Galaxy's Edge has just-about-arrived at Disneyland, and the finishing touches are just shaping up on The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
According to Walt Disney Imagineering executive creative director Asa Kalama, “…It would not be Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge without giving guests the opportunity to finally get to see her in all her glory.”
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run begins at a spaceport in the Black Spire Outpost on the remote planet of Batuu. According to Margaret Kerrison, Walt Disney Imagineering managing story editor for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, taking visitors to the planet of Batuu on the outer rim of the “Star Wars” galaxy meant creating a backstory packed with mythology about the history of Black Spire Outpost, a remote village located on Batuu, once a hub of trade and commerce for the first interstellarexplorers. Lucas Films and Disney wanted to create a land that was fresh, timeless, and yet fit into the Star Wars universe.
Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm worked together to create this new planet, because, as Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive Scott Trowbridge relates “Black Spire Outpost is…a place that invites exploration and discovery. A place that invites us to become a character in the world of Star Wars.”
In short, by taking visitors to a new planet, they also become the heroes and heroines of the Star Wars story. As a remote frontier planet, Batuu's back story includes being left-behind by the rise of hyperspace travel, or as Trowbridge explains “It's kind of like an old Route 66 story a little bit. This is a place that got bypassed a little bit.” And so, it became the home of smugglers, pirates, and a rogue's gallery of characters, or as the Galaxy's Edge trading card collection describes Black Spire Outpost “a beacon for drifters, the forgotten, the lost, the broken and the tossed.”
Black Spire Outpost is built around a centuries-old marketplace around a mysterious black spire in the center of town; cylindrical buildings with domed roofs and a cantina dominate the center of the village. The ruins of an ancient civilization are at the edge of the town. With all the work involved in creating the concept, it was a natural outgrowth for Imagineering and Lucasfilm to use novels and comic books to build the backstory for the attraction.
“This is part of our way of creating that history,” Kerrison explains. “... There are layers and layers of history and all these familiar and new characters who have come and gone to this planet.”
Elsewhere at Disneyland, the Star Tours attraction has added Batuu to its list of destinations, and givesvisitors a sneak look at Galaxy's Edge.
As to the Millennium Falcon itself and its home in the Smugglers Run ride,
the full-scale spaceship will be docked in a curved maintenance bay, and appear to be venting “thrust gasses.” The ship is 112-feet, and guests will be able to walk up to it.
The themed back story to the ride is that trader Hondo wants to move cargo, and needs a flight crew to help him. Riders will become just that crew. But first, they'll move through a maintenance bay inside OhnakaTransport Solutions, past communications equipment and storm trooper gear kept in cargo containers. It's also the maintenance spot for the spaceships, which need constant repair, as does a starship engine suspended from the ceiling in this area. As riders move through the area, they observe an animated engine being worked on by Hondo's crew. The crew is heard throughout the queue line, as guests move to reach the Millennium Falcon, which also needs repairs.
Finally, riders find an overlook from a spot on the second floor that allows them to see the top of the ship and the domes of the Black Spire Outpost.
Kalama explains that the entire narrative queue line area is designed so that riders can see the Millennium Falcon at several different points. “Everybody gets an opportunity to see the ship and take a photo with the ship.”
Upon entering the Command Center, riders meet the audio-animatronic space pirate Hondo. He gives riders their smuggling mission, explaining that he's looking for gunners, pilots, and flight engineers.
On a video screen behind Hondo, the Millennium Falcon rises from Black Spire Outpost to dock in a bay inside Ohnaka Transport Solutions.
Riders pass onto a connecting bridge between the spaceport and the Millennium Falcon, and wait for the flight crew assignment inside the ship's main hold. While waiting, they can explore the hold, take photos, and even play a holographic Dejarik game.
Finally, riders receive boarding cards that assign them to a flight crew. When it's their turn to pilot the ship, they are called up by one of the Ohnaka Transport Solutions crew members to the cockpit.
To get there, they'll be led down a tube lined with white panels; they'll stop right outside the cockpit, where Hondo appears on a monitor and gives pre-flight mission specifics. It's only then that riders find out where they're going, what they're smuggling, and what hazards to watch for along the way.
Next, riders will board, six riders per flight crew. Pilots sit up front, gunners in the middle, flight engineers in the rear of their cockpit. There will be 200 switches and buttons, all functional and able to make a variety of sounds; implementing them affects each mission.
Kalama asserts that the interactive nature of the ride is the point, and touching the buttons is encouraged. However, he warns “Depending on what you push, it might have the desired effect or an unintended consequence.”
Each of the six riders per cockpit have a different responsibility for the ship. The pilot sitting in the front left steers the ship left and right. The co-pilot in the front right seat steers it up and down. The gunners in the middle seats have buttons at their disposal that allow them to fire weapons and provide defense; the flight engineers in the rear seats are responsible for getting the ship working after an accident or attack.
The flight crew works as a team throughout the ride, flying the Millennium Falcon and battling First Order TIE fighters. At one point during the ride, a large tentacled creature will go after the ship.