Secrets From Inside the Galaxy’s Edge at Disney

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If you got the chance to attend Galactic Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then you likely had an incredible time, scored limited edition merchandise, and tasted nummy Star Wars themed treats. You also got to attend a special Inside the Galaxy’s Edge Panel which gave you a sneak peek behind the scenes of Galaxy’s Edge. They also treated fans to some exciting information about the new Galaxy’s Edge portion of the park. If you didn’t manage to get to Galactic Nights or skipped the panel Inside the Galaxy’s Edge, then you are glad I went. I’m about to share with you some of the secrets the panel shared with us.

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The Introduction

Warwick Davis, everyone’s favorite Ewok, was on hand to share this special event. He was as friendly and funny as ever. I had no idea that he’s a huge Star Wars fan. We got intimate details on his career with Star Wars both as a fan and as an actor. He asked how we liked Solo: A Star Wars Story and the response was deafening. So much so, that he tweeted our enthusiasm for Solo to his buddy Ron Howard. You can still see it on Twitter. I’m in the third row and thankful you can’t see me well—it was dreadfully hot that night. Warwick got the ball rolling and then handed it off to our host for the evening, David Collins.

The Panel

David Collins is a Sound Editor/Mixer at Skywalker sound as well as a voice actor in the last four Star Wars films; more importantly, he too is a Star Wars fan. Our panel of special guest included four people intimately involved with bringing the magic to the Galaxy’s Edge.

  • Eric Baker (Creative Director of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge)
  • Jon Georges (Executive Producer of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge)
  • Margaret Kerrison (Story Editor Imagineering) This lady has the coolest and the toughest job. She described it as to “develop and tie all of these Star Wars stories together.”
  • Scott Trowbridge (Creative Executive / Studio Leader at Walt Disney Imagineering)

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What IS Galaxy’s Edge?

It’s the largest single themed land expansion that Walt Disney has ever done. The site is over 14 acres, according to Scott. Galaxy’s Edge is a project that has been years in the making with around 5000 people, from around the globe, working on it. That’s a lot of people. I was trying to imagine recruiting for such a huge team, but then I remembered this is Star Wars by Disney. Scott summed it up nicely saying, “When you call somebody and you’re saying ‘Hi, I’m calling from Imagineering and I want to talk about Star Wars—there’s like nobody who doesn’t answer the phone.” Umm… yeah, I imagine that is a call that always gets returned.

But Galaxy’s Edge isn’t intended to be just another section of Disney based on Star Wars. The goal is to create an immersive experience.  So, when Scott describes this team as the “most amazing group of talented individuals to be put together” and a “Dream Team of talent.” He isn’t using a Jedi mind trick. Based on the flyover footage above each park, they are bringing an entire planet to life. That’s no small task.

It’s certainly got to be harder bringing the magic of Star Wars into the real world than it is building it on screen. Real life doesn’t allow for CGI effects or green screens.

What Planet?

That planet is Batuu, a remote trading port somewhere on the edge of wild space. Batuu is the kind of place that attracts people interested in keeping a low profile—smugglers, bounty hunters, the rogue adventurers, as well as those who just want to avoid the ever-expanding eye of the First Order. I hear it’s the kind of place you would go if you are looking to crew up for a less than above board mission. Not that I’m planning anything… yet.

Disney Press Photo of Black Spire Outpost
Disney Press Photo

Black Spire Outpost

At this panel, we were treated to some unreleased behind-the-scenes footage, and, of course, they announced the name of the spaceport. Margaret revealed that the name of the location and gave us a little background on Black Spire Outpost.

This is a very unique name for us. For hundreds of thousands of years there was these tall, towering trees that were kind of the watch guards over the river valley. And over the years these trees eroded and petrified in to these rock formations. And these rock formations are a small percentage of what they used to be a long, long time ago and they’ve kind of made this landscape into what it is today. And so when it became a place for all these travelers to come and go… it was a … it was a landmark for them and they named it Black Spire because of what they saw in this beautiful, beautiful land. And this was a Wayfinding place and one of the things that you do see when you come into the village; there is one spire that is more unique than all the rest. It’s blacker in color and it’s right in the center of the village. So not only was it a wayfinding for the travels who came and went and said “I’ll meet you at Black Spire,” but it really became the heart of the outpost. And we are really, really excited to share that with all of you.

The Galaxy’s Edge is intended to be an immersive experience where you can explore your Star Wars story. You might wander through the street market taking in some of the local foods or beverages that are unique to Black Spire Outpost. Fans got to see concept art of the street market, shops, and a food counter where they were spit-roasting meat on an old pod racing engine. I really hope they create that one because… Space Meat!

Where Is Production Now?

