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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios – overview and history

There are few theme-park projects anywhere in the world that can compare with the interest or, even, revolutionary nature of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

The new land, which will arrive first at Anaheim’s Disneyland on May 31, 2019 and then on August 29 at Orlando’s Hollywood Studios, looks to up the theming ante in ways both big and small, taking the paradigm-setting nature of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the refinements of Pandora: The World of Avatar and running with them to the nth degree. Indeed, just to convey the scope of the undertaking, Galaxy’s Edge is 14 acres in size, making it the biggest expansion Disney has ever devoted to just one property; Industrial Light & Magic, the visual-effects company that writer-director George Lucas started in 1975 in order to help him realize his Star Wars films, has been recruited to help develop the area; and John Williams, the legendary composer responsible for all of the (main) movies’ soundtracks, has been tasked with composing an original theme exclusively for the project.

Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios early concept art
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios concept art

The land’s arrival will also complete a years-long rebirth of Hollywood Studios, resulting in a park that will be one of the strongest – and busiest – at Walt Disney World instead of a half-day stop on the way to other adventures at the resort. In this way, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be a massive game-changer for Orlando, specifically, as well as all future themed additions, generally (Universal’s Super Nintendo World, take notice).

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Wait – what about that opening date?

This is so important, we need to get this out of the way up front, before we’re able to dive into anything else.

Yes, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open on May 31 at Disneyland Park and August 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but there is one huge caveat to include here: the new theme-park land’s headlining attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will not be open on those days – its debut on a yet-unannounced subsequent date will constitute the second official phase of Galaxy’s Edge. (Disney opted to do a phased opening, it said, because of the “tremendous” fan demand to get access to the new area.)

On the plus side, however, Walt Disney World Resort guests won’t need to secure a reservation in order to gain admittance to Galaxy’s Edge (which is the case over at Disneyland Resort for nearly the first month of its operation), and the company has already stated that the land will be open during Extra Magic Hours at some point during the year.

 

What is Star Wars?

Star Wars logo
One of the most famous logos of all time

Despite being one of the most popular – and profitable – franchises in the entire world, we realize that not everyone who ends up making his way to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be hugely familiar with the intellectual property. So please enjoy our very brief primer on the phenomenon that is Star Wars – one which even the most hardened of space-opera veterans may find surprising. (This just covers Star Wars‘s creation and development over the decades – we’ll get to its narrative in just a bit.)

When writer-director George Lucas originally sat down to write what would become his magnum opus in the early 1970s, he envisioned it as just one film. But as he was unable to fit all of the various characters, locations, and scenes into one two-hour runtime, he quickly decided to expand his story to a trilogy – which, in turn, got expanded to two trilogies once he realized that the backstory he was fashioning for his current movies’ plots was interesting enough to carry its own full-fledged narrative. The original trilogy, thus, was ultimately released as EpisodeIVV, and VI, starting in 1977 and ending in ’83; a full decade-and-a-half later, the prequel trilogy (consisting of EpisodeIII, and III, of course) landed, running from ’99 to ’02.

During this lengthy creation process, Lucas had openly talked of his plans to do one and, perhaps, two additional trilogies, just to see how the story would play out over the course of additional generations in that galaxy far, far away; however, by the time he was actively developing the prequels, the director recanted this possibility, saying that everything was resolved with Episode VI, after all. And although fans were shocked and saddened by the closure of this narrative window, it turns out another was just getting opened – George may have sworn off any future cinematic adventures, but he was more than ready to tackle television, a medium that he had only dipped his toes into previously (namely, with his Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the early ’90s). The Clone Wars premiered in 2008 (ironically enough, with a pilot film that was released in theaters) and initially ran for six seasons, paving the way for what Star Wars could look like on the small screen and in animated form both.

All of this changed one fateful day in October 2012, when George Lucas decided to enter retirement a little earlier than previously predicted, selling his sprawling multimedia baby to The Walt Disney Company in the process. The Mouse House was only too happy to revisit the idea of doing a sequel trilogy, announcing Episode VII for 2015 and VIII for ’17 (Episode IX, the final installment of the main saga, will follow on December 20, 2019). Disney also upended the Star Wars TV slate, cancelling Clone Wars in favor of a whole slew of new enterprises: Rebels (which ran from ’14 to ’18), Resistance (’18 to present), the YouTube microseries Forces of Destiny (’17 to present), and the live-action Mandalorian (which arrives later this year).

And, it turns out, Star Wars is only getting started. The company has already begun a series of spinoff movies – 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and ’18’s Solo: A Star Wars Story – which will move to center stage once Episode IX wraps up the travails of the Skywalker family; expect new side-story trilogies from both Episode VIII: The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss over the course of the next several years. And with the arrival this year of the Disney+ streaming service, scores of additional television content will also be arriving, starting with one final Clone Wars season (thereby providing the animated show with the closure that Disney had originally denied it five years ago) and continuing on with a live-action miniseries that will act as a prequel to Rogue One.

Finally, as exciting (and prodigious) as all that may be, it completely overlooks another major aspect of the Star Wars behemoth, one that has also been changed under the Mouse’s watch: the Expanded Universe, that teeming collection of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames, was reset in 2014 in order to allow each new release to be fully in step with every film and TV episode. Now, for the first time ever, every Star Wars product is canon, taking place in the same timeline and building out the giant overarching narrative – and, yes, this even includes Disney’s new theme-park land.

Speaking of which…

 

Where does Galaxy’s Edge take place in the Star Wars timeline?

Unlike Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is content to (more or less) reside in a hazy, unspecified period of time within its source material, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exists at a very specific point in the Star Wars timeline: namely, after Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and before Episode IX, the last chapter of the mainline series. This means that guests should not only expect to see the sequel trilogy’s cast of characters show up in the theme-park land’s various attractions and experiences, but that some of Galaxy’s Edge’s story elements just may end up getting touched upon (to one degree or another) in that trilogy’s final installment. In this way, fans could essentially call the new themed area Episode 8.5.

