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The Disney Imagineers who created Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge aimed to create an attraction that allowed guests to live their own “Star Wars” story. Opened in May at Disneyland and in August at Walt Disney World, it gave clients the chance to experience the saga like never before.
Now, a new groundbreaking attraction at the Star Wars-themed lands in Disneyland and Walt Disney World is raising that bar even higher.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which opened Dec. 5 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida and set to open Jan. 17, 2020, at Disneyland, is one of the most ambitious attractions ever undertaken by Walt Disney Imagineering, according to Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products.
“Rise of the Resistance sets a new standard for what a theme park experience can be, just like Galaxy’s Edge,” he said. “This is immersive experiential storytelling on a massive cinematic scale. You’ll be drawn into a story that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality with breathtaking special effects, vivid and meticulous details and surprises around every turn.”
During the 15-minute experience, which employs multiple ride systems, Resistance heroine Rey recruits clients to join the fight against the tyrannical First Order. Guests board a full-size Intersystem Transport Ship (I-TS) to embark on their mission, but a First Order Star Destroyer captures the I-TS — and the newly recruited Resistance fighters with it. On the Destroyer, riders walk through a massive hangar bay containing a full-size twin-ion engine (TIE) fighter and an army of 50 stormtroopers (which makes for awesome photo ops) before being detained in an interrogation room by the Destroyer’s crew. Pro tip: The crew does not take kindly to “Resistance Sympathizers,” so I’d recommend following instructions and avoiding eye contact.
Thankfully, the Resistance stages a rescue: a daring escape via trackless First Order Short-Range Evacuation Vehicles controlled by onboard R5-Series Astromech droids. Along the way, clients encounter stormtroopers and full-size All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) walkers. They’ll also dodge blaster bolts, weave through huge turbolaser cannons and even come face to face with First Order villain Kylo Ren.
“This is an immersive experience like you’ve never been on before,” said John Larena, executive creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering. “It’s incredible for our guests to experience a big battle with the First Order with massive physical sets and state-of-the-art special effects and animatronics.”
I found the storytelling to be the best part of the ride (mind-blowing technology and intimidating First Order encounters notwithstanding). From the second the experience began, I felt like I was inside the story. Even if clients have never seen a single “Star Wars” movie, the epic adventure will be just as thrilling as it is for a superfan.
"When you can not only experience the story, but live the story, that's a very powerful experience to have," said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
It’s no surprise that Rise of the Resistance’s opening also provides parkgoers the opportunity to snag new ride-exclusive merchandise.
"Galaxy's Edge is an ambitious land, and the retail program was no different," said Brad Schoenberg, director of merchandise strategy and new park experience development. "We developed more than 700 exclusive items for the opening of the land but, of course, kept some in our back pocket for Rise of the Resistance.”
Along with fan-favorite merchandise such as pins, drinkware and apparel, additional items include new die-cast I-TS and a First Order Short-Range Evacuation Vehicle playset. The latter includes the free-roaming vehicle from the ride — complete with an R5 droid — that Schoenberg told me was made from shrinking the attraction molds down to toy-size. The new Rise of the Resistance merchandise is currently available at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, except for the playset, which won’t launch at Disneyland until the attraction opens.
“Galaxy’s Edge — and especially now with the opening of Rise of the Resistance — really rounds out the package [that agents can offer to clients],” said Claire Bilby, senior vice president of sales, services and events for Disney Destinations.
But it doesn’t stop with Star Wars, Bilby says. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will debut March 4, 2020, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort will open Dec. 16 at Walt Disney World.
“We’re very blessed with lots of great new product coming to an already great resort,” she said.
The DetailsStar Wars: Rise of the Resistancedisneyworld.disney.go.com