Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023: Disney Parks
Following longstanding Star Wars Celebration tradition, this year’s convention included a panel titled “Disney Parks: Where Star Wars Comes to Life,” with a particular focus on Galaxy’s Edge and the Galactic Starcruiser. Moderated by Full of Sith’s Holly Frey, it featured familiar panelists Matt Martin from Lucasfilm and Imagineering’s Scott Trowbridge, Ann Morrow Johnson, and Asa Kalama.
The panel was light on news, but did offer some treats for fans. Trowbridge announced the release of a second playlist from DJ Rex at Oga’s Cantina that day (April 10), as well as an upcoming release (May 4) of some of Gaya’s music from the Galactics Starcruiser. He noted that the performers recorded the Gaya songs separately for the digital downloads, which makes sense given the ambient noise occurring during her live performances in the Crown of Corellia dining room during dinner. Trowbridge also revealed that new destinations will be added to the Star Tours attraction in 2024, but explained that he couldn’t disclose what they are because some of them have not been seen in their stories yet. Perhaps this means a location in Ahsoka or Skeleton Crew will appear in Star Tours. (A particular shot in the extended Ahsoka trailer shown exclusively at Celebration lends itself well to the ride.)
For most of the panel, though, the discussion centered on describing the Galaxy’s Edge and Galactic Starcruiser experiences to the audience. Much of the conversation resembled panels from recent Celebrations, seemingly assuming that the European crowd would be less informed about the theme park land and more in need of persuasion to want to go. When Trowbridge asked how many in the audience had already visited Galaxy’s Edge, he was clearly surprised by the size of the response, perhaps half of the people in attendance at the panel. The short video clip showcasing fan reactions to riding Rise of the Resistance may not have been the kind of selling point the panel needed to offer. Similarly, the lengthy sales pitch for the Galactic Starcruiser seemed not to enthuse the crowd; leaving the panel, we overheard a lady dismiss the Starcruiser as something for only “posh people” to experience. It was also notable that the promotional video for the Starcruiser featured exclusively Original Trilogy music by John Williams, when one of the prominent criticisms of the Starcruiser experience is that it is locked into the Sequel Trilogy timeframe and therefore prohibits appearances by many beloved characters from other eras of the Star Wars timeline, particularly current Disney+ shows.
Overall, the panelists emphasized that Galaxy’s Edge is not simply a theme park land, nor Galactic Starcruiser simply a hotel at Disney World, but rather storytelling locations within the Star Wars galaxy. Martin announced that the main characters – Kai, Lys, and Nubs – will visit Batuu in an episode of the Young Jedi Adventures animated series. Kalama explained that the Imagineers think of Galaxy’s Edge as a storytelling platform, such as the addition of the Batuu Bounty Hunter game to enable guests to actively undertake missions rather than passively absorb the milieu of the land. Trowbridge noted that Star Wars storytelling is evolving too, just like the park experience. Mando and Grogu walked onto the stage as the current example, and Trowbridge confirmed that other familiar characters will be coming to Galaxy’s Edge in the future.
Despite all of the emphasis in previous panels that Galaxy’s Edge was designed as an in-universe, in-continuity experience for guests to live their own Star Wars adventure, it appears that fan demand to see their favorite Star Wars characters in person has shifted the calculus. The tales in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett take place twenty years or more before The Last Jedi, but that is not a good enough reason to deny fans the chance to see Mando and Grogu, or Boba and Fennec Shand, when they come to the Star Wars land. Hopefully Imagineering and Lucasfilm have learned that, for most fans, “living your own Star Wars adventure” means getting to see and interact with their favorite characters from across the saga – not simply visiting a fixed point on a franchise timeline. As Galaxy’s Edge loosens its rigid continuity and broadens its appeal, perhaps a similar pivot for the Galactic Starcruiser will be forthcoming, as well.
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