(Indeed, we’ve already seen some of the land’s new additions, such as its setting of Black Spire Outpost and some of the residents who live there, get referenced in a number of movies and television episodes, including Solo: A Star Wars Story and Resistance [we’ll have much, much more on this shortly]).

 

What is the Star Wars story up ’til now?

Star Wars: Age of Republic, Rebellion, and Resistance
This poster for a comic-book series does a great job of encapsulating all three trilogies

Warning: there are spoilers for all released Star Wars films in this section. Proceed at your own (narrative) caution.

In the prequel trilogy, the Old Republic and the Jedi Order, which had stood for a millennium, were eaten away from within, betrayed by one of their own members: Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, who was secretly the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious, and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, who became his apprentice, Darth Vader. In those venerable institutions’ demise, a new organization arose: the Galactic Empire, exchanging the democratic spirit of the light side of the Force for the fascistic control of the dark side.

In the original trilogy, which starts up 19 years later, Vader’s two illicit children, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, rose up to help lead the Rebellion against the evil Empire, starting the First Galactic Civil War in the process. Along the way, Luke became a Jedi – the last of that order – and, with Leia’s political and military expertise, ended the Sith Lords’ dominion, killing their last two members. The Force was once again in balance.

Or so everyone thought. In the sequel trilogy, which takes place 30 years after the originals, the New Republic may reign, but it’s on shaky ground; Jedi Master Luke Skywalker has failed in his efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order, losing Leia’s son, Ben Solo, to the dark side in the process. Ben is welcomed with open arms to the First Order, an offshoot of the Galactic Empire that is leaner, meaner, and more ideologically pure, ultimately taking on the Sith-like identity of Kylo Ren and becoming the splinter faction’s leader. By the end of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, the Second Civil War has flared up, with the First Order marching across the entire galaxy and only General Leia Organa’s tiny militia, called the Resistance, able to (barely) oppose them.

But not all hope is lost. Though Luke Skywalker may have died, he first passed on the torch of the light side to an abandoned orphan named Rey, who just may be the most powerful Force wielder in the entire saga and who now has become the last of the Jedi. Working with General Leia; her best starfighter pilot, Poe Dameron; Finn, a former First Order stormtrooper; Chewbacca, Leia and Luke’s long-time friend and current owner of the legendary vessel Millennium Falcon; and their trusty astromech droid, BB-8, Rey and the Resistance are moving to defeat Kylo Ren and the dark side of the Force once and for all, bringing a permanent peace, at long last, to the galaxy.

 

What is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s story?

Batuu from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Batuu from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

It is shortly after the outbreak of the new Galactic Civil War, with Kylo Ren’s First Order newly dominant and sweeping across the stars. They have trained their sights on the ancient planet of Batuu, which is located in the Outer Rim’s Unknown Regions and which used to function as a vibrant trading post before the advent of faster-than-light travel through hypersapce. Now, interstellar commerce has passed the world by, making it one of countless forgotten destinations – except for by those individuals who don’t want to be found, such as smugglers, pirates, bounty hunters, and rogue adventurers. At the very center of this safe haven for the galaxy’s seamy underbelly is Black Spire Outpost, Batuu’s capital, which Disney describes this way:

Widely known for the petrified remains of its once-towering ancient trees, the spires now stand guard across the river valleys and plains and have long captured the imagination of travelers to this planet. To the first settlers, these petrified spires became more than just landmarks – they became the heart of the outpost itself.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will take place exclusively in Black Spire, meaning that – just like with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Pandora: The World of Avatar – the entire theme-park land will be devoted to faithfully recreating just one location. Or, should we say, creating it – Batuu has been designed expressly for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, making Galaxy’s Edge one giant brand-new entry in the Star Wars canon; guests are meant to feel as if they’re exploring a fresh chapter of the mythology instead of retreading old cinematic escapades.

But why has the First Order come to this remote outpost? Disney and Lucasfilm are keeping this part of the story secret (for now), but it seems as if the neo-Imperials are searching for something (or someone) that is located in Black Spire, and it just may have to do with its massive, titular outcropping of jet-black rock that sits near the center of the settlement. No one’s quite certain what it is or how it formed, although everyone has his own theory (guests, for instance, will be able to ask the various townsfolk what they think) – yet no one can deny the Black Spire spike’s almost elemental power, which has attracted scores of peoples to its site across the millennia, starting with the original, primitive inhabitants of the region whose ruins still dot the terrain.

As a matter of fact, Disney released this (apparent) verse from an old song that has drifted throughout that galaxy far, far away for some time:

At the edge of the galaxy, so far away
Black was the spire that called me to stay
A beacon for drifters forgotten and lost
The spires summoned those broken and tossed
Come stay here forever or just pass on through
The spirit of Black Spire will forever change you

The vanguard of the First Order presence on Batuu, which is only a week or two old when you first set foot into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is now almost equally as visible: the 709th legion, also known as the Red Fury. This elite squadron has come with its own elite starfighter: the TIE Echelon, which was designed exclusively for the theme-park land. It is currently believed that both of these elements will play a large role not only in the area’s collection of attractions and experiences, but also in future Star Wars releases.

Of course, wherever the wanna-be Empire goes, the Resistance isn’t far behind – General Leia Organa has ordered her troops to sneak onto Batuu, as well, taking up residence in some of those ancient ruins right on the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost.

 

What do Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s books and comics have to say about it?

