Before Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge touches down in Disneyland, it landed at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. In a Saturday morning panel, Disney Parks previewed the Star Wars-themed park ahead of its opening next month with Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, and Frozen star Josh Gad.
Trowbridge kicked off the panel by announcing that Galaxy's Edge has partnered with Force for Change, an organization that "harnesses the power of Star Wars to embolden and motivate the next generation of heroes and innovators, while also empowering the Star Wars fan community to use their fandom for good." Force for Change will also offer a sweepstakes to win a trip to the theme park; details are available on the official Star Wars Twitter.
Gad introduced the panelists, which includes Trowbridge, Asa Kalama, Margaret Kerrison, Doug Chang, Chris Beatty and Matt Martin.
Trowbridge described Black Spire as, "in the old days, might have been a little more prominent; it was a stopping-off point... It's kind of fallen in prominence. We're going to find the people who don't want to be in the mainstream: the smugglers, the traders... Basically, it's all the interesting people... [It's] an opportunity to participate in the world of Star Wars... It's also the most epic and the most immersive experience we've done... Everything in that street market feels like it was made by people on that planet for people on that planet."
"Someone has taken an old podracing engine... and they're using it to roast space meat," he continued. "We have some other adventures, some more active experiences... Who here wants to fly the Millennium Falcon? Well, we're going to give you that opportunity... to become the flight crew... to take the fastest ship on the galaxy on a truly interactive mission."
"Opening later this year, we have another big experience: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance," he announced. "If you go outside of the village... in the forested area... that's where we find the Resistance. They're encamped there, and they're looking for new recruits... We might find ourselves captive of the First Order and captive on a Star Destroyer... We want to get off that Star Destroyer, and that's exactly what we're going to do."
"It should be epic, because Star Wars, right? You may even come face-to-face with [Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe and BB-8]," he teased. "All of those fan-favorite characters are going to be there and if you can survive this encounter with the First Order... and Kylo Ren... you will be celebrated throughout the land."
"There's no movie magic behind this. These are all real experiences that people will get to visit," Chang explained.
"All Star Wars storytelling takes place in one storyline... our adventures in this park... all have a place within the Star Wars narrative," Martin explained.
"This planet, and this place, has a very long and rich history and we wanted to tell all those stories, we wanted to tell how the Renaissance got there," Kerrison added. "We worked very closely with Lucasfilm publishing and story teams to tell this story."
"Pirate's Price actually shows how Hondo has the Millennium Falcon and his uneasy partnership with Chewbacca," Martin teased.
"Because we're timeless, it doesn't matter where you come into this franchise... If you love the prequels, the original trilogy, the sequel trilogy... we've got so many Easter eggs," Beatty shared. "It's exciting, because you can purchase even lightsabers in this shop!... They're not the only lightsabers in the land."
"We went to Morocco... We always pin up certain words that design teams stick too. Authenticity was always up on the wall," he continued. He described how they wanted to a create a place layered in different cultures and history.
At the park, attendees can attempt to barter for one or track down a lightsaber builder and build your own.
"What's that texture? What's that grit? What is it about Star Wars that brings it to life? What does it smell like?" Beatty explained. He compared the space meat to schwarma.
The Disney park will also introduce Coke products in special, orb-like packaging. The label on the packaging will be translated into Aurebesh, a language spoken within the world of Star Wars.
"Every outpost on the edge of the galaxy has to have a cantina," Beatty pointed out. "We have a cantina on this planet. The drinks are going to be so amazing... They're strange. They're out of this world... The food and beverage team... really just knocked it out of this galaxy with their offerings. The drinks are great, but the star of the show is DJ-R3X [of Star Tours fame]."
"The short is basically R3X flunked his way out of Star Tours... in the battle of Jaku, in a very epic chase, he crash-landed on Batu... where he's repaired and turned into a DJ for the cantina," Martin explained.
The cantina will feature new music from Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes, the infamous catina band from the original trilogy, as well as an all-droid team -- a favorite of DJ-R3X, of course.
Kalama explained how attendees will be able to fully pilot the Millennium Falcon. "Everybody has a very important job to play, and it's up to you and your crew... as you make your way out of the cockpit, even that iconic hallway, it's going to look different according to how you fly... It's important that you do what you can to bring the ship back in... order," he teased, adding that Hondo is a good boss but may not take kindly to seeing his ship banged up.
Chang announced that Jim Cummings will return to voice Hondo, as he did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Paul Reubens will also reprise his role as DJ-R3X.
"A small green Jedi" will appear the park as well, according to Beatty. He announced Yoda will appear in the park, as voiced by Frank Oz. "It's incredible to work with the talent," he shared.
Longtime Star Wars composer John Williams has created new music for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Kalama described the park as, "rather than reliving Luke's story... a place where you cant truly live your own experience... For those who want to, we wanted there to be this opportunity to take on a persona... One of the keys way we're going to do this is the Play Disney app." He explained this will act as your own personal data pad. It is built around four key functions: hack, scan, translate and tune. This will enable attendees to interact even more closely with the park itself. He added that the way visitors interact with the park determines the outcome of their story.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland will open ahead of schedule on May 31, with the Galaxy's Edge featured in Disney World launching three months later on August 29.