Nerd Processor

The Star Wars Disney Theme Park Is a Little Too Authentic

Disneyland’s newest addition is a nerd paradise that plays out like an interactive theater nightmare

WWhen I was young, the idea of an amusement park based entirely around Star Wars would have been paradise on Earth. Now that I’m 42, Disney has actually created Galaxy’s Edge, and I… well, I still desperately want to go. But I’m also very, very afraid of what I’m going to find there.

If you’re unaware, Galaxy’s Edge is the newest addition to Disneyland, a giant, 14-acre theme park based entirely around the Star Wars franchise. Calling it a theme park may actually be misleading, as it’s supposed to be a true immersive experience, as if you’re actually being transported to the universe of the movies. What this means is there isn’t a spinning teacup ride where all the cups are Darth Vader helmets, or even a roller coaster where all the cars are made up like Star Wars spaceships. It’s much more intense.

When you enter Galaxy’s Edge, you are actually entering the Black Spire, a remote trading outpost on the planet Batuu, which is situated on the Outer Rim of the Star Wars galaxy. It’s not something you’ve seen in the movies, but a new location created for the park (and already a very official part of the franchise’s canon). The food has Star Wars-ian names, so if you’re hungry for chicken tenders, you have to ask for “Endorian Tip-Yip.” There’s so much verisimilitude that even the piles of merchandise for sale are made to look like they were made in a galaxy far, far away. If you’re a Star Wars fan of any age, it sounds just about perfect.

It’s the “just about” part that’s killing me.

Imagine the most delicious cake in the world, a birthday cake that you’ve been anticipating for weeks. As you’re just about to shovel that first perfect bite into your mouth, you see it — a single fly inside, having flown into the batter at some point. You could easily eat around it, and scarf down the other fly-free 98% of this incredible cake… but you’re not going to do that. The cake has been tainted.

If you’re a Star Wars fan of any age, it sounds just about perfect.

This is my worry about Galaxy’s Edge — that it’s so nearly flawless that the few inevitable flaws will drive me absolutely crazy.

Criticizing anything Star Wars-adjacent is a slippery slope, so let me clarify immediately that my issues aren’t because Disney failed to design this amusement park with the sole intent of pleasing bitchy, 40-year-old nerds. These are issues that I think many parkgoers — kids and adults, fans and non-fans — will find problematic, and they need to be addressed.

The biggest one is this: I think Galaxy’s Edge might be too Star Wars-y.

This is killing me, because I am so, so excited at the idea of visiting an entire amusement park that looks like a giant Star Wars film set. But I am utterly unexcited at the prospect of going to one of the park’s restaurants to tell another human being that “I’ll have the Smoked Kaadu Ribs, please.” I am already embarrassed about this encounter, because Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just a park, it’s a performance. Here’s how my buddy, io9’s Germain Lussier, described it:

All the Disneyland cast members are truly that: cast members. They’re in character as citizens of the remote planet of Batuu rather than Disneyland park employees. They greet you with “Bright Suns!” during the day or “Rising Moons!” in the evening. They may ask you to complete tasks on the sly or help you hide from the First Order if a few Stormtroopers are walking down the street.

Galaxy’s Edge is essentially a giant, live-action role-playing session (a.k.a. LARP) that forces you to take part in it, whether you want to or not. I imagine this is a wonderful experience for kids who don’t have to pretend they’re in a Star Wars movie because everyone and everything else is pretending for them. It’s everything I would have wanted 30-plus years ago. Now it sounds like hell, and I believe that’s true for most adults, fans included. There’s something so mortifying about human beings forced by company policy to play make-believe with you, whether you want to or not.

Even if that sort of stuff doesn’t make your skin crawl, forcing employees to speak solely in Star Wars jargon makes the park experience worse on a practical level, too. Want to go to the bathroom? Well, all the signs are in the Star Wars’ made-up language, Aurebesh. Also, “bathroom” is not a word in the Star Wars universe, so what you actually need to find is the “refresher.” Here’s a tip, courtesy of another pal, Zac Bertschy: If someone asks for an “additional credential” they want to see your driver’s license. Remember it well, because they always have to stay in character — meaning they have to keep asking for that “additional credential” until you figure it out.

This is bananas, and again, it’s mandatory. Hopefully by the time I go, Disney will have started issuing wristbands for people who prefer to be talked to like a normal human being, and like to talk to other human beings in the same way. Then I’ll be able to concentrate on being simultaneously ecstatic and miserable about Galaxy Edge’s (current) main attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run.

Smuggler’s Run lets people ride in the Millennium Falcon, which is the only true thing I’ve ever wanted in this nightmare called reality. To be inside the most iconic spaceship in pop culture… I honestly don’t have words to convey what an experience this will be for me. When I get inside, I suspect I’ll tear up — at the least.

This is my worry about Galaxy’s Edge — that it’s so nearly flawless that the few inevitable flaws will drive me absolutely crazy.

But those will be happy tears. When the ride begins is when the trouble starts. Smuggler’s Run operates like this: Six people enter the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and go on a “mission,” which is really just a video game. (Which is perfectly fine. You’re still in the actual Falcon!). Two people are pilots, two are gunners, and the last two are engineers, who control the spaceship’s shields. If you don’t see the issue here, let me spell it out: You are going to wait in line for four hours to get inside the Millennium Falcon and you have a five-in-six chance of not sitting in the pilot seat. In fact, there’s a one-in-three chance you’ll be stuck in the back seat and forced to fiddle with some knobs! That’s cruel.

It gets worse. Like too much of Galaxy’s Edge, Smuggler’s Run is a performance. Your mission changes based on how the pilots fly, the gunners shoot, and the engineers, uh, shield, meaning your ride is affected by five random people who may or may not be good at video games. If you’re trying to fly the Falcon between asteroids and someone’s so disappointed they’re stuck being an engineer that they don’t do their job, the other five riders are out of luck. Basically, a lot has to go right to have the best Smuggler’s Run experience, and the odds are not in your favor. (Insert Han Solo “Never tell me the odds!” joke here.)

Personally, I know whenever I get in there, no matter what job I have, I’ll be petrified that I will blow it and ruin things for the other riders. Guys, I don’t want the joyous experience of being in the Millennium Falcon to be accompanied by feelings of failure and crushing guilt.

That’s my problem, really, in a nutshell — that I will be in this amazing world I could scarcely have dreamed of a kid, and simultaneously be awed, overjoyed, and somehow miserable at the same time. The obvious solution is to not go to Galaxy’s Edge, which as advice goes is about as good as telling a fish “Well, if you don’t want to get caught, stay out of the water.” I’m a Star Wars nerd. I’m going, eventually. There’s simply no other option. And I’ll have to find a way to cope, one way or another.

So if you happen to wander into the Black Spire outpost sometime this fall, take a look in Oga’s Cantina. There, you might find a wide-eyed man, downing Jedi Mind Trick after Jedi Mind Trick (a cocktail of Earth vodka and grapefruit juice, among other things), looking like he’s in the middle of a nerdy mental breakdown. If you do, feel free to stop by and say hi — just don’t say “Bright suns!” And definitely don’t let him in the Millennium Falcon.

The former editor of io9.com, Rob Bricken has been a professional nerd since 2001. He also often cries at children's cartoons.

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