Darth Vader and Thrawn on Batuu
Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn on Batuu

Because Disney reset the Star Wars Expanded Universe back in April 2014, every new release now ties into the same, overarching narrative – and you better believe the company is taking full advantage of this first-of-its-kind Star Wars canon, diving deeply into the new planet of Batuu’s history, mythology, and sudden new occupants (that is, the Resistance and First Order). And, on the flip side – of course – the Mouse House is also taking some of the storylines that were already developed in the novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames and, apparently, shuttling them over to Black Spire Outpost for visitors’ vacation pleasure.

We’ll start with that latter point first, seeing how the canon’s background narratives apply to Galaxy’s Edge, and then jump into the veritable smorgasbord of new tie-in materials.

The (background) story in the canon up ’til now

Here’s a (very) streamlined version of what you need to know about Batuu’s (burgeoning) place in the overarching Star Wars story: Emperor Sheev Palpatine has been obsessed with Wild Space – particularly beyond the galactic rim, where no one has ever managed to venture before – since even before the birth of the Empire, thanks to (1) the possibility of expansion that the Unknown Regions represent and (2) his growing belief that the dark side of the Force itself emanates from there. But there are many dangers lying in wait, ranging from natural phenomena that make hyperspace travel difficult, if not outright impossible, to a number of technologically-superior military threats contained in the region, including the Gyrsks, who have been secretly watching both the Old Republic and Galactic Empire for several decades, waiting to launch an all-out invasion. (Batuu particularly features here, as its callous, indifferent populace makes the world a useful staging ground for the shipment of supplies and a recruitment zone for future allies – until Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn discover the Grysks’ covert operations and forcibly end them just before the end of the Rebels television series and the beginning of the original trilogy of films.)

Although Palpatine, after years and years of trial-and-error, finally manages to plot a safe trajectory through the Unknown Regions and out into intergalactic space, he dies before being able to do so – but he passes on the information to the remaining Imperial leadership, along with the instructions to finish destroying the Rebel Alliance and then start a new Empire in a brand-new galaxy (no one else will ever be allowed to rule his galaxy, after all). The latter part of the mandate ultimately comes to fruition just one year after the end of the original trilogy, with the leftover Imperial remnant declaring itself the First Order as it heads out for greener interstellar pastures.

At some point across the next 25 (or so) years, this new New Order decides to return to its roots, coming back to a galaxy now governed by the New Republic (as this story has yet to be told, we’re not exactly certain why this comes to pass). The First Order quietly prepares for a new Galactic Civil War, one meant to topple the New Republic and its fledgling Jedi protectors once and for all – what the premise of the sequel trilogy (which began with 2015’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens and will conclude with 2019’s still-untitled Episode IX) is. And once that new war does erupt, the neo-Imperials suddenly find themselves occupying Batuu on some secret mission, looking for something or someone – fodder that is the perfect setup for even more Expanded Universe adventures (and, just maybe, Episode IX references).

Speaking of which…

The Galaxy’s Edge books and comics

Disney and Lucasfilm started actively incorporating Galaxy’s Edge into the Star Wars multimedia mythology in the summer of 2018, lacing references to Batuu in certain films and television episodes, taking characters from the Clone Wars and Rebels shows and making them visit the brand-new planet on adventures of their own, and basing entire novels and comic-book miniseries around the specific characters and locations that guests can interact with in the theme-park land. It would seem that the two companies are not only interested in introducing future visitors to Galaxy’s Edge’s rich backsory, but also in teasing to readers and viewers Batuu’s (and, more generally, the Unknown Regions’) role in future franchise developments.

The most salient of these Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge stories include:

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (film, May 2018) – both Black Spire Outpost and the brand-new character of Dok-Ondar are namedropped in the second spinoff movie, establishing Batuu’s smuggling bona fides.
  • Thrawn: Alliances (novel, July 2018) – readers make their first journey to Batuu, seeing it in two different time settings: during the final days of the Clone Wars (during the prequel trilogy) and 18 years later, during the last season of the Rebels television series (just before the original trilogy). This small-but-nonetheless-substantial appearance provides fans with an overview of the new planet’s culture and geography, and hints at its significance to stories yet to come. (Read more.)
  • Pirate’s Price (young-adult novel, January 2019) – Hondo Ohnaka, that legendary veteran of The Clone Wars and Rebels, tells the story of how he comes to acquire the Millennium Falcon after the events of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and why he brings it to Batuu, setting up the backstory for the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride. (Read more.)
  • Galaxy’s Edge (comic book, April 2019) – this upcoming comic-book miniseries serves as the formal introduction to the “infamous” Dok-Ondar, a collector of rare (and, usually, illegally-obtained) antiquities, who will be one of several new characters that guests will get to experience in the titular theme-park land. Along the way, we get to see the First Order land on Batuu and start its occupation of Black Spire Outpost – events that lead directly to the narrative that plays out in the streets of the themed area.
  • Galaxy’s Edge: Crash of Fate (young-adult novel, August 2019) – a pair of young star-crossed lovers are reunited on Batuu – while on the run from “vengeful smugglers and an angry pirate,” of course. This story seems to function more like Thrawn: Alliances, helping to sketch out Black Spire’s atmosphere and history, rather than the Galaxy’s Edge comic miniseries, which introduces specific characters or plot elements.
  • Myths and Fables (middle-grade novel, August 2019) – this illustrated collection of fairy tales from that galaxy far, far away will include two stories that are set on Batuu.
  • Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire (novel, September 2019) – General Leia Organa, the founder and leader of the Resistance, dispatches her “top spy” to Batuu in a “desperate” search for new allies. (There is the possibility here for this story to cross over with another – the novel Phasma, written by the same author, which also is all about one of Leia’s foremost spies, this time attempting to get dirt on the imposing Captain Phasma.)

There are, naturally, in typical Expanded Universe fashion, several further references or cameo appearances in several other media, such as Batuu featuring as a picture on the wall in the background of one of the early episodes of the Resistance TV series. We only expect these little Easter eggs to continue to grow in the coming months and years.

