3 Imagineering Rules Galaxy’s Edge Breaks
And 3 They Surpassed!
Welcome to the podcast #27 in a series of episodes that looks at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. In this podcast we are going to look at 3 Imagineering rules that Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge breaks. And we will look at 3 they may have well surpassed. You can find the podcast here on Podbean and here at iTunes. Additionally, you will find a great article here about the amazing details that have been built into this out of the world location.
1. Create a Wienie (visual magnet)
It’s number 4 on Mickey’s Ten Commandments, created by Disney Imagineering Legend Marty Sklar. It’s title comes from Walt Disney who would refer to a hot dog placed at the end of a stick–one set over a campfire.
You see it at the end of Main Street–a Castle. Beyond the gates of Tomorrowland there is Space Mountain. Beyond the fortress gates of Frontierland, it’s a paddle wheeler or Big Thunder Mountain.
It’s not like this is always the case. There is usually no Wienie for Adventureland. Typhoon has one, but only after you pass through a jungle like clearing. And you pass through Oasis with its animal encounters before you get to the Tree of Life.
Yes…there are mountains beckoning you at Galaxy’s Hill. But the real prize is the Millennium Falcon, and you don’t see it when you enter the gates. It takes some walking, and a few twists and turns before it unveils itself. Stepping into Black Spire Outpost, you will go through several clusters of buildings before you see the ship.
It’s worst coming from Critter Country from Disneyland or from Grand Avenue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You not only don’t see the Millennium Falcon from this entrance, but much of Black Spire Outpost is out of view. The experience is designed to reveal itself.
It’s from this area that you see the entrance to the new attraction Rise of the Resistance. That attraction is even more elusive. Except for the entry, you would have no idea that what Bob Chapek is referring to as the best ride Disney has ever created is back there.
Beyond the gunner entrance, you can see little more than pathways, trees and caves. You can barely make out a small waterfall in one alcove. You can’t see is a Poe’s battle-scarred X-Wing or a much larger U-Wing transport ship. For what is a massive set of show buildings, you have no sense of what lies ahead of you. I think Imagineering wants it that way.
2. Stay to Scale
If you’ve ever been on one of those “Art of the Show” tours that Disney does, there’s no end to the discussion of scale that goes on in the parks. It varies depending on who gives the tour (in truth it varies depending on the building itself). But the first floor of stores on Main Street U.S.A. is usually 8/10, and the second floor is a fraction of that, and if there’s a third floor it’s even much less. The purpose was that it was to give you a sense of control over your circumstances, rather than leaving you feeling small.
Well Black Spire Outpost seems to have no need of scale. From what I see, most of the retail and shops are in full scale. Ceilings inside buildings are very high, and in some cases you have to walk up a ramp or stair to approach them, making them even bigger. And why? My guess is that Imagineers wanted you to feel lost in this imaginary world.
Take a look at the image below:
Look at the height of the people compared to Docking Bay 7 up on the platform to the left. There is some scaling going up the tower in the center, and some in the very distant mountains, but the main hanger is still very large compared to the people, and Chewie was able to sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The ship on Docking Bay 7 does not appear to make any effort to reduce scale.
Here’s the effect of this larger scaling in the next photo.
If you had made the upper floors of this Black Spire Station less than full scale, then the Storm Troopers would have looked larger than life. As it stands, its scale makes you feel like the First Order is looking down on you.
The effect is that you feel somewhat lost, overwhelmed and not entirely in control in this new world. It’s also very striking when you return to the rest of the park, and you see things in smaller scale.
3. Provide the Ideal
There’s a fabled story of Sam McKim and Ken Anderson drawing an exterior depiction of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion looking like it was decrepit and old. Walt insisted that the exterior stay beautiful, and that the haunting stay inside.
Main Street, the Castle, Tomorrowland, Future World…all these are pristine environments. But Galaxy’s Edge is not that. It’s a worn out world. There laser blasts on the sides of the building. Wires stretched from one location to the other. There are even trashed droids.
It’s not like this hasn’t been done before. Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is an idealized reality. It has that worn out look as well. But if it were reality, you would probably smell of trash and see muddy roads filled with pot holes as well. Galaxy’s Edge has taken this to a new level.
