

  • New Shopping experiences
    • Toydarian Toymaker will offer "...artisanal playthings and collectibles handmade by the busy toymaker, Zabaka the Toydarian." Disney also says "Zabaka’s silhouette is often visible through the frosted back window of her workshop as she flits around crafting Wookiee dolls and classic games like chance cubes and sabacc." That feels like there may be new character walking around this new store - something like the Mayor of Main Street, U.S.A., maybe? But that's just a guess.
    • Black Spire Outfitters will offer specialized clothing. I'll just let Disney speak for themselves on this one. "Shopping for your next scouting mission through the Outer Rim? Need a new robe to greet the ambassador of your home planet, or just want to pick up some casual garb to blend in with the locals? At this local shop, you can browse through an eclectic selection of stylish, functional clothing suitable for a variety of occasions and worlds."
    • Creature Stall will allow you to "Discover curious creatures and critters from across the galaxy—and take a new friend home!" This is another one where I'm just going to let Disney speak for themselves.

      At this exotic shop, you’re free to explore as you peek into cages and crates filled with hard-to-find species from across the galaxy. Bina, the stall’s proprieter, scours star systems to keep this storefront stocked with unique companions for her customers.

      Marvel at a large collection of cackling Kowakian monkey-lizards, the rambunctious pets popular with shadowy underworld figures—including Hutts. Most of the creatures here are available for purchase—restrictions may apply to rathtars.

    • Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities will offer, as its name suggests, antiques. Disney's description says that "...you'll encounter a rotating collection of unique items". That would lead me to believe that if you're in this shop, and you see something that you want, it would be best to purchase it. It sounds like it may not be there if you go back.
    • Savi's Workshop - Handbuilt Lightsabers will offer customized lightsabers and – from my understanding of Disney's description – an experience. If you're familiary with the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirate's League, this sounds like it will follow that type of immersive shopping experience (that's the best way I can think to describe it for those who aren't familiar) model. Here's Disney's full description:

      Travel to Black Spire Outpost, where a group known as the “Gatherers” ushers you into a covert workshop packed with unusual parts, whimsical pieces and miscellaneous memorabilia collected from the far reaches of the galaxy.

      Under their guidance, you can construct your very own one-of-a-kind lightsaber and bring it to life through the power of kyber crystals. Builders beware—you must protect the shop’s secrecy to avoid being discovered by the First Order!

      Select from the following lightsaber themes:

      • Peace and Justice
        Utilize salvaged scraps of fallen Jedi temples and crashed starships in Republic-era lightsaber designs that honor the galaxy’s former guardians.
      • Power and Control
        Originally forged by warriors from the dark side, objects used in this lightsaber style are rumored remnants from the Sith homeworld and abandoned temples.
      • Elemental Nature
        Craft your lightsaber from special components born from the Force—an energy created by all living things, like Brylark trees, Cartusion whale bones and even Rancor teeth.
      • Protection and Defense
        Incorporate hilt materials bearing mysterious motifs and inscriptions that reconnect users with the ancient wellspring of the Force.

      Once your lightsaber is complete (purchase required!), you’ll be ready to embark on incredible new adventures—from the far reaches of Wild Space to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!

      What strikes me about this description is a combination of "you must protect the shop’s secrecy" and what's in that last paragraph — "(purchase required!)". That makes it sound, to me at least, like this will be something you can't even watch. If you want to experience building a lightsaber, you have to commit to buying a lightsaber. Now, that wouldn't really ring any bells for me if it weren't for the fact that I saw this video. The Disney Food Blog does their own unpacking of the details of Star War's: Galaxy's Edge. Around the 9:20 mark, it says that the lightsabres will start at around $150. Until Disney announces it, it isn't official. So that information from The Disney Food Blog may not be accurate. But given what their official description states, I think there's probably some truth to it.

  • New dining experiences:
    • Oga's Cantina will be a bar/lounge. I hesitate to use that phrase since it makes it sound like kids won't be welcome - but it will be open to Guests of all ages. I just mean that the primary focus will be beverages - not food.

      Welcome to the local cantina, where bounty hunters, smugglers, rogue traders, and weary travelers of all ages come together to refuel, enjoy music, and conduct meetings—no questions asked. With an expansive menu of exotic concoctions for young ones and adults, the cantina is a welcome rest stop before your crew’s next galactic journey.

      As you plan your next smuggling run, please enjoy some bold musical entertainment courtesy of droid DJ R-3X, a former Starspeeder 3000 pilot. The cantina adheres to proprietor Oga Garra’s strict code of conduct, but patrons can be… unpredictable, so just keep your head down—and drink casual.

      For those who have long dreamed of visiting one of the galaxy’s most infamous watering holes, Oga’s Cantina brings that dream to life.

      Oga’s specializes in fantastical drinks sourced with ingredients from across the galaxy and enticing concoctions that will delight even the youngest crew members.

      It sounds like some inspiration may have been found in Sonny Eclipse from Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café over at Magic Kingdom. I see a few possibilities for how this will be executed. They could have a stationary Audio-Animatronic somewhere in the restaurant, they could have a roving animatronic (think Bunson and Beaker at Epcot), or it could be a costumed character. I'm interested to see this one.

    • Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo will be the primary restaurant, and it will be quick service. You'll "...choose from a variety of dishes prepared with ingredients from across the galaxy—all of it delicious, but none of it familiar." If you're a picky eater, I wouldn't worry too much. I'm sure in addition to the unfamiliar foods, you'll find something like a burger, or hot dogs, or chicken fingers. Indoor and outdoor seating will be offered.
    • Milk Stand will offer "...Batuu’s legendary blue or green treat, served frozen". If, like me, you're unfamiliar with much of Star Wars, this will sound pretty uninventive (my actual thought was, "Milk? Really?"). But I guess in Episode IV, Luke Skywalker drank blue milk, and green milk in Episode VIII.
    • Ronto Roasters, when I first heard its name, sounded like a coffee shop. Silly me! I forgot about Disney's partnership with Starbucks. It's a meat roasting place and will serve grilled sausage and roasted pork.
    • Kat Saka's Kettle will serve a sweet and savory popcorn. It sounds like that will be all that's offered.

    Currently, Disney is showing that none of these locations will take pre-paid dining plans. I would assume that all of them will take the dining plan, but I don't have anything to confirm that just yet.

©Disney ©Disney/Pixar

In addition to the shopping and dining locations, Phase I will also include one new attraction, Millenium Falcon: Smuggler's Run.

Ride in the famous cockpit of the Millennium Falcon on a daring flight—and whether you’re a pilot, engineer or gunner, every role is crucial.

The engines rumble as the Millennium Falcon blasts off, pushing you and your crew back into your seats when you jump into hyperspace towards adventure. Along the way you’ll face danger at every turn.

Will your mission succeed or fail? It’s up to you—find out if you have what it takes to outmaneuver the odds aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Get ready to punch it!

Well, what do you think?