 

Where is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge located?

Construction of Star Wars and Toy Story Lands at Disney's Hollywood Studios in March 2017
Construction of Star Wars and Toy Story Lands at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in March 2017

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge went into that giant swath of Disney’s Hollywood Studios that originally belonged to the Studio Backlot Tour, which was the very heart of the movie studio-themed park when it first opened in 1989. This giant complex of working soundstages and employee-only facilities had been slowly-but-surely chipped away at during the first two decades of Hollywood Studios’s existence, with Disney eventually creating the Streets of America and Pixar Place lands out of it (along with such attractions as Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show).

The Star Wars-themed land specifically occupies the former Streets of America section, which closed on April 2, 2016 – roughly a year-and-a-half after the stripped-down Backlot Tour itself was axed – in order to make room for that galaxy far, far away. (The leftover portion of Streets of America that Galaxy’s Edge didn’t touch has been rechristened Grand Avenue and has been made the new home of Muppet*Vision 3D, the area’s only attraction left standing.)

This, of course, leaves a fair bit of distance between Galaxy’s Edge and the pre-existent Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (and its nearby Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple), not to mention the interfering presence of Grand Avenue. It is currently unknown how – or whether – Disney will connect the two areas to make one continuous Star Wars presence; the company could choose to snake a road around the Muppets show to link up with Star Tours, possibly even switching the ride’s entrance around to the other side of the show-building (just as it did with Toy Story Mania, in order to give it an entrance and exit directly unto the new Toy Story Land), although this seems rather far-fetched. Another possibility that has been rumored is the moving of at least Jedi Training to a closer, now-empty soundstage, but the viability of this scenario also remains dubious.

More likely than not, the two older Star Wars attractions will either have to be shut down or, at the very least, remain disconnected from the new expansion – not only for logistical reasons, but also for narrative and thematic concerns.

 

What is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s layout?

Overview of the Star Wars Land model at Hollywood Studios
The giant, 50-foot model of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at D23 Expo 2017

As already stated, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set in the ancient village of Black Spire Outpost, which seems to have been built up over millennia around the central, mysterious, titular black spire that juts out of the ground in enigmatic (and dramatic) fashion.

The best map we have so far comes from one of the occasional Galactic Nights after-hours parties that are held at Hollywood Studios; during the event, Disney handed out several trading cards for attendees to collect, which formed a type of map of Black Spire when gathered together.

Here’s the completed Galactic Nights map, thanks to Twitter user (and, apparently, massive Star Wars fan) Nick Tierce:

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge map from Galactic Nights 2018
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge map from Galactic Nights 2018

The main entranceway (leading from Toy Story Land), located in the bottom right-hand corner of the map, leads to Black Spire’s marketplace, which is where the Milk Stand and Kat Saka’s Kettle are located (you’ll notice that the Saka Homestead is shown on this map outside of the city gates – this is where Kat grows the grain that she eventually turns into her signature popcorn). Disney has said that the marketplace will be exotic, will be comprised of low, circular buildings, and will offer up all manner of merchandise, including illicit items from across the galaxy’s black market. This bazaar will also constitute visitors’ first exposure to Batuu’s various denizens, which will (ultimately) consist of aliens, droids, and animals.

Straight up the right-hand side of Galaxy’s Edge is Docking Bay 9, where the First Order has set up its base of operations for occupying the city (this is where a life-sized TIE Echelon, that brand-new vessel created exclusively for the theme parks, will be parked, and where the 709th stormtrooper legion will be stationed). Behind this is Smuggler’s Alley and Oga’s Cantina, the land’s flagship restaurant.

Moving to the left, in the center of Galaxy’s Edge, we come across the signature Black Spires and Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, which is the second of the land’s two main eateries. Behind it, next to the cantina, is the spaceport; here, one can find Hondo Ohnaka, a recurring character from the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series, and the Millennium Falcon, which houses Galaxy’s Edge’s first ride, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. Also located here is Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, one of the main gift shops of Galaxy’s Edge.

Finally, all the way on the other side of the theme-park land, technically beyond the borders of Black Spire Outpost proper, is a collection of ancient ruins scattered in a patch of wilderness, which is meant to fell like a separate, distinct area from all the rest of Galaxy’s Edge (creating two different sub-sections, much like how The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley consists of its own series of individual sub-areas). This is where the Resistance has come to hide out, and where guests can stroll past a full-size X-wing and A-wing (replete with cast members who periodically come out to perform maintenance on the battered fighters). There’s a slapdash nature to the surroundings here, in the otherwise-tranquil Surabat river valley – the Resistance has only just arrived, and they’re prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, whenever the bad guys spot them.

Unsurprisingly, this region of Galaxy’s Edge is where the second ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, can be found. Also located here is the land’s second entrance (leading to Grand Avenue), although it may not be initially open on day one.

Surrounding the theme-park land will be a giant berm, in order to shield Batuu from the prying eyes outside, making it as secluded and immersive as is Diagon Alley (where Disney picked the trick up).

(Want an in-universe overview of Black Spire Outpost’s geography? Be sure to read our in-depth feature.)

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s rides?

There are two rides in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, although both are so detailed and immersive, they will probably end up feeling like twice that many once guests have worked their way through their long queues and involved ride experiences.

First up, in Batuu’s central spaceport, is Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, which will make countless children’s (and adults’!) dreams come true by allowing them to climb aboard the most famous starship in movie history and take her out for a spin. Groups of six sit in the Millennium Falcon‘s cockpit, filling three different jobs – pilots, gunners, and engineers – while a powerful computer system renders the landscape through the viewports around them in real-time, reacting to guests’ active controls. Yes, this may make Smuggler’s Run a flight simulator, like the pre-existent Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, but this is clearly next-generation stuff – 200 buttons, switches, and toggles are at riders’ service, and how well (or not) they employ them will inform how well (or not) they do on their mission (which will, in turn, impact how they’re received in the rest of Black Spire Outpost).

