There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the first part of which will open in just over a week’s time. I struggled a bit with how to cover the opening. As you’re undoubtedly aware, a virtually identical Land opened in Disneyland back in June, with previews that began a month before that. I waffled between going to Disneyland to cover Galaxy’s Edge there and staying home to drink whiskey on the couch and cry. As you might expect, the latter won out, as it usually does. The fact is that for us Walt Disney World visitors, what’s happening out in Disneyland is largely irrelevant, and that would be even more true during limited previews or opening day festivities out in California. Even now, with a week to go, my own opinions of the Land are going to be based on limited previews here in Florida. Of course, unlike a lot of “media” sites, we’ll continue to be in the thick of things for the next hundred years, honing our touring strategies and seeing how best to enjoy each of the many parts that make up the planet of Batuu. In this brief introduction, I’ll discuss what to expect from Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run here in Florida during the first few months of operation.
You may click (almost) any image for a larger version.
Millennium Falcon: Smuggers Run is located in the very back left corner of Galaxy’s Edge, through the Marketplace area and past the various shops, stalls, and eateries. The entrance to the attraction is to the left of the ship.
The ride will assuredly become the Park’s top priority come August 29th when the Land opens to the public for the first time, even if that’s only true until December 5th, when Rise of the Resistance is slated to join the lineup. Rise of the Resistance is expected to be a much grander spectacle than Millennium Falcon, and perhaps more importantly, it’s also the first ride that you’ll come to when you enter Galaxy’s Edge, which will cause most people to hang a left into that queue immediately upon entering the Land. This may end up being good news in that Galaxy’s Edge will turn into a situation similar to Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where it’s possible to ride both Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey first thing in the morning because 95% of the people head to Flight of Passage first. That makes the wait for River Journey much shorter in the morning, both for the small number of people who head there first, and for those that begin their day with the banshee simulator and then head over to River Journey right after. If an even number of people went to River Journey and Flight of Passage, then the wait time would be more prohibitive because far more people would already be in line for the second attraction by the time you finish with your first.
Both Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance will open without FastPass+, though both rides are already equipped for priority access. Obviously, there are pros and cons to the situation, but the good news is that about 95% of each ride’s capacity will go to standby, which should keep guests moving steadily through the spectacular queues and help keep waits down. My guess, based on no insider information whatsoever, is that FastPass+ will come online for both attractions during the second week in January. Disney needs the additional FastPass+ capacity and the fact that guests staying on-site will be able to book FP+ at 60+ days in advance will continue to drive resort occupancy higher.
Logistically, it makes sense to visit Galaxy’s Edge first thing, as there is only one way into and out of the Land. You’ll have to traipse all the way back to the equivalent of the entrance to Lights, Motors, Action! on the old Streets of America in order to ride Millennium Falcon. The Land’s single exit is expected to dump every single guest into Toy Story Land with Alien Swirling Saucers immediately on the left. You’d think that 90% of the people at rope drop will be headed to Smugglers Run first thing, which should in turn open up the other attractions. If we’re able to hurry to Smugglers Run, then we should theoretically be able to get to Slinky Dog Dash with a short wait immediately after, followed by Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania, before moving on to Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. With the Extra, Extra Magic Hours scheduled every day between September 1st and November 2nd, from 6am to 9am, and low attendance during that first hour, it should be even more possible. Add the fact that FastPass+ is unavailable during Extra (Extra) Magic Hours, and we’ll be in even better shape during the first couple months of operation.
With a 5:20am arrival during the Extra, Extra Magic Hours period, my estimation is that our day should look something like:
- Smugglers Run: 6am – 6:25am
- Slinky Dog Dash: 6:35am – 6:50am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 6:53am – 7:05amm
- Toy Story Mania: 7:08am – 7:30am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 7:45am – 8:05am
- Tower of Terror: 8:07am – 8:35am
- Star Tours: 8:45am – 9:05am
- Oga’s Cantina or Docking Bay 7 Breakfast: 9:15am – 10am
But we’ll see what happens come the first week in September. Things are (probably) going to be completely nuts over the first weekend, particularly with the Labor Day holiday, but don’t let those crazy crowd pictures influence your feelings too much. The website will be hitting the ground hard during the first couple of weeks of operation and we’ll figure everything out.
Here’s the entrance to Rise of the Resistance, which is just a handful of feet away from the Land’s main entrance.
