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Last May, Disneyland parkgoers in Anaheim, Calif., explored a galaxy far, far away with the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed land. And last August, the second Black Spire Outpost opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., bringing Disney’s interactive and immersive "Star Wars" experience to clients on both coasts. But the biggest adventure was still to come.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened Dec. 5, 2019, in Orlando, and Jan. 17, 2020, in Anaheim, and was instantly described by theme park fans and Walt Disney Imagineers alike as the most epic Disney attraction of all time.
“It’s not just an attraction as much as it is an adventure,” said Margaret Kerrison, managing story editor for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We wanted to capture all the things we grew up watching — and that our kids are growing up watching. We wanted to capture the sense of wonder and surprise and discovery, and then have you experience it over and over again.”
Grand storytelling and massive sets are at the core of Rise of the Resistance, adds John Larena, executive creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering.
“We want to immerse guests in an epic ‘Star Wars’ story,” he said. “Growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the quarters of a Star Destroyer. So, why not do it for real?”
For the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, the park implemented an online reservation system for the land; but with no FastPass queue for signature attraction Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, guests had to wait several hours to ride. To prevent that from happening with Rise of the Resistance — which doesn’t yet have FastPass or standby queues — both Disney World and Disneyland are using a virtual queue “Boarding Group” system.
According to Michael Ramirez, editorial content director for Disneyland Resort, the virtual queue helps deliver the best possible guest experience by allowing clients to explore other areas of the park while they wait their turn to ride.
How it Works The easiest way to access the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue is through the official Disneyland or Disney World mobile apps. However, clients without smartphones can receive assistance at Guest Experience kiosks. Either way, parkgoers who want to ride must have their park ticket scanned at the gate to receive a Boarding Group. (Once inside the park, one person can link everyone's ticket through the app and request one boarding group reservation for the party, but every person who wants to ride has to be inside the park.) There has been some confusion at Disney World, where the FastPass+ system usually allows guests to pre-book FastPasses (and book FastPasses from outside the park), but Disneyland regulars will find that it's similar to that resort's MaxPass system.
Boarding Groups are not available until the park’s published opening time, although some guests have lined up in the middle of the night to ensure they will be able to ride. Travel advisors can safely tell clients that this is not necessary. The virtual queue is not first-come, first-serve, so as long as clients are through the park gates when the system goes live, they have the same chance as anyone else; it's just a matter of "faith, hope and pixie dust."
Agents should note that only a limited number of Boarding Groups are issued per day, and groups with higher numbers may not be guaranteed to ride, so advise clients to have realistic expectations — especially if they're traveling with kids and/or are “Star Wars” superfans. Good news, though: Even if guests aren’t able to ride Rise of the Resistance, other themed experiences in Galaxy’s Edge are still available, including building a droid or a lightsaber, tasting an intergalactic cocktail (or mocktail) in Oga’s Cantina and flying the Millennium Falcon.
Step by StepThe link to the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue is on the app's homepage. Once clients are in the park and the clock strikes opening time, they click the “Find Out More” button, then click the “Join Boarding Group” button. Lucky riders assigned a spot in the virtual queue will be notified when it’s time to join the Resistance, so recommend that clients activate push notifications on their smartphones.
Pro TipsMany parkgoers have reported that the virtual mad dash to Boarding Groups at park opening slows the app — and when the groups are gone in a matter of minutes, that can be frustrating. I recommend not using in-park Wi-Fi access and stepping away from crowds for a stronger signal. Clock watching is also helpful, as guests who refresh the app a second or two before the official park opening time seem to have better luck than those who wait.
Is It Worth It?After riding Rise of the Resistance several times, my answer is: Yes! It’s a monumental adventure, and clients will feel like they are truly part of the Resistance — complete with a daring escape from a First Order Star Destroyer, a cinematic space battle and even a face-off with mega-villain Kylo Ren.
“Part of the Disney difference is to make the unreal, real,” said Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive and studio leader for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’re putting you in the position of being in that story.”Guests should prepare to be active characters in the narrative and anticipate a surprise around every corner, adds Margaret Kerrison, managing story editor for Walt Disney Imagineering.
“We want you to fall in love with ‘Star Wars’ all over again,” she said. “And we want people new to ‘Star Wars’ to fall in love with it for the very first time.”
Additional reporting by Jessica Castro.
From the start, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has incorporated a unique interactive storytelling component through the Play Disney Parks mobile app. When clients enter the themed land at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, their smartphones automatically become a Star Wars Datapad that they can use to play games, translate signs in aurebesh (the language of Batuu) and — depending on their allegiances — undertake tasks to help the Resistance or First Order.
“Our guests are dedicated to using this Datapad as they explore,” said Anisha Deshmane, assistant producer for Walt Disney Imagineering. “It really adds an extra layer of discovery to your experience."
With the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, two new tasks have been added to immerse clients further into the attraction’s storyline. They can opt to help the First Order or — for those who support the Resistance — can aid Finn, who has infiltrated the First Order Star Destroyer.
“When you download the Play Disney Parks app, you have a Datapad ready to go in your pocket, along with the tools to explore this amazingly detailed place and learn more about the outpost,” Deshmane said.
The DetailsStar Wars: Rise of the Resistancedisneyland.disney.go.com