Then, located outside of Black Spire, over in the wilderness section of Galaxy’s Edge, is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Described by Disney as the most immersive ride it’s ever built, this flagship attraction has guests becoming members of General Organa’s titular militia as they wind their way through the group’s newly-repurposed base on Batuu (otherwise known as the attraction’s queue) – before they’re captured by the First Order and taken aboard one of its imposing Resurgent-class Star Destroyers. As they battle to escape from the neo-Empire’s clutches, using a troop transport (a trackless ride vehicle) to do so, passengers will come face-to-face with countless stormtroopers, full-size AT-ATs (that are actual physical props instead of digital effects), and, even, the evil Kylo Ren himself, who now acts as the supreme leader of the First Order.

And as exciting as these attractions sound, it’s actually what comes both before and after the ride experiences that we should probably pause just a moment on to take special note of: neither ride will feature a traditional marquee or sign (taking a page right out of Pandora: The World of Avatar), and neither will follow the timeless exit-through-retail mantra that has served the themed industry for so long. In ways both big and small, Disney is really working hard to make Galaxy’s Edge as seamless and immersive as is humanly possible.

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s restaurants?

Oga's Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Ever since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuted nine years before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, incorporating exclusive food and drinks into a theme-park land’s proceedings has been of the utmost importance – there are fewer ways to inject guests with a straight dose of immersion (and there are, of course, fewer ways to line the accountants’ pockets, making everyone happy all around).

It turns out this is a particular challenge for Star Wars; beyond just a few basic examples (such as the infamous blue milk that has been toying with audiences ever since the first film landed in theaters in 1977), it’s a wide-open playing field. Luckily, Disney has embraced this difficulty head-on, crafting a whole host of brand-new plates and drinks to help convince visitors that they’ve really found their way to an alien planet in an entirely different galaxy.

The first of Galaxy’s Edge’s five eateries (and its main watering hole) is Oga’s Cantina, which is a type of hybrid venture – half inspired by the legendary Mos Eisley cantina from Episode IV: A New Hope and half an entirely original destination. Guests will no doubt want to spend just as much time here, soaking in the atmosphere along with the wide assortment of beverages, as they do at either of the land’s two rides.

Other tasty treats will be found scattered throughout the land, typically as street-market stalls. Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, where food freighters constantly come and go with fresh wares, is home to Tuggs’s Grub, a “traveling diner” which is actually extremely noteworthy – Chef Strono “Cookie” Tuggs is an established character from the Star Wars canon, originally introduced in Episode VII: The Force Awakens as the head chef of Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana and who then went on to star in his own short story (in the anthology Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens, Vol. I). With the castle’s destruction in Force Awakens, ending Cookie’s centuries-long tenure there, it appears that Batuu is his new home.

Concept art of Ronto Roasters at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Concept art of Ronto Roasters at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

The centerpiece of Ronto Roasters, meanwhile, is a giant podracer engine that has been repurposed as a stove, which is used to then fire up a “spit of exotic meats” (rontos are a beast of burden in the Star Wars galaxy, four-legged saurian herbivores native to Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine). The proprietor here is 8D-J8, a former smelter droid, who will offer samples (for a fee, we’re assuming). And Kat Saka’s Kettle is where the grain vendor will peddle the “ever-popular” Outpost Mix, which is a blend of sweet, savory, and spicy popcorn.

Finally, there is the Milk Stand (which, we’re assuming, was originally named Bantha Tracks in previous Disney press releases), the stall where guests will be able to try – at long last! – Star Wars‘s signature dish, blue milk (as popularized in Episode IV: A New Hope). Also available will be the recently-introduced green milk (from Episode VIII: The Last Jedi), farm-fresh from Bubo Wamba Family Farms.  (Please note that both colors of milk are actually non-dairy.)

Speaking of blue milk, in the book Pirate’s Price, when Hondo Ohnaka first takes possession of the Millennium Falcon and starts rifling through her stashes of food, he comes across a number of intriguing items: blue bantha buttermilk biscuits, blue Bespin breakfast bars, and blue puff cubes. We’re assuming that at least some of these will be available for consumption somewhere in Galaxy’s Edge. (And here’s one item we know for sure will make an appearance, though we’re not quite certain yet where: Kaadu ribs, named after the amphibious creatures that the Gungans ride in Episode I: The Phantom Menace and which are really just pork ribs.)

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s shops?

The first shop to get an in-depth reveal by Disney is rather illustrative of the level of thought and detail that the company’s Imagineers are putting into every nook and cranny of Galaxy’s Edge. Toydarian Wares is a toy store that will be designed to look like a street market and that will be presided over by – of course – a Toydarian vendor, presumably in audio-animatronic form (Toydarians, for all those who don’t remember, are the flying CG-rendered aliens first introduced in Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Watto, Anakin Skywalker’s slaveowner, is one such being). Expect the location to carry a wide range of items that are exclusive to the themed land and which are designed to look hand-crafted by “local artisans,” such as the figures seen here:

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge's Toydarian Wares toys
The cutest – and coolest – keepsakes from everybody’s favorite galaxy

(We should pause here for just a quick moment and discuss a few other possibilities we may see with these distinctly artisan-looking figures: according to Barron’s, their packaging may have a minimum of logos, in order to make it just as in-story as the rides’ entrances, and that some familiar characters may end up looking quite different, even going back to George Lucas’s original concept art instead of their finalized on-screen appearances [hey – how should the isolated residents of Black Spire know what Luke Skywalker or Poe Dameron looks like?].)

Given the veritable flood of Star Wars merchandise that has inundated store shelves over the past four decades, taking such an apparently Pandoran approach makes perfect sense – and will undoubtedly result in a huge financial win for Disney World.

Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities is where the suddenly-famous Ithorian, namedropped in Solo: A Star Wars Story and the star of his own upcoming comic-book miniseries, will buy and sell “rare and uniquely-valued items” from across the galaxy, including a treasure trove of both Jedi and Sith artificats (these wares will “span all eras,” Disney is quick to point out, perhaps suggesting a heavy presence of merchandise from both the original and prequel trilogies as well as the current crop of films – something which the Jedi and Sith objects would seem to corroborate). The alien will be realized through audio-animatronics and will occasionally exchange words with his real, live employees (“Hey, Dok-Ondar – how much does this item cost?”).

Droid Depot at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Droid Depot at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Droid Depot allows guests to construct their own astromech droids (just like the older-model R2-D2 or the newer BB-8) out of a series of individual parts and components that are scattered all throughout Mubo, the owner’s, workshop – and then take them home with them, of course. An even more intriguing aspect of this experience has been reported on by Barron’s: personalization. The publication uses the hypothetical scenario of the pet robot being programmed to be afraid of stormtroopers – whenever the little guy sees one walking around the streets of Black Spire Outpost, he’ll wail with fear. Just how this customization process will work hasn’t been revealed, but we do know that some type of “interactive experience” will be involved – perhaps we’ll see some sort of variation on the “adoption ceremony” that is held when one buys a pet banshee puppet over at Pandora: The World of Avatar’s Windtraders gift shop. (This may be a really good comparison, actually, as those mini banshees come with backstories and “immunization shots” before they can be brought back to patrons’ homes.)

But wait – there’s more. Audio-animatronic droids will line the shop both inside and out, with those on the exterior functioning almost like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s interactive wands – one example that TechCrunch offered up was passersby using the Play Disney Parks app to trigger a “refreshing lubricant bath.” Additionally, the site reports that Disney is also playing around with the possibility of selling other, larger droids at this location, including, just maybe, a full-sized R2-D2 that could cost as much as $2,000.

First Order Cargo is the official propaganda shop of the First Order, located in the same spaceport hanger that serves as the neo-Imperials’ temporary base of operations. Disney’s description is too fun not to quote in full: “First Order officers have brought in crates of gear, uniforms, and other supplies to win the hearts and minds of locals and visitors to Black Spire Outpost.” Resistance Supply, meanwhile, serves as the merchandise counterpoint (and, perhaps, does double duty as the gift shop of the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride); here, an equally-makeshift retail presence – slapped together by Resistance members and local sympathizers – sells every- and anything having to do with General Leia Organa’s militia movement, from uniforms and jackets to pins and badges to maps and training supplies.

Here are three further retail spaces that we know are coming but have yet to receive a ton of info on: Creature Stall offers “interesting critters” that you can take back to Earth with you (and which will also be populated with audio-animatronic figures, this time in the guise of such beloved Star Wars creatures as Loth-cats [from Rebels] and Worrts [from Episode VI: Return of the Jedi]); the generically-named Black Spire Outfitters carries, unsurprisingly, clothing and apparel; and, finally, The Jewels of Bith sells accessories and trinkets (the Bith being the aliens from Figrin D’an and the Moddal Nodes, the musical group seen in Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi).

Savi's Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers
Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers

Lastly, rounding out the collection of stores is, perhaps, the most exciting one of them all. Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers, on the one hand, operates just like the Droid Depot, allowing patrons to construct their own customized lightsabers; on the other hand, however, there is a whole other possible narrative element that overlays the whole experience, revolving around a brand-new organization apparently being designed just for the shop: the Gatherers are a “secretive group of people who have dedicated their lives to restoring balance in the galaxy by passing on their knowledge of Jedi lore and the Force.” Thus, not only will Disney get to include the main aspect of the Star Wars cinematic franchise, the Jedi, in a time setting that is otherwise devoid of it (remember, Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi Masters, has perished just shortly before Galaxy’s Edge takes place, seemingly taking the last of the Order’s materials with him), but the company will also have the opportunity to spin this new group out into the wider mythology, possibly connecting it with the Guardians of the Whills (the religious order first introduced in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s meet-‘n-greets?

Rey and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Wish you were here

Various meet-‘n-greet opportunities will also be on-hand. Although ChewbaccaR2-D2BB-8Kylo RenHondo Ohnaku, and Nien Nunb are the only confirmed ones thus far, Disney has stated that several familiar faces will be present in the land; presumably, given the alien-planet premise, it’ll be extremely easy for the company to trout out nearly any character for limited appearances when he or she is “in the interstellar neighborhood.”

You can look for the Chewie encounter to be stationed at – where else? – the Millennium Falcon (we guess he really wants his ship back from Hondo already!).

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s interactive elements?

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Hollywood Studios concept art
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios concept art

The final attraction in Galaxy’s Edge is, arguably, the most exciting – and, certainly, the most revolutionary. User customization is set to play a big role in the land, and it seems the chief method for determining this level of interactivity will be guests’ fictitious bank accounts: turning back to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run as an example, riders will be rewarded for their good results by being issued galactic credits (the Star Wars universe’s currency); if they do poorly, not meeting the mission’s criteria or damaging the ship, they’ll be docked money. This, in turn, will influence how the trading outpost’s denizens will respond to you, whether they put a bounty on your head (for owing more money than what you currently have) or, possibly, attempt to sidle up to you to get some of those credits for themselves.

All of these stats and figures will be handled through the Play Disney Parks app, which was released on June 30, 2018 and which allows guests to access special content while on-site at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort; games can be played by families while waiting in line for specific rides (such as one of Hollywood Studios’s other main attractions, Toy Story Mania), trivia can be conquered, unique playlists can be accessed, and, of course, achievements can be unlocked. (And don’t worry – if you don’t want to indulge in this more interactive aspect of your Star Wars stay, you can use Play Disney Parks to turn this feature off.)

