Last night at D23 Expo 2017 in Anaheim, California, Disney revealed the huge, incredibly detailed model for its new Star Wars expansions currently under construction at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World.
This morning before the convention began to welcome guests, I spoke exclusively with Walt Disney Imagineer Scott Trowbridge about his work leading the creative team developing the highly-anticipated Star Wars project, and how guests will interact with it when they finally get the chance to step foot inside.
WATCH – INTERVIEW WITH IMAGINEER SCOTT TROWBRIDGE:
During the interview, Trowbridge reveals new details on the new land’s immersive nature, its impact on the existing layout of Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the legacy of Star Wars in Disney parks, and what kind of locations we’ll be able to explore and characters we might meet upon visiting.
Millennium Falcon ride
Not much has been revealed thus far about the individual attractions, but Trowbridge did clear up to what degree guests will be able to control the Millennium Falcon in one signature experience.
“It’s one of the fastest ships in the galaxy and this time you’re going to be able to actually control it,” said Trowbridge. “You fly left, the ship goes left. You fly to the right and smash into that building, that is completely your choice. Though I will tell you, if you bring back the ship all banged up, the boss man might not be too happy and this is a land where those kinds of choices have consequences.”
Immersive Storytelling and Participation
When asked about more details on how Star Wars Land will incorporate guests into the story as part of the experience, enabling them to live out their own individual stories as Disney has been touting, Trowbridge offered a few more details.
“Those familiar with some of the work that Imagineering has been doing over the past couple of years, including some of the research and development work we’ve been doing, might be aware that we’ve been thinking about how do we actually bring this more participatory form of experience to life. And we have done some play tests in the past, and we have done some experiments in the past, prototypes – one probably wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that we’ve taken a lot of that thinking and put it into this project.”
Trowbridge also introduced the notion of Galactic Credits, which seems to be how your progress in Star Wars Land will be tracked.
“If you do a great job flying the Millennium Falcon, you might find a few more Galactic Credits coming your way. But if you bang the ship up and bring it back all damaged […] when you roll across the street to the local cantina, you might hear from someone in the cantina that there’s even a bounty on your head because you owe more money than you have.
But Disney is aware that not everyone will want this level of interactivity when casually strolling through Star Wars Land – and they’ve planned for that. “It is a place for those who want to participate, there’s an invitation in various ways to be a deeper part of the story. […] You can also kick back and relax in this land, if you want to.”
First Order battle ride
The other big attraction in Star Wars Land will place guests in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. “The scale, the action, the humor that makes Star Wars, Star Wars all in one big epic experience.”
Details surrounding the First Order transport vehicle model on display in the Disney Parks pavilion are not being revealed yet. Trowbridge refers to it as a “troop transport” that is often used to “shuttle Stormtroopers and officers and other people around those massive Star Destroyers.” He added “we’ll have to wait and see” how this vehicle integrates into the ride.
Rumors suggest guests will be getting on and off the ride during the attraction, moving around within. It’s more than just a ride vehicle – it’s an actual transport system.
WATCH – FIRST ORDER TRANSPORT VEHICLE
Why a new planet?
It was a big surprise when Disney revealed that Star Wars Land would be set on a new planet, rather than a famous one known from the “Star Wars” universe.
Trowbridge explains the reasoning behind this falling on guests participating in their own stories, rather than existing ones. “One of the things we wanted to make sure we did is create a place that allowed our guests to discover and participate in their own Star Wars story. So that meant not just recreating a fan-favorite place like a Tatooine or a Hoth or something. Those are great places and we know the stories that happen there, but we also know that we’re not in those stories. So that led us to this idea of building this planet.”
One of the biggest challenges Trowbridge’s Imagineering team faced when developing the Star Wars-themed land was figuring out how to fit it into Disneyland’s intimate layout, forcing them to reroute the river to make it fit. Star Wars Land will be the park’s largest expansion ever.
Trowbridge said Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World and Disneyland are “pretty much the same,” save for how they will integrate into the park.
While Trowbridge declined to nail down a specific time period in which Star Wars Land is set, he did hint at it by pointing out a few items he “noticed” in the model, including the “recent arrival of that First Order TIE Fighter” and a “Resistance outpost,” suggesting that this land is set roughly in the time leading into “The Force Awakens.”
This is the “Star Wars” universe and guests can definitely expect to encounter familiar characters throughout Star Wars Land, confirms Trowbridge. “It is a very vibrant trading port, so you can expect to find lots of Star Wars characters here, some we may be very familiar with and some we may be meeting for the very first time.”
Humans, alien creatures, and droids are all on the table for close encounters here.
Take a closer look at the Star Wars Land model:
There’s much more to come from Star Wars Land. Trowbridge called this model the “first step” in unveiling the massive project. Stick with ITM for the latest on all of it!
Disney’s Star Wars expansions are set to open in 2019 at Disneyland Resort in Southern California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
(Additional reporting by Ricky Brigante)