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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

When Dis­ney was prepar­ing to open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Dis­ney­land and Walt Dis­ney World last year, there was a lot of dis­cus­sion among theme park jour­nal­ists, blog­gers, and even park guests that Star Wars: Rise of the Resis­tance was going to be the biggest, longest, best, most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced, most epic, most immer­sive, and basi­cal­ly the most every­thing you can think of attrac­tion ever. Now, don’t get me wrong, I gen­er­al­ly trust Dis­ney when they say new attrac­tions are going to be great, but the best and most of every­thing in the his­to­ry of every­thing? I could­n’t imag­ine how Dis­ney was going to be able to deliv­er on a promise that mas­sive. That is — until I rode it. 

“Since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened, it has been met with incred­i­ble love from guests who not only rec­og­nize the epic scale of the land, but every sin­gle detail that has gone into bring­ing Star Wars to life and into giv­ing peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to become a char­ac­ter in this world by expe­ri­enc­ing it as a par­tic­i­pant ver­sus a spec­ta­tor,” says Scott Trow­bridge, Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer­ing Park Cre­ative Exec­u­tive for Dis­ney­land and Dis­ney Cal­i­for­nia Adven­ture. “And we’re going to bring that to life even more with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.”

I was lucky enough to ride Rise of the Resis­tance in ear­ly Decem­ber when it opened at Walt Dis­ney World, and I have been think­ing about it ever since. It’s not just because the attrac­tion has sev­er­al “how’d they do that?” moments – though I’m def­i­nite­ly still try­ing to fig­ure those out – but it’s also because it real­ly is the most every­thing in the his­to­ry of every­thing. On top of that, the attrac­tion’s sto­ry is so immer­sive that I’m still not 100% sure that I was­n’t actu­al­ly recruit­ed to join the Resis­tance in their fight against the First Order.

“You are com­ing in as active char­ac­ters in this sto­ry, as recruits to the Resis­tance,” says Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer­ing Man­ag­ing Sto­ry Edi­tor, Mar­garet Ker­ri­son (and thank­ful­ly, val­i­dat­ing my feel­ings). “We need you to go on a very spe­cial mis­sion with some of the char­ac­ters that you know and love.” 

The expe­ri­ence has con­tin­ued to per­co­late through my brain for the last month and a half, so I was grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resis­tance again when it opened at Dis­ney­land on Jan­u­ary 17. This time, I told myself, I would pay atten­tion to the details. This time, I swore, I would­n’t let myself be swept away in the epic Star Wars sto­ry. I’m a jour­nal­ist, after all, how dif­fi­cult could that be? Well, as it turns out, it’s extreme­ly dif­fi­cult because it’s impos­si­ble not to be swept up in the experience.

“It’s not just an attrac­tion as much as an adven­ture [where] you don’t know what’s going to come next because you are in the moment and of the world,” Ker­ri­son says. “We want you to fall in love with Star Wars all over again, and for peo­ple who are new to Star Wars, we want you to fall in love with Star Wars for the very first time.”

Mis­sion accomplished.

 

The Queue Experience

rise of the resistance storm troopers queue

Not even Stormtroop­ers are exclud­ed from the queue — © Walt Dis­ney World

One impor­tant point to note is that the rides at Dis­ney­land and Walt Dis­ney World are the same (so, great news west coast, you’re not miss­ing out on any­thing). Also, for the fore­see­able future, there is no fast pass option avail­able at either park, so every­one “gets” to expe­ri­ence the queue, and while I’m not sug­gest­ing that any­one loves wait­ing in a theme park queue, this one does have a cou­ple of things going for it. First – and essen­tial in sun­ny Ana­heim and Orlan­do – a lot of the wait­ing is inside, which park­go­ers will espe­cial­ly appre­ci­ate dur­ing sum­mer months. Sec­ond, there is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of seri­ous sto­ry­telling going on, which pre­pares rid­ers for what’s about to happen.