 

What is the Star Wars Hotel?

Star Wars hotel at Walt Disney World
Star Wars Hotel at Walt Disney World concept art

Yes, being able to have an individualized experience on a brand-new planet in the Star Wars mythos – all while being able to take rides on the Millennium Falcon, to boot – is exciting… but, as it turns out, that’s not even the best part of Galaxy’s Edge

The Star Wars Hotel is coming – some 18 to 24 months after the land itself opens – to Walt Disney World, and it’ll be placed directly adjacent to Hollywood Studios property, marking the very first time this has happened in the resort’s history (the exact location will be on the south side of the park, just east of World Drive). Themed as a giant starship, guests will board a “launch pod” when first setting foot in the hotel, which will then take them to a “luxury starship” (the resort proper) that, in turn, “transports” them to Batuu (a current trend in the experience business that is referred to as land-based cruising). It is currently believed that visitors will need to book a package – two nights will more than likely be the minimum – that will include “travel time” to the planet, special access to Galaxy’s Edge (thanks to a private entrance unto the area that will be themed as yet another shuttle ride), and then “travel time” back home.

Along the way, patrons will become “active citizens of the galaxy” as soon as they set foot in the door; they’ll be able to get fully into character by dressing up, undergoing specific “training” (such as for espionage or lightsaber combat, depending upon what disposition they choose for themselves), undertaking certain missions, and interacting with a whole host of individuals that hail from all across the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In other words, guests will be as fully enmeshed in that galaxy far, far away as is humanly possible – or, as Disney itself puts it, the hotel “will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story.”

It is believed, though not confirmed by the company as of yet, that the promised “high-end dining” will be included in the price, consisting of buffets for both breakfast and lunch and Disney Signature meals for dinner (which would feature live entertainment that would rely more heavily on audience participation – if you chose to do so, of course). The hotel rooms, meanwhile, are themed to starliner cabins, with every single one of them including views out onto (hyper)space instead of boring parking lots back on Earth.

How much will these Star Wars Hotel vacation packages cost? A survey that Disney ran prior to officially announcing everything suggested $900 per person as the starting price – and we have absolutely no doubt that there will be sold-out accommodations nearly every single night for the property’s first year of business, at least.

This type of vacation concept has been labeled by the company as a “Disney 360” experience, so named for having every second of every hour be totally immersed in a narrative (think live-action role-playing games, but on a much grander scale). Such a program description, of course, entails the existence of other such theme park/hotel/storytelling combinations, and, indeed, we’ve already heard from our sources that Disney is contemplating rolling out similar experiences for such properties as Indiana Jones and Frozen.

Needless to say, this may very well represent the future of all theme parks across the globe for decades to come.

 

What are Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’s expansions?

Star Wars Land marketplace concept art
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios’s marketplace concept art

One quick note as we move towards the end of our comprehensive coverage of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: it has already been suggested that Disney is saving space at Hollywood Studios (and, perhaps, Disneyland Park) for at least one expansion, should the new area prove to be as successful as the company clearly thinks it will be. Rumors currently indicate that such an addition would consist of one new Black Spire Outpost street, one new E-ticket attraction, and one new restaurant, although those contents could easily be switched up if fan demand or park operations finds that one particular facet of the experience needs to be expounded on.

However, there is another way that the Mouse House can expand the theme-park land’s experiences, one that has nothing to do with its physical footprint: interactive elements. Disney has been hinting that new conversations to eavesdrop on, new missions to undertake, and new ways to affect the characters and buildings around you can easily be inserted at any point in the future, thereby adding a level of dynamism that not only keeps Galaxy’s Edge fresh, but which should also allow it to continue to respond to all the new Star Wars developments in any future film, TV show, novel, comic book, short story, or videogame.

This may prove to be yet another way that Disney’s newest addition is analogous with Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – the two properties could continually see updates and refreshes for a full decade, at least, after their original openings.

 

What is Star Wars‘s theme-park history?

Okay – now that we know all about Galaxy’s Edge’s contents, experiences, and backstory, it’s time to take a step back and get a bigger, broader picture of Star Wars‘s history with The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks.

Star Wars may have exploded on the big screen in 1977, but it took another full decade before it would find its way to a theme park. In 1986, at the direct behest of Michael Jackson, George Lucas got involved as the executive producer and co-writer of Captain EO, a 17-minute 3D film that starred Jackson, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and (originally) played exclusively at Disneyland and Epcot; using this collaboration as a launching pad, Disney pitched the idea of doing a ride themed to that galaxy far, far away (an attempt to salvage a long-trapped-in-development-hell attraction that had originally started life as a Black Hole motion simulator).

Original Star Tours poster at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Star Tours promotional art

Star Tours arrived a year later at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, marking not only the first Star Wars ride, but the very first attraction in Disney’s history to be based off of an intellectual property not owned by the company itself (a fact which is now somewhat ironic, given that Disney would end up purchasing Lucasfilm – and taking full control of the multimedia franchise – 25 years later). Featuring what was then state-of-the-art technology, Star Tours would prove to be so popular, it eventually spread to three other parks, starting with Tokyo Disneyland and the then-brand-new Hollywood Studios in 1989 and finishing up with Disneyland Paris in ‘92.

Lucas infamously wanted to update first the ride’s tech and, then, once the new batch of Star Wars films saw release from 1999 to 2005, its story, but Disney’s executive leadership at the time was more interested in keeping costs low than refreshing an attraction that was still popular, even if it was aging. All this changed when Bob Iger became CEO in 2005 – almost immediately thereafter, a Star Tours upgrade was announced. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue arrived in 2011 at both Florida and California, with Japan and France following in the years afterward, and it added a few new tricks to the last-generation motion-simulator technology, such as 3D ride footage and the randomization of locations visited in the attraction (something which continues to be updated to this day, as each new mainline Star Wars release has one of its just-introduced planets be included in the roster).