The queue for Smugglers Run is incredible as it winds its way around the Falcon before moving inside.
What I’m sure are not actually called the ship’s thrusters light up blue and make sound as the techs do some work.
The queue winds around outdoors for a bit when it gets longer – I’m standing in it right now with some fantastic views of the Falcon and the people posing in front of it. That guy on the right stood there for over an hour looking things over.
Several PhotoPass photographers are stationed around the ship.
Here’s a wider look at the setup.
And one more.
The interior queue is interesting with plenty to look at across multiple levels as we slowly make our way up the ramp.
There are no stairs on the way up, which I’m sure people will appreciate.
Elevators are also available if you need assistance.
On one of our rides, there was a lady behind us using a walker, and I was pretty sure that we were bugging her with all of our photo stops. But it turned out that she was pushing her walker with one hand and Periscoping on her phone with the other, so it should be pretty easy going up the walkway.
Here’s the proximity of all of the queue elements to the line behind me on the left and ahead of me up above.
We’re heading up.
Without FastPass+, once you find yourself inside, you’re looking at a 20-minute wait before you’re at the first pre-show area.
From here, you’re looking at about 15 minutes until it’s time to greet Hondo.
Which means it took just five minutes from being on the ground level to being up here.
Smugglers Run is also set up for single rider.
You might remember that Flight of Passage over in Pandora originally had single rider signage out in front of the attraction, but the ride never offered single rider privileges, even during previews.
That isn’t the case at Smugglers Run, where single rider is alive and well.
Here’s a wider look at the queue as it winds around this engine.
After a few minutes among the industrial elements, you’ll be able to see the Millennium Falcon parked outside.
Those views are sweeping as you circle around.
Several Star Wars characters roam Galaxy’s Edge.
Rey is looking over the Falcon here, but she mingles with guests out in the open during the majority of the day. In the picture that opened this post, Chewbacca was strolling by.
Grab your bags, because we’re about to go for a ride.
You’ll spend a brief moment in the next room.
There are three positions on-board the Millennium Falcon and the instructions on the overhead screens in this room are far too small to read.
We’ll come back to these roles momentarily.
You’ll be flying your mission on behalf of Hondo Ohnaka, a Weequay pilot who seems like he might not be paying you for your work no matter how well the mission goes.
The animatronic is impressive and the pre-show does an admirable job of bringing you into the experience.
If you’re looking for a throwback, Hondo’s fine furry friend Chewbacca appears on-screen.
The website typically hesitates on using words like “amazing” to describe anything but the finest in mass-produced cupcakes, but the interior of the Falcon is incredibly well done. At the end of this corridor, after the pre-show, you’ll be assigned your roles on the ship and this is where you can request to be pilot. More on this in a moment.
It “feels” like you’re actually inside the ship as you progress through the interior. It’s amazing.
Your time in the Chess Room, just before boarding, is all too brief.
For any Star Wars lover, one of the best photo opportunities on property is right here, but you’ll need to push through quickly because you’ll probably have all of two minutes in this room before it’s time to get going. It might take away from the immersion, but it’s a shame that the opportunity isn’t recreated at the end of the experience so everyone has a chance to get just the picture that they’d like. I’d say only 25% of the people interested in getting a seated picture are able.
There’s also plenty of other things to look at over the course of the 90ish seconds.
Six people ride together as part of a crew with two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. When you’re assigned your role, you’ll be handed a card with instructions that basically amount to, “press the button when it lights up.”
Even if you’re not big on Star Wars, the level of detail meets or exceeds what you’ll find in Pandora. Nobody cares about Avatar, but people still rate Flight of Passage as the best ride at Walt Disney World.
And if you are a fan of Star Wars, there may not be anything quite like stepping into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon for the first time.
Here’s the on-ride setup with the two pilots sitting up front, followed by the gunners in the next two seats, and then the engineers in back.
The left Pilot controls the ship’s movement left and right, while the right pilot moves the ship up and down, in addition to controlling the lever that will send the Falcon towards hyperspace.
