Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
A new, otherworldly experience like no other has landed in a galaxy not so far away.
The much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened to an enthusiastic public on May 31 at Disneyland Park in Anaheim.
“It’s Star Tours on steroids at a level you can’t possibly believe,” said “Star Wars” films creator George Lucas at a dedication ceremony that took place in front of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction on May 29 and also included Disney CEO Bob Iger, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams. “Now the technology is here. This thing is amazing.”
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge—in development since 2014—since Iger announced Star Wars-themed lands would open at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the D23 Expo in 2015. Construction began in April 2016.
The immersive, interactive, more-than-14-acre land is set on the planet of Batuu, a location never seen in the “Star Wars” films. The land is home to both Resistance and First Order encampments, the Black Spire Outpost Spaceport—where the Millennium Falcon is docked—and the Black Spire Outpost Marketplace, where visitors can shop for food, toy characters, authentic Batuuan clothing and even artifacts from Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. Fans can easily lose themselves admiring the design detail in the Den of Antiquities, which houses items for purchase representing various eras in the “Star Wars” universe, including holocrons, ancient Jedi and Sith artifacts, and lightsabers.
Speaking of lightsabers, no visit to the land would be complete without dropping by Savi’s Workshop—Handbuilt Lightsabers, where guests can build one for themselves. There are apparently more than 120,000 possible combinations for making a lightsaber using all the available pieces in the workshop. The cost is $199.99 per lightsaber, plus tax, with a case included.
But lightsabers aren’t the only thing visitors can build. At the Droid Depot, you pick pieces off a conveyor belt to construct one of two core models—the R-series or BB-series. The droids use Bluetooth tech to communicate with other astromech droids and other things on Batuu. The cost is $99.99 per astromech droid unit, plus tax, with a carry box included.
After you’re done shopping, you’ll want to stop by Oga’s Cantina for a sip of something exotic and tasty in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. Grab your drink and sit at the counter or one of the booths for some intergalactic people-watching. Musical entertainment is provided by DJ R-3X, Star Tours’ former droid pilot.
Of course, the land’s key attraction—Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run—lets fans experience “Star Wars” like never before. After entering the Millennium Falcon through the same starboard airlock used by Han Solo and Chewbacca in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” you are able to step into the cockpit and take the controls as pilot, gunner or flight engineer. You are actively pressing buttons and moving controllers to complete an important mission. Galaxy’s Edge’s second main attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will open later this year.
Guests making their way through the land can amp up their experience by accessing the Play Disney Parks app, which turns mobile devices into a Star Wars: Datapad. You’ll be able to scan contents hidden in containers, translate languages and tune into communications from throughout the land.
At the same time, you’ll want to keep an eye out for “Star Wars” characters caught up in their own adventures. From Resistance heroes and Millennium Falcon co-pilot Chewbacca to Stormtroopers and Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, you never know who you’ll run into.
Calico River Rapids
Knott’s Berry Farm’s BigFoot Rapids white water raft ride underwent a transformation just in time for the warm summer months.
The Calico River Rapids officially opened in May to give park visitors a new experience beyond getting drenched—though there’s plenty of that, too. The circular raft ride, seating six passengers at a time, takes riders through some fun turns and rapid currents while navigating a detailed, themed storyline.
“We were looking to continue our story from Ghost Town and kind of move it even further into our park,” said Knott’s VP of Entertainment Ken Parks. “The things that really changed is it’s all kind of driven by story—and before you were just getting wet.”
The ride tells the story of two explorers who have opened up a rafting company and trading post. Guests are cast in the role of settlers ready to plot some land. Along the way, you’ll encounter a lot of wildlife, some human activity and bigfoot (technically a skunk ape)—which was not in the original ride, despite its name.
“You get a chance to encounter sasquatch,” said Parks.
The new animatronics and special effects were created by Garner Holt Productions, Inc. Tayler Brown, art director and character designer at Garner Holt Productions, said they developed 15 different characters.
“Every one was uniquely created just for the ride,” she said.
Brown said her team’s mission for the characters were multi-purposed—they had to be realistic yet whimsical, and durable.
“And then they’re all moving,” she said.
The first character the team developed was the prairie dogs, which were made 50 percent larger than actual prairie dogs but still true to their natural form.
“They look very grumpy in real life,” Brown said. “The prairie dog was probably one of my favorite characters to work on.”
The smaller animal characters were digitally printed and sculpted while the larger characters were hand-sculpted. Sasquatch was sculpted in foam.
“He’s the only furred figured in this ride,” said Brown.
To create the sasquatch, the team referenced existing animals in nature like gorillas and monkeys to create a reality-based creature.
“He’s a very dark brown with a lot of blond highlights,” she said.
Other wildlife characters included on the ride are fox, mountain lion, raccoon, rattlesnake, wolf, bear and even woodpecker.
With a new Ghost Town-integrated storyline, guests can expect a fun adventure through rough waters and some colorful, animated characters.
Pirates Dinner Adventure
With mystical tales of sea adventures and elaborate costuming, pirates are always a hit with kids—and many adults.
The Pirates Dinner Adventure live theater in Buena Park does not disappoint in its newly revamped show, Secrets Of The Deep, which set sail in June. The new show, which is the first revamping in five years, includes a renovated set, new characters and special effects, and a new storyline.
Among one of the big changes to the show is the addition of a mermaid character — as well as some aerial arts silks performances.
The story begins with a pre-show where guests are introduced to Princess Anita and a mermaid who protects a magical necklace. All is well when the necklace is under the mermaid’s protection … but if not, an evil monster is unleashed. Unfortunately for everyone, a group of pirates crash the princess’s celebration, kidnapping the princess, mermaid and the magical necklace.
“It’s almost like a large-scale melodrama,” said Show Manager Ed Bangasser, who is also a performer in the show.
The theater set is designed to recreate part of a pirate’s ship, complete with surrounding waters. Guests sit at their dinner tables surrounding the set. In addition to aerial arts, the pirate performers are involved in some exciting stunt work, including climbing and swinging on ropes, sword fights and fist fights. Bangasser said that the show is choreographed in detail. The actors in the show have stunt and performance backgrounds in martial arts, musical theater, aerial arts and more.
“Everything is choreographed,” said Bangasser, adding that backgrounds for performers range from wrestling and martial arts to musical theater.
Besides stunts, there is also a strong musical component to the show. Dayna Sauble, who plays “Treasure” the pirate queen, said her character is very vocally demanding.
“She has to engage the crowd,” Sauble said. “She helps man that ship when her captain’s not around.”
The mermaid addition to the show has added some extra elements for guests—including a couple of large water-filled tanks featuring mermaids. The mermaid in the show is also involved in some skillful silks work high above ground.
“This is on par with any show in Las Vegas,” said Bangasser.
Part of the real fun of the show is the audience interaction. The audience is divided into separate groups, each backing its own pirate on the ship. Audience members root for their pirate’s success as they compete with and fight one another. Several times throughout the show, guests are also invited to assist in various tasks. Kids, in particular, play an active role in part of the story.
Fights and food and even aerial silks … what else is left? A love story. Of course, there’s a love story.
Kids and adults can expect a 90-minute, action-packed show full of pirate adventures, food and entertainment.
Holiday Inn Buena Park offers a special rate for Pirates Dinner Adventure guests: $119 + 14 percent tax + 55 cent tourism fee. When booking online input the code 100288510 under the corporate ID field on the website www.hibuenapark.com. Or if booking by phone (1-800-HOLIDAY), ask for the rate for Pirates Dinner Adventure. Address: 7000 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
By Jessica Peralta