More importantly, however, this new project once again served as the jumping-off point for a further business venture between the two companies. When Iger and Lucas were gathered at Hollywood Studios’s Brown Derby for a pre-opening-celebration meal, the Disney head honcho brought up the possibility of purchasing Lucasfilm, generally, and Star Wars, specifically, from the famed filmmaker. Within the next year-and-a-half, George Lucas agreed to the proposition, and the $4 billion transaction was grandly announced on October 30, 2012.

Bob Iger, George Lucas, and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Bob Iger, George Lucas, and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Although the public’s immediate attention went to the new slate of films that was confirmed alongside news of the sale, thought about how the property could be further implemented into Disney’s parks around the world wasn’t far off; although a number of SW-themed shows, meet-‘n-greets, and fireworks displays had cropped up in the years since 1987, starting with the annual Star Wars Weekends in 1997 and most recently including Star Wars: Galactic Nights in 2018, these were more half-step experiences, not full-fledged, multimillion-dollar attractions. Rumor had it that an entire land would now be devoted to Lucas’s brainchild, one that would represent one of Disney’s biggest investments in its theme-park history.

Those rumors, of course, ended up being true, but it took the company a long time to formally acknowledge them, partially thanks to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley (which, it was reported, sent the project’s Imagineers scrambling back to the drawing board to create a land that was just as detailed and just as immersive as the Boy Wizard’s) and partially thanks to the latest round of Star Wars films (Disney wanted to wait and see how well they were received so as to figure out how heavily to incorporate them into the new themed area). After nearly three years of promises, hints, and teases, Disney finally made “Star Wars Land” official on August 15, 2015, during that year’s D23 Expo.

Construction started at Disneyland on April 14, 2016 (with Hollywood Studios breaking ground shortly thereafter); an initial opening-date announcement of 2019 followed eight months later, which was issued during a quarterly earnings call. Though the company had been releasing a small-but-steady trickle of information on the project’s contents all throughout this time, it really started to open the floodgates during the 2017 D23 Expo, debuting a fully-detailed, 50-foot-long, half-inch-to-one-foot scale model of the entire land; revealing the expansion’s name as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge; and disclosing the new ride vehicle for one of the two attractions.

From thereafter, the information stream was mostly shut back off, but The Walt Disney Company did have one big surprise in store for fans on Friday, November 17, 2017: first, it announced that the name of the mysterious world that Galaxy’s Edge is set on is Batuu; then it introduced the ancient trading-port planet as a brand-new location in Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, allowing guests to get just a sneak peek at the future locale.

The next big developments would take several months to arrive. First, late in the evening on May 22, 2018, Disney gave more specific release “windows” for its two versions of Star Wars Land: Disneyland’s would arrive in the summer of 2019, while Hollywood Studios’s would bow in late fall ’19. Then, on July 24, fans got their very first chance to “visit” Batuu in the form of the novel Thrawn: Alliances – a good chunk of the book takes place on the remote planet, offering an overview of its geography, local atmosphere, and, just perhaps, its drink menu (you can find a full analysis of all that in our complete write-up). And speaking of the drink menu, on August 30 the company not only announced the name of Galaxy’s Edge’s bar (that would be Oga’s Cantina), but also confirmed that the establishment would serve alcoholic beverages – a big deal for the Disneyland version of the land, as it represents the first time that booze will be offered to the average guest on a regular basis in the park’s 60-plus-year history.

On November 17, 2018, during the Destination D: Celebrating Mickey Mouse special event, Disney let loose a bevy of revelations, including – at long last – the names of Galaxy’s Edge’s two attractions, a bit more info on how the area’s interactivity will work, the little nugget that John Williams would be composing some exclusive music for the project, and, finally, a release-date window for the Star Wars Hotel (which will be anywhere from a year-and-a-half to two years after the land itself bows).

Most recently, in January 2019, the most concrete information we’ve yet received started to wash ashore. First up, on the 3rd, the financial publication Barron’s posted the results of its behind-the-scenes tour of the still-under-construction Star Wars Land over in Disneyland, which included a whole host of little details that covered everything from new snippets on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s queue and ride experience to the seating arrangements (or lack thereof) of Oga’s Cantina, the area’s restaurant. (You can find these little nuggets spread literally from the top to the bottom of this entire guide page.) And then, even more dramatically, on the 8th a young-adult novel called Pirate’s Price was released, with its ending all but leading directly into Galaxy’s Edge’s opening – particularly Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, whose backstory the book spells out in quite some detail. We have another exhaustive feature on this topic, as well.

 

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – index of articles

Here are all of our recent news updates, in-depth features, and speculative pieces regarding Galaxy’s Edge, both here in Orlando and in Anaheim. Keep your eyes peeled here for the latest:

2019

The Millennium Falcon ride’s story revealed

 

2018

Our first visit to Batuu

Major Disney World news on Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more

 

2017

Disney is tying all of its Star Wars attractions together

Disney’s new biannual Star Wars party

4 exciting expansions coming to Orlando theme parks

Universal researching Star Wars hotel impact and Express changes

Star Wars hotel confirmed

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge details revealed

Star Wars Land’s secret interactivity revealed?

Star Wars Land model revealed

The one way that the Harry Potter and Star Wars lands backfire

Is Star Wars Land getting delayed?

Our first glimpse of Star Wars Land’s layout and attractions

Is Disney making Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Frozen hotels?

Four things we just learned about Star Wars Land

New behind-the-scenes video released about Star Wars Land

Did Disney just confirm a major Star Wars Land rumor?

Do you have a question about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Please let us know by posting in our Walt Disney World Community Facebook group.