I was a little apprehensive about being a pilot on my first ride, but 95% of the people that you talk to will tell you that it’s the only position to consider, so I gave it a shot. And I was very glad that I did. The pilots are the most keyed-in on what’s happening because all of your attention will be focused on what’s happening in front of you. The job of the pilot may or may not be a difficult one, but their performance greatly affects the quality of the ride for them and everyone else aboard. Do poorly, and the ship will jerk around, slow down, and crash….sometimes over…and over…and over. The ride won’t end and you’ll always keep moving forward, but it can be a bumpy experience to say the least. As someone who has obviously played a video game or two in his day, I didn’t have much trouble, but you do move the lever down to go up and move it up to go down, much like on a “real” spacecraft. If you’re having trouble, holding the circled stick in the center center typically does the trick well enough.
The gunner’s job may be the most frustrating. You can set it to aim for you automatically, which means you’ll simply press a button or two to your right if you’re seated on the right or on the left if you’re seated on the left whenever it happens to light up. Since the buttons are off to the side, you’ll have to take your attention off of what’s happening in front of you to perform your task, which otherwise requires very little skill. It would sort of be like if you were on Flight of Passage, and every 20 seconds, you had to fumble around in your pockets for a quarter to put into the machine underneath where you’re sitting to keep the thing going.
The Engineer job is the easiest and will have you pressing an assortment of buttons off to the left or right throughout the ride.
The Engineers, sitting in the back, do enjoy the best views of what’s happening as the Falcon theoretically glides along, at least when grandma isn’t holding her phone up in the air the entire ride. I’m sure it was some real choice footage.
The backseat is also typically the bumpiest and potentially the seat where you’ll be most prone to motion sickness. The pilots will be focused on what’s happening in front of them, while those to the rear will have to continuously take their eyes off the screen and look to the sides to press the buttons. I think this induces a bit more motion sickness. On Mission: SPACE at Epcot, they say that no matter how queasy you feel, that you need to continue looking at the screen or you’ll be in real trouble. I’m not a doctor, but I think that has something to do with not confusing your brain any more than you have to.
Between pressing the buttons, looking at what was happening in front of me, and checking the small screen on my camera, I ended up feeling a little woozy after riding in the back seat. If you’re prone to motion sickness, I’d request to be the pilot or at the very least, keep your eyes on the screen in front as much as possible.
Unlike Mission: SPACE, where pressing the buttons that make the crew go to sleep or fire the torpedoes don’t have any effect on the ride, your experience does depend on the performance of you and your team. Currently, with the Land still in previews, those riding are either cast members, their guests, “media,” or annual passholders. Typically, they have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on, or worst case scenario, you can ride again without too much of a wait. Once the tourists arrive, that may not always be the case with someone who doesn’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing, or that they’re supposed to be doing anything at all, in the pilot position. The engineers and gunners have much less impact on the quality of the ride.
Fortunately, you can request the position that you’d like prior to boarding. Hopefully, enough people who know what they’re doing will request to be pilots. With the large number of pods/cockpits, there likely won’t be long waits for any given position. If you’d prefer to enjoy the least pressure, then the engineer position is best. But I’d highly recommend the Pilot position, even if it’s your first go-around.
How any particular person comes down on the ride is of little consequence. While the website is typically hard on restaurants, upcharge events, and other experiences where high opportunity cost comes into play, you’ll want to experience Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run for yourself. There will certainly be plenty of time to discuss what could of, should have, or might have been.
As you disembark, you’ll hear about how well you did or didn’t do and the scene inside the hallway will change depending on the amount of damage to the ship. Do well, and it will be a pleasant disembarkation. Crash the thing and you may need to hurry before the hallways collapse around you. (Not really.)
Overall, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is an immersive, complete experience with the potential downside that the ride portion itself will be the biggest disappointment. The gunner and engineer jobs “feel” tacked on – as if somebody decided that the simulator experience wasn’t going to be enough, but also that spending the money to make the positions “feel” like a complete experience was too great. Imagine being able to climb down into one of the Falcon’s gunner wells to point a canon at oncoming enemy aircraft. Or even Disney supplying some sort of a gun, akin to Buzz Lightyear or Toy Story Mania, to point and shoot at the screen during the ride would be a huge improvement over button mashing. Only those who are interested in the least amount of responsibility will find the engineer position rewarding, and even if you’d just like to enjoy the ride to the best of your ability, you’ll still need to pay attention to those buttons to your right or left, pulling you away from the excitement that’s happening on-screen.
If anything, the fact that the buildup is so perfect probably takes even more away from the experience once you enter the cockpit. Consider requesting the pilot position.
Certainly, there will be more coverage of Galaxy’s Edge as the website is later and later to the party.