The first ride to debut at the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge rumbles, tumbles and rolls its way through hyper space. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which opens to the public today at Disneyland California, should satisfy even the most ardent Han Solo wannabe.
It all happens inside an immense replica of the famed starship — situated slap bang in the middle of Galaxy’s Edge — that moviegoers have followed since the 1970s.
“For many people, the ship itself is one of the most iconic characters in the entire franchise,” Asa Kalama, executive creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering, said Wednesday.
As of today the Millennium Falcon ride is a West Coast exclusive. An identical version of the ride opens, along with another Galaxy’s Edge, on Aug. 29th 2019 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios here in Orlando.
Inside the Smugglers Run attraction, theme-park guests in tight knit groups of six are assigned one of three jobs: pilot, gunner or flight engineer. They are seated in the cockpit, two across, facing the famed windshield and the heavens.
They also face enemy fliers, space junk, dangerously tight quarters and a daunting goal of returning cargo. A score is assigned based on riders’ teamwork and ability to follow instructions. The left pilot moves the vessel left and right; the right pilot controls the up-and-down motion of the Falcon and has the thrilling ability to push the ship into lightspeed by pulling the designated lever. Yikes!
Gunners are told to shoot blasters, and flight engineers repair damage to the ship mid-flight by pushing the right buttons at the right time.
“It is truly a participatory experience,” Kalama said.
The new lands are set in a fresh part of the “Star Wars” universe — the far-flung planet of Batuu, a remote haven for smugglers and some perhaps unsavory businesses, according to Disney’s story. But the original movie trilogy comes to play in the storyline because Chewbacca has brought the Falcon to Batuu for repairs. (This takes place after the events of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Disney says.) Chewie loans the spaceship to another known character, Hondo Ohnaka.
The Ohnaka character previously has only been seen in animated form on the TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.” Inside the Falcon queue, he is a new, walking, talking Audio-Animatronic figure.
During the flight, Ohnaka gives harried instructions, and the voice of Chewbacca rings through the cabin. As usual with the Star Wars franchise, humor is used to defuse dangerous situations.
“We felt we had to do more than just let you ride inside the Millennium Falcon, but to truly give you the opportunity to control ‘the fastest hunk of junk in the entire galaxy,’ ” Kalama said. That’s something “so many people have been waiting the last 40 years to do.”
Disney’s new “Star Wars” lands will feature options to assemble personal lightsabers and droids, drink the long-awaited blue milk and crash at an otherworldly cantina. On both coasts, an additional ride called Rise of the Resistance is scheduled to join the Galaxy’s Edge lineup sometime this year. Opening dates have not been revealed.