rise of the resistance turrets

The sto­ry begins the moment you step in line — © Matt Stroshane

As soon as you walk under­neath the mas­sive gun tur­rets, the sto­ry starts. Dur­ing the first sec­tion of the queue, you are walk­ing through the “Resis­tance For­est” area of Black Spire Out­post, where the Resis­tance has set up a secret base to recruit fight­ers against the First Order. Deep in the for­est, recruits reach a maze of caves. There is evi­dence that these caves, carved by ancient inhab­i­tants of the plan­et of Batuu (where Black Spire Out­post AKA Galaxy’s Edge is locat­ed), have been con­vert­ed into a makeshift stor­age facil­i­ty for weapons, flight gear, and sup­plies. By the time rid­ers reach the first “show scene,” it’s clear that they’re part of a very secret – and very impor­tant – Resis­tance operation. 

“One of the things we real­ly love about these sto­ries is the diver­si­ty of the envi­ron­ments in the Star Wars uni­verse,” notes Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer­ing Art Direc­tor, Kristin Makela. “In Galaxy’s Edge, we have three main sto­ries – the ancient civ­i­liza­tion of Batuu and Black Spire Out­post, the scrap­py ‘fly­ing by the seat of their pants’ Resis­tance, and the all-pow­er­ful omi­nous First Order. Rise of the Resis­tance is where all three of these sto­ry threads come togeth­er.” 

 

The Ride Experience

In true Star Wars fash­ion, things prob­a­bly won’t go exact­ly as planned… — © Joshua Sudock

To avoid spoil­ers, I will resist the urge to reveal too many details about what hap­pens dur­ing the ride, but basi­cal­ly, Resis­tance recruits are instruct­ed to board a trans­port ship to take them on their mis­sion and, in true Star Wars form, things don’t go exact­ly as planned. The trans­port ship is cap­tured by a First Order star destroy­er where the crew does not take kind­ly to “Resis­tance Sym­pa­thiz­ers.” Even after sev­er­al encoun­ters with First Order guards, I have yet to find one who does­n’t take his or her job extreme­ly seri­ous­ly, so it’s best to fol­low direc­tions, avoid eye con­tact, and what­ev­er you do, don’t ask any ques­tions. 

As with the land’s oth­er attrac­tion, Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con: Smug­gler’s Run, the Dis­ney Imag­i­neers have done a remark­able job of recre­at­ing an icon­ic Star Wars envi­ron­ment, and it real­ly feels like you’ve walked right into a scene from a Star Wars movie. Plus, the con­trast from the rus­tic caves used by the Resis­tance is jar­ring. Instead of the hand-carved stone with jer­ry-rigged wires hasti­ly strung from the walls and ceil­ing, the Star Destroy­er’s black floors are sleek and shiny, and the metal­lic walls are cov­ered with high-tech com­put­er con­soles and flash­ing red warn­ing lights, not to men­tion the very promi­nent pres­ence of men­ac­ing Storm Troopers.

If things not going as planned is one of the essen­tial hall­marks of a Star Wars adven­ture, a dar­ing res­cue, and sub­se­quent escape, is cer­tain­ly anoth­er. Again, to avoid spoil­ers, I won’t dis­close how we escape the clutch­es of the First Order – and vil­lain Kylo Ren in par­tic­u­lar – but I will say that the attrac­tion not only checks all the box­es for Star Wars fans but will also thrill rid­ers who have nev­er seen a Star Wars movie and turn them into fans, just as Ker­ri­son promised.

 

Play Disney Parks App

Sup­port the Resis­tance or the First Order through your phone — © Dis­ney Parks

There are a lot of spe­cial tasks and secrets through­out Galaxy’s Edge that can be accessed and uncov­ered through the Play Dis­ney Parks app, which turns any ordi­nary smart­phone into a Star Wars dat­a­pad. With the open­ing of Rise of the Resis­tance, sev­er­al extreme­ly cool new fea­tures have been added to the app, mak­ing the expe­ri­ence even more immer­sive while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly giv­ing impa­tient kids some­thing to do while they’re wait­ing to ride.