We all know that Galaxy’s Edge is going to open in 2019. I’m notably ignoring that California opens before the Florida one—ours will be better. Fall in Florida is a much better time to open than summer, anyway. But this still leaves us eager for where things are at right now. Jon was kind enough to give fans a status report: “The construction is going really well and moving very fast.” We were then treated to a sneak peek of some of the work that is going on in Asia right now.

They are actually building AT-ATs. Yes, you heard me right. There will be AT-ATs in Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios. For the record, David did ask Jon to clarify and Jon confirmed that—yes—they are building more than one, full-size AT-AT. Imagine an AT-AT in real life!

These things are so huge that they usually do them digitally in the films. Jon explained that this is the first time they’ve ever been translated to reality in full scale. Obviously, this is no small feat. Speaking of which, we got to see pictures of the AT-AT feet. No, I’m not posting them—you need to attend Galactic nights so see AT-AT feet or wait until 2019. Actually, they showed us several first look photos from inside the attraction. These were not concept art or renderings; these were photos of the actual AT-ATs that will be a part of the Galaxy’s Edge. I am so glad I attended this panel.

David asked, “So we have to go up against these?” In true Imperial fashion, Jon responded with a straight face, “Whether you like it or not.” Well played.

Disney Press Photo of Batuu
Disney Press Photo

Art Imitates Fans

Eric gave a shout out to all the maker Star Wars fans that for the last forty years have been building helmets, blasters, outfits, droids, and the little details that bring the Star Wars universe to life. He took some time to introduce us to some of what will make up the market in Black Spire Outpost. He focused primarily on the creature stall, which Eric implied will allow fans to take home some of the adorable creatures that we see in Star Wars. Fans got a first look at several creatures that have never been seen on film before. We also got a chance to see one of the first sculpts of the adorable loth-cat from Star Wars Rebels. According to Eric, these will be living breathing creatures we will see at the creature stall.

Will There Be Spaceships?

Well, it’s Star Wars—duh! It’s a big galaxy. The Star Wars stories take us to new and exciting places, and we get there each time by spaceships. So, yes, you can look forward to seeing full-size spacecraft. The panel confirmed that this would include one particularly well loved “hunk of junk” to thunderous applause. I’m not sure you can even call it Star Wars without the Millennium Falcon. Besides, Google Maps leaked this little tidbit by accident years ago.

Scott confirmed there will be other ships as well. That makes sense. This is an active spaceport on the planet of Batuu. So who knows how many ships Disney will end up creating. We did get confirmation that a resistance troop transport ship is being created full scale. You may have seen a model of it at D23 Expo in Anaheim. We got to see pictures of this ship at its current state of production as well. The ship looked battle worn. The detail on the picture of the laser canons was awe inspiring. Clearly, it’s journey to the planet Batuu was a rough one. There were even blaster marks on the side of the ship. It was cool; not quite Donald Glover touring the Falcon cool, but still exciting.

What Kind of Attractions Can We Expect?

One of the anchor attractions will allow you to get into the cockpit and take over the controls of the fastest ship in the galaxy for an intergalactic joyride. A second big anchor attraction that was confirmed is one that is more traditional epic Star Wars. It sounds like we are going to find ourselves caught in the middle of the battle between the First Order and the Resistance. I’m betting this is going to involve those AT-ATs somehow.

Any Other Surprises?

Yes. Remember Nein Nunb? EU fans will know him as an arms dealer and smuggler who joined the Alliance to restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War. For those of you not familiar with anything beyond the original trilogy, he was the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon when Lando was flying it during the battle of Endor. This character was never intended to be a major character. Like the Battle of Endor, things didn’t go exactly as intended, and fans fell in love with this adorable Sullustan. Disney took notice and decided he needed to be in The Force Awakens.

The original voice actor for Nein Nunb was Kipsang Rotich. Die-hard Star Wars fans will remember that Kipsang was a graduate student who was living in the Bay Area during the shooting of Return of the Jedi.

Disney had a hard time finding him when they wanted to shoot The Force Awakens, but nothing stops the Disney machine. They found him in Kenya, where he is from originally. In true Disney fashion, they traveled to Kenya to record his voice once more. Nein Nunb’s language is a combination of Kipsang’s native Kalenjin language and Kikuyu. Fans at this panel were treated to a special video in which Kipsang discusses his involvement with Stars Wars. He shares with us his reaction to being hunted down all the way in Kenya to reprise his role as Nien Nunb. Kipsang spoke of how he enjoys being a part of the Star Wars universe.

So now you know most of what I learned from Inside the Galaxy’s Edge Panel at Galactic nights. You’re Welcome. Huh? Yes, I said most. You want to know everything? You need to hit up Galactic Nights next time it happens. If you find me there, I’ll buy you a drink.

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