Ex Disney Imagineer Shares Hopeful Update on Canceled ‘Star Wars’ Ride

in Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge entrance.

Credit: Peter Lee/ Flickr

A former Disney Imagineer shared some details about a canceled Star Wars attraction.

Rey projection in Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Credit: Steven Miller via Flickr

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is perhaps one of Disney’s most popular and successful investments in its theme parks ever, providing millions of guests with an authentic, interactive, and original Star Wars story for guests to enjoy. However, the land looked quite different during its creation, with one attraction getting canceled entirely well into its development.

Former Walt Disney Imagineer Frank Mezzatesta commented on the canceled attraction in a post on his personal X (Twitter) account in response to another post about the ride.

Yes we worked on this for over a year and was pretty far along but it got cut as a cost saving move. It would have been awesome.

This elusive, third Galaxy’s Edge attraction would see guests board a Bantha-type creature for a motion-simulator experience similar to Star Tours. The ride itself is well-known within the Disney theme park community, but it’s not every day that an Imagineer who actually worked on the ride shares some information about it, however brief it may be.

The attraction was referred to as the “Bantha ride” and featured a giant creature named Elee that would give guests a ride around the land. Disney has stated that the ride was ultimately canceled over capacity and authenticity concerns. Disney previously shared a video showing Walt Disney Imagineers testing this proposed ride, showing off some very real motions matching the movements of a basic animated Bantha model.

This canceled attraction is a small glimpse into what could have been for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which remains one of the most jaw-dropping and spectacular lands ever designed and created by Walt Disney Imagineering. Concept art for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was released in the official book titled “The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” giving fans even more insight into what the land might have been had money and capacity not been an issue. 

Imagineer Scott Trowbridge stated that other Walt Disney Imagineners “figured out how we could bring [Elee] to life technically,” but also stated that Imagineers were worried about how the popularity of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would affect the “authenticity” of the experience. Due to how crowded Galaxy’s Edge was predicted to be, the low capacity of the “Bantha ride” would prove to be a major challenge.

Jim Shull, another former Disney Imagineer, replied to Messatesta’s post, claiming that it would be somewhat easy to still add this attraction to the land, as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge had originally been built to accommodate it:

Introducing the giant creature’s to Galaxy’s Edge is possible. The land is built to accommodate the ride vehicle beasts, the station location is set and the technology is understood. A relatively cheap way to plus the existing land.

Budget concerns were not officially mentioned in the book, but they are something that has been discussed when talking about the canceled attraction. Lots of things have been cut from the Disney theme parks due to budget cuts over the years, with one of the most famous examples being the fabled Beastly Kingdom at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This massive land was envisioned as a fantasy destination for guests of all ages to explore, complete with shops, restaurants, and terrifying roller coasters, all of which highlight the “mystical” side of mother nature.

One of the biggest “missing pieces” of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are free-roaming droids and other alien creatures, something that Disney has teased and toyed with since the land first opened. Disney promised guests would see all kinds of characters as they strolled through Black Spire Outpost, but aside from actual cast members, the character selection remains slim. Walt Disney Imagineering has been hard at work on bringing Astromech droids into the park, but tests have shown this to be quite a challenging feat.

Millinium Falcon Smugglers Run
Credit: Disney

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a Star Wars fan’s dream come true, granting them access to their very own Star Wars world. Galaxy’s Edge takes place on the fictional planet of Batuu, which houses Black Spire Outpost, the location guests encounter and explore during their stay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Two rides are featured here, both of which offer guests a fun, immersive experience that is quite unforgettable. Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is a simulation-based ride with a twist. Instead of guests simply tagging along for the ride, they are given the controls that directly affect what is happening in the story. The ride is more of a video game than anything, with guests responsible for how well the mission ultimately goes.

Before boarding, guests are assigned roles, which range from Piot, Gunner, or Engineer. Each one of these roles is important, though many fans wish more emphasis was placed on the Engineer role, as the Gunner and Pilot roles are far more responsive, fun, and immersive.

The other attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which is single-handedly the most impressive, complex, and immersive attraction ever created by Disney. The attraction blends multiple ride systems together into one complete package, launching guests into a dire Star Wars story where they are rescued by Finn, Poe, and Rey, along with the rest of the Rebel Alliance. The attention to detail is staggering, and the amount of different experiences and systems within the ride is unbelievable, assuming they all work accordingly.