“When you down­load the Play Dis­ney Parks app, you have a dat­a­pad ready to go in your pock­et,” says Anisha Desh­mane, Walt Dis­ney Imag­i­neer­ing Assis­tant Pro­duc­er. “And now that the Resis­tance is recruit­ing in the for­est, we want to give guests a piece of that action…through two new jobs that hook into the sto­ry of the attrac­tion real­ly nicely.”

Accord­ing to Desh­mane, once in the Resis­tance encamp­ment, park guests can choose to help the Resis­tance or help the First Order. If you decide to help the Resis­tance, you will help Finn (who has infil­trat­ed the First Order star destroy­er) nav­i­gate through the ship, get back to his team, and while you’re at it, wipe the star destroy­er’s com­put­ers of some Resis­tance data. 

“You’re going to have a map of the destroy­er and help Finn choose which rooms to go into,” Desh­mane says. “Depend­ing on which path you choose, you might be help­ing Finn in a dif­fer­ent way than some­one else. It’s worth see­ing if there’s a more strate­gic approach because there’s def­i­nite­ly some dan­ger, and you can get Finn in some real trou­ble.” 

You can also choose to help the First Order (no judg­ment). Deshmene explains that, since you’re in a recruit­ing line for the Resis­tance (and the First Order is obvi­ous­ly very inter­est­ed in what’s going on in those caves), you’re asked to ana­lyze the rooms, col­lect data about what the Resis­tance has in stor­age, scan crates to fig­ure out what they have in their inven­to­ry, and then report back to the First Order about what might be com­ing their way. 

“It’s real­ly excit­ing to not only launch the next chap­ter of sto­ry­telling with Rise of the Resis­tance, but also bring this addi­tion­al lay­er of per­son­al engage­ment,” Trow­bridge says. “Whether you choose to help the First Order or the Resis­tance – and play­ing both sides is real­ly fun – we’re real­ly excit­ed about con­tin­u­ing to add to the sto­ry­telling we’re doing in Galaxy’s Edge.”

 

Know Before You Go

Buck­le up for this one-of-a-kind galac­tic adven­ture! — © Emille ITM Reporter

The ride incor­po­rates four ride sys­tems, which includes two short motion-sim­u­la­tor sec­tions sim­i­lar to Star Tours or Mil­len­ni­um Fal­con: Smug­gler’s Run. There is also a sec­tion onboard a track­less ride vehi­cle and one very small ver­ti­cal drop tow­er (imag­ine a baby Guardians of the Galaxy – Mis­sion Breakout!/Tower of Ter­ror drop), but there are no roller­coast­er-like drops, curves, loops, or launches.

Both parks are using a vir­tu­al queue­ing sys­tem to assign “board­ing groups” for ride times. The best way to access this sys­tem is through the offi­cial park apps. One thing to be aware of is that guests can only get a board­ing group once their admis­sion tick­et has been scanned into Dis­ney­land or Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios. This sys­tem is dif­fer­ent than Walt Dis­ney World’s Fast­Pass+ sys­tem, which can be accessed in advance and/or from out­side the park gates. Also, every mem­ber of the par­ty must be inside the park to ride, mean­ing that one per­son can’t go in and get a board­ing group for every­one in their group/family.

There have been a lot of posts on social media about peo­ple lin­ing up in the mid­dle of the night to get into the parks as ear­ly as pos­si­ble, but since this sys­tem is not first come-first served, there’s no ben­e­fit to doing that. Board­ing groups open when the park opens, and at that point, every per­son inside the park has the same chance. Also, it’s impor­tant to note that there are only a lim­it­ed num­ber of board­ing groups avail­able per day, so there’s no guar­an­tee of rid­ing regard­less of what time you get there. I’ve seen just as many posts from peo­ple who got to the park at 3 am and did­n’t get a board­ing group as I have from peo­ple who got there 5 min­utes before the park opened and did, so it’s real­ly just a mat­ter of luck.

Last, but cer­tain­ly not least, the ride is between 15 and 20 min­utes long (not count­ing time in the queue), so par­ents, I sug­gest mak­ing a bath­room stop and/or feed­ing hun­gry kids before get­ting in line. Every­one will be hap­pi­er and enjoy the expe­ri­ence more – espe­cial­ly you!

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