Take the image below:
This is what greets you when you enter the land. Its sorted plants, weeds, debris and rusted droids tossed away. This is their “Mickey floral portrait” when you enter. It’s messy, but it screams in a subtle way, Star Wars.
Now that we’ve mentioned 3 rules Imagineering has broken, let’s look at 3 they have surpassed.
1. Honor the Closeup.
This concept begins with John Hench questioning Walt about using leather straps on the stage coaches (that used to travel around this same area of the park). Henc was thinking no one would notice, much less appreciate the straps. Walt turned, firmly planted his finger on John’s chest, and replied, “You’re being a poor communicator. People are okay, don’t you ever forget that. They will respond to it. They will appreciate it.”
Well there’s a whole lot more to Galaxy’s Edge than leather straps. And there’s no end to the detail played into this experience.
Here’s how it plays out. The long shot here is of Ronto’s Roasters as guests approach.
That long shot continues on when you step inside and see the massive pod racing machine cooking meats.
Take to a closer medium shot and we see that the meats here are theoretically cooked by a former smelter droid, 8D-J8. You may recall that a similar droid to this existed in The Return of the Jedi.
Now take a closer look at an image in the corner. Most walk by it and don’t even see it. Behind a wire fencing lies a butcher shop. Look what meats are being cooked up!
These long shots, medium shots, and close ups are full of details throughout all of Galaxy’s Edge. Just look at the blaster holes around most buildings. We’ve gone a long way from leather straps.
2. Go Green
Disney and Imagineering take great pride in activities that involve caring for the planet, recycling, and going green. It seems though this planet looks like the biggest recycling project ever. So much of it seems to be props made out of old materials of the type that existed when the first Star Wars film was created. It’s almost like the old steam iron contraptions found in every Big Thunder Mountain. It’s like they were gathering scraps to create this experience in order to make it authentic. There’s so much of it, that it seems like a recycling campaign.
Here’s an example. Do you know what the most expensive item is at Galaxy’s Edge. It’s this guy:
How do I know this? It states it on the sign next to it. And that sign sits on an ammunition box. That’s what I want to refer to.
In the 1970s I remember that my older brother carried around an ammunition box. It was commonly had among young men of that age, many of whom had served in Vietnam. My brother didn’t, but he did have that box. You can find them throughout the land. I hadn’t seen one in several years until I visited Batuu. You see this and so many other things throughout the area. To visit Galaxy’s Edge is tripping the light fantastic back to the ’70s.
Here’s a bigger example. Look at the roof of the Millennium Falcon. It’s made of parts akin to the kind you would have found several decades ago.
Maybe they had to re-manufacture some of these parts, but it looks to me that this is a huge recycling job. I wonder if Imagineering is applying for any conservation awards from doing so? Clearly it seems they went green on this project.
3. Don’t Open Before It’s Ready
Pirates of the Caribbean opened on March 18, 1967. It was supposed to be open in time for the holidays in 1966. The Imagineering team at that point, known as W.E.D. (Walter Elias Disney) thought it simply wasn’t ready. They approached Walt about their concerns. Walt understood their concerns and agreed that they not open the attraction until it was really ready to run. Even the Blue Bayou Restaurant was not opened until the attraction opened.
What makes that story so painful is that December 1966 is when Walt Disney passed away. No one in W.E.D. knew that his time on earth was cutting short, though they knew he had not been well. Walt knew. He knew he wouldn’t be able to see guests riding it. I’m sure that personally, he would have liked to have seen it completed. But he knew the attraction needed more time.
I’ve seen every Disney attraction around the world, and my favorite is Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland (it’s an abbreviated creature in Florida). I think this is the summation of Walt’s work. All the tricks of the trade went into this attraction, just like all his skills as a filmmaker went into Mary Poppins. And Pirates been beloved for over 50 years since. It is the attraction all others are compared to.
So while it was great that Galaxy’s Edge opened early, I totally respect that Imagineering has held Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance until it is ready to be opened.
Some might say it’s a marketing ploy. But they have to get this right. Bob Chapek has unequivocally stated this is the greatest attraction ever built. Those are big words. And you know what attraction I’ll be comparing it to. So it has to be right when it opens. I’m patient in the mean time.
It just better be great.
Want to see other great things in Batuu? Definitely check out The Force is in the Details. It identifies some great things Imagineers have done in this land. And you also want to check out our complete guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Take a look!