After purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney tasked Imagineers with designing new Star Wars attractions for their theme parks. In 2015 Disney announced they would be building two massive lands based on the franchise, one at Disneyland and the other in Walt Disney World. Eventually named Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the lands we got in 2019 were completely different from what was first designed during those early years—and, not even exactly what was officially announced.
Let’s go over what the original Star Wars land might have been, and how the land we did get changed along the way. Be sure to check out the video version for additional visuals below.
Part 1 — Tatooine
Disney’s Hollywood Studios was an obvious early choice to host additional Star Wars themed attractions after the Lucasfilm acquisition. The park was desperately in need of new attractions, and the franchise already had somewhat of a presence.
The earliest plans seemed to keep the existing Star Tours attraction in place, using it as the anchor for the land. The proposed land would be designed around it, taking over much of the Echo Lake area of the park. New themed shops and dining would be added, as well as a couple attractions, to help fill out the land.
Imagineers reportedly spent nearly two years developing this concept, which was originally going to be based on Tatooine, namely the Mos Eisley Spaceport. Nearest to Star Tours would of course be the Mos Eisley Cantina. A larger. An inside version of the Jedi Training Academy would take over one of two theaters near Echo Lake. And the Indiana Jones Stunt Show would be torn down to make room for additional attractions.
Not much is known about what new attractions were being developed for the area, but rumors at the time pointed to a walk-through Millennium Falcon exhibit, an attraction where you get to ride a Bantha, and some sort of flat ride themed as Tie-Fighters or X-Wings. While the park was in need of more family-friendly attractions, many have derided these early plans for seemingly including what would’ve essentially been yet another Dumbo clone.
If they had stuck with this rumored version of a Star Wars land, we may not have gotten a ride as immersive as Rise of the Resistance. Although, it’s possible that the space that would’ve been opened up by closing the Streets of America and the Backlot Tour could’ve been used for Florida’s own version of Cars Land, located right beside Toy Story Land, had it not been used for Galaxy’s Edge.
Part 2 — The New Trilogy
It has been rumored that the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley in the summer of 2014 changed the direction of the vision for what a Star Wars land should be. Reports that higher-ups at Disney told the Imagineers that they needed something more immersive; more impressive. An open-layout land spotlighting an existing attraction wasn’t going to cut it anymore. They wanted the grand reveal you get when entering Diagon Alley. You shouldn’t be able to see the land until you’re already in it. And so, the location for the land inside of Hollywood Studios was changed.
Around this time Disney was also working on their first Star Wars movie since purchasing the company. While Imagineers had spent a couple years designing a land based on a location made popular by the original film in 1977, a tide was turning within Disney to look towards the future of the franchise. They began to realize that there were going to be a lot more Star Wars stories ahead of them, than behind. So, they threw everything away, and started from scratch.
With a new focus on telling stories from the upcoming sequel trilogy, and beyond, the designers opted to create a new planet location altogether, rather than selecting one from the upcoming film. In the world of Star Wars, this new planet would be located in the outer rim. It would take some inspiration from Tatooine, but not be restricted to what audiences had already seen before. Batuu, as it was later named, would essentially be a blank slate. And Disney liked that they could populate it with whatever, and whomever they came up with in the coming years.
Part 3 — More Missions
In an attempt to create new and immersive rides for this reinvented version of Star Wars land, Imagineers decided to up the ante. They took their concept of being able to explore the Millennium Falcon to the next logical step: being able to pilot it.
In the years leading up to the official grand opening of the lands in California and Florida, there were rumors of the ride opening with up to 4 different missions. Unfortunately, the ride opened with only one mission, one where you steal coaxium from a train (not dissimilar from a sequence from Solo: A Star Wars Story, which has opened in theaters a year prior to the ride debuting).
Test footage was shown at a technology conference the year before the ride opened that seemed to highlight something from another mission. Leaked footage from the event showing off the real time graphics rendering capabilities included a long corridor filled with AT-AT walkers, a scene not seen in the version of the ride that opened with the land.
It was rumored that the land was rushed to open, forcing crews to focus on whichever mission would be the fastest to complete. Even in the days leading to the grand opening, rumors of additional missions coming online in the coming years were still being reported.
The way the attraction is set up certainly lends itself well to the prospect. Whether randomized, programmed, or even selectable, the briefing area directly before the cockpit could present you with your mission objective right before you take your seat and take off. Who knows if and when we may ever see additional missions added, but many agree, it could certainly add a repeatability factor to the ride.
