ANAHEIM, Calif. — The way Walt Disney Imagineering studio leader Scott Trowbridge told it, setting Disneyland Park's new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Batuu, a planet that most fans haven't heard of, was an essential part of the design plan.
"One of the things that we decided very early on (was) to build a new place, a place that was not a memory of somebody else's 'Star Wars' story," Trowbridge said at a media panel discussion on Wednesday at Disneyland Park. "(Batuu) was not a place that we visited in the early films. We know those places — we know the stories that happened there, we know the characters' experiences there. And we know that we're not part of those stories."
For Trowbridge — who is also the portfolio creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering — and the rest of the team that conceived and built the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, ensuring that guests to the new land feel a part of the "Star Wars" story is as important to them as are all of the Disney details parkgoers have come to expect over the years.
Yes, there are rides — at this point, just one, Millennium Falcon: Smuggers Run — plenty to eat and buy, and of course, cast members in costumes walking around, but what makes Galaxy's Edge different from say, Adventureland or Frontierland is that everything you eat and buy, and even who you get your food and gifts from, are a part of the story that you, as a guest, immerse yourself in each time you visit.
And to do that, the Galaxy's Edge creators had to build a world that would feel like a real place, not simply a land in a theme park.
"When you're designing someplace new that was meant to have a history, we (had to think) about all the layers of story that preexist your day, preexist your arrival (at Galaxy's Edge)," Carrie Beck, Lucasfilm Ltd. vice president of animation and live-action development, said at the media panel. "Like any place that you would travel to in our own world that has a history, that has a heritage, … there are things that have happened probably thousands of years prior to our visit. And having those layers makes it feel really real."
To capture that sense of reality, the cast members and service folks that you encounter inside Galaxy's Edge are "citizens" of Batuu, each with their own back story and clothing slightly unique to them. And because they "live" in Batuu, they can, unlike other Disneyland employees, slouch, lean against things and generally be comfortable in their home planet.
"We spent a lot of time with the folks at the Imagineering team developing the stories for all of the vendors, all the stalls, everybody that lives here," Beck said. "… You know, one of the things that I think Lucasfilm and Imagineering really shared in common is this real love and passion for the details that make up the story."
One of the most noticeable details inside the land is language. When you wander the streets of Batuu's Black Spire Outpost, you'll hear phrases from Batuu's citizens that are particular only to the planet, just as one might when traveling to any new and unfamiliar place.
Residents will likely greet you with either "Bright suns" if it's daytime, or "Rising moons" if it's evening. (Basically "good morning" and "good evening.")
"Til the Spires" is a sort of goodbye, but can also double as a rallying cry. "May the spires keep you" is a more formal form of goodbye, while "good journey" acts as a casual "see you later." Also, in Black Spires Outpost, you won't find restrooms but rather "refreshers," while water fountains are "hydrators." Even children have a special name — "younglings." And for first time visitors who are struggling to find the answer, "Only the ancients know," is a good one to try out.
And it doesn't stop with language and the cast members. In the Black Spires Outpost Marketplace, loosely based on the real-life ancient marketplaces of Istanbul and Marrakesh, you'll also find stores selling items that residents of the local village might need, from authentic-looking clothing, artisan toys and games made by the Toydarians (the flying aliens first seen in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”) and even, according to Brad Schoeneberg, Disney’s director of merchandise strategy, a pet shop.
"Not just a pet shop, but the weirdest, craziest, zaniest pets in the galaxy," he said at the media panel. "If you have ever thought: 'You know what I need? I need to adopt a porg today. I need a rathtar because I'm just that daring. Or a wampa, or a tauntaun, or a puffer pig.' There are so many different types of creatures."
Diehard "Star Wars" enthusiasts will recognize all of these creatures, but even the more casual fan won't be able to miss what the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge creators are trying to do with these stores and everything else inside the land: Help you feel like you've entered a galaxy far, far away.
Additionally, inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, you can (if you are willing to spend the money) build your own droid ($99 and under) and lightsaber ($200), play interactive games on your phone (you gain points by correctly solving puzzles and games connected to locations around the land) and, of course, when you ride Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, you'll get to fly, repair or fire from the Falcon itself.
All of which is designed — very meticulously and very thoughtfully — to bring you, the visitor, to Batuu, inside your own "Star Wars" story. Beck believes wanting to be a part of the "Star Wars" universe is a feeling common to all fans of the hit movies, books and TV shows.
"There was always this dream, this wish to be able to be part of that story," she said. "And so being here and being able to interact and bring that fantasy to the next level is very exciting."