Unfortunately, a major problem for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is that due to how complicated it is, coupled with just how popular the attraction is, the ride faces significant downtime quite often. Various features of the attraction are often seen not working or in “B-mode,” similar to the broken Yeti inside Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance features several impressive Kylo Ren animatronics, but it’s pretty common to see at least one left stationary or even removed from the ride entirely.

rise of the resistance stormtrooper room with r5 unit in foreground
Credit: Disney

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019 at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, forever changing the Disney theme park experience. Following in the footsteps of Pandora – The World of Avatar, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge aimed to be an ultra-immersive, captivating world for guests to explore and get lost in. Guests are encouraged to create their own stories, build their own droids and lightsabers, and live out their own Star Wars adventures.

Along the way, guests will encounter bad guys and good guys, ranging from iconic characters like Rey, Finn, and Poe to First Order Stormtroopers and even the dreaded Kylo Ren. Galaxy’s Edge can be found at Disneyland Park in Disneyland as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, and while these two lands are thousands of miles apart, they are practically identical. Aside from minor paint detailing and different details sprinkled through, both versions of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are the same, providing a standardized experience to guests whether they are visiting on the East Coast or the West Coast. However, there is, or was, one key difference between these two lands, and it permanently closed in 2023.

While Galaxy’s Edge may have been a huge risk for Disney, nothing compares to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. This immersive, all-in-one adventure merged the lines between theme park entertainment and a cruise ship experience. Guests board the fictional Halcyon starcruiser for a two-night, three-day escapade complete with droids, aliens, blaster battles, and Jedi training.

The experience, of course, came with an exceptionally high price point, meaning that only the most passionate and lucky Star Wars fans were able to board the Starcruiser. Because of the high price, the Galactic Starcruieer was quite easy to snag a reservation for, being left empty for a majority of the year after it opened in 2022. However, as we mentioned, the Galactic Starcruiser would not last long, closing permanently in September of 2023 following a bombshell announcement from The Walt Disney Company itself.

Pandora World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

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Pandora – The World of Avatar is arguably the turning point with the Disney theme parks, providing guests with a level of immersion and detail unlike anything The Walt Disney Company had ever attempted before. The land is breathtaking, and guests instantly feel as though they have been transported into an entirely new world filled with beauty and danger.

Guests will find two attractions here, Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage, both of which feature some of the most impressive Imagination techniques ever seen in a Disney theme park. The land is complete with its own quick service location as well as a place to shop. Fans were highly critical of Pandora – The World of Avatar’s eventual opening day, with many skeptical about the longevity and interest in James Cameron’s Avatar franchise. At the time it was announced, only one Avatar film had been made, with the future of the franchise still quite uncertain.

In a twist of ironic fate, Pandora – The World of Avatar is located in the exact same spot that the canceled Beastly Kingdom expansion was to take over, both of which brought the worlds of fantasy to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some traces of Beasdty Kingdom can still be seen throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom, like on the welcome signs at the front gates or in front of the entrance to Pandora.

In 2024, there has never been a better time to be a fan of the Avatar franchise, with Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) smashing box office records and several more sequels in the pipeline. The sheer level of detail and immersion found within The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom proved that Disney was putting its money where its mouth was, providing guests with a land worth visiting after the major success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood.

Riders on TRON
Credit: Disney

There’s plenty to look forward to with the Disney theme parks, especially at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In the last few years, this massive theme park destination received some significant upgrades in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT and TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom. These two roller coasters are some of Disney’s best ever, providing guests with some intense thrills and great theming.

In 2024, fans will finally be able to experience Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which will be opening this summer at the Magic Kingdom and later this year at Disneyland. This new take on Disney’s legendary log flume ride known as Splash Mountain has been in the works since at least 2020, which is when The Walt Disney Company first announced the project. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure comes after decades of controversy surrounding Splash Mountain, with Disney finally deciding to pull the plug on the iconic yet problematic water attraction.

In 2023, Disney announced it would be spending a whopping $60 billion

What are you most excited about at the Disney theme parks in 2024?

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