Part 4 — The “Bantha” Ride
One idea that may have initially crossed over from the original Tatooine plans was a rode concept where you get to ride a Bantha through the land. Although, going by behind-the-scenes footage from 2015, it appears that the animal guests would be riding on may have been initially designed as a Dewback.
The rumored attraction has been described as a Peoplemover style conveyance ride that would take guests around a stretch of the land. This slow-moving attraction might have not only provided unique views of Galaxy’s Edge, but could’ve added some much-needed kinetic energy to the area.
Thanks to some behind-the-scenes Imagineering footage we can see how the ride mechanics were being designed, to make it feel like you’re really riding on a 4-legged creature. According to Jim Hill of the Disney Dish Podcast, the attraction would utilize a trackless ride path, so it would really seem like you were riding an alien creature, and not just some ride vehicle.
This attraction might’ve been located along the land’s main pathway, leading from a loading zone across from the Market to the Resistance base and back. No one is quite sure why this attraction never made it off the ground. Guesses range from a poor estimated hourly capacity, to budget cuts—or, maybe it just plain made people sick. We may never know.
Part 5 — Entertainment and Dining
While the land opened with counter service and window service dining locations, as well as a small cantina, permits originally showed plans for a table-service restaurant to be featured as well. Early concept art for the land seemed to include what looked to be a dinner show, but rumors say that was pared down to an animatronic-led experience more akin to Sonny Eclipse in the Magic Kingdom. Oga’s Cantina opened with the land, but the space for this mysterious restaurant appears to remain open and unused, possibly saved for the future.
In the years leading up to the land’s opening we were promised aliens, creatures, and characters that would roam around Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineers told the story of a grumpy bounty hunter named Harkos who would interact with guests differently depending on how well they flew the Falcon, or to collect intergalactic debts.
We do have the Datapad game in the Disney Play mobile app which allows us to interact with the land, but we were promised much more. Your personal reputation was supposed to be important throughout the land. Imagineers gave examples where the bartender at the cantina would comment on your success or failure of your latest Millennium Falcon mission. And yet, these scenarios have yet to materialize in practice.
Another concept we heard about in the years leading up to the land’s opening was something we actually got a small taste of during the opening celebration: Rooftop battles. According to lead Imagineer Scott Trowbridge, stories have been written and choreographed for the many rooftops and catwalks throughout the land, so it’s possible that they may be introduced over time. For now, some of the catwalks are used by Storm Troopers, keeping an eye on things.
Part 6 — Roaming Droids
Disney’s biggest broken promise for Galaxy’s Edge may be the concept of roaming droids. From the very beginning we were told the land would be bustling with droids—from ones we know from the films, to all new models created just for the theme park lands.
In 2016 and 2017, Imagineering research and development manager Ashley Girdich brought a maintenance droid named Jake into the parks for some tests. Jake met with guests and explored parts of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland as part of Imagineering’s autonomous character pilot program. Guests seemed to love Jake, and by all accounts the playtests were a success.
And yet, in the months leading up to the official opening of Galaxy’s Edge, roaming droids were excluded from concept art. At first we heard that heavy crowds and safety concerns were why the land would open without them, but later that year, Disney admitted that they had no current plans to use the autonomous character technology in the parks.
You can still find stationary droids around the land, as well as droid footprints in certain places. Plus, there’s this guy turning the spit in front of Ronto Roasters. Finally, months after opening, we did get one roaming droid, well, sort of. R2-D2 has been spotted roaming around the area. This one is remote controlled by a nearby Cast Member. And if you’re willing to shell out $25,000 at the Droid Depot, you can take this astromech droid home yourself.
Part 7 — More to Come(?)
Shortly after the land opened Scott Trowbridge reassured us once again that the land itself will never be complete, and that there will be more to come. With continuing media based on the Star Wars galaxy coming out, from The Mandalorian to new movies and everything in between, designers have a never-ending stream of new lore to pull from.
While we have had smaller changes, like set dressings being added in Dok Ondars, photo ops being introduced, and even new merchandise or food offerings, it’s entirely possible we could one day see much more added. Perhaps a new mission could be introduced to Smugglers Run, the table service restaurant could be built, or even that third attraction could show up one day.
For now, focus will be on opening the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, commonly referred to as the Star Wars hotel. This 2-night larping-style resort will incorporate many of the concepts we were once promised for Galaxy’s Edge, but at a steep price.
Hopefully, after that’s open and ready to receive passengers, they can go back in and continue to work to bring the Black Spire Outpost of Batuu to life.
Hope you enjoyed this look back at the development of Galaxy’s Edge! Be sure to check out the video version of this article here. And you can see our previous articles about unbuilt attractions here. Subscribe to the news feed to never miss an update, or enter your email address below. Photos: Disney