I don’t fully understand how I fell in love with Star Wars as a child in the 90s. Before “The Phantom Menace” came along in 1999, the franchise traded on parents showing the films to their kids on VHS, an expansive but sometimes nonsensical expanded novel universe, and toys both old and new.
Say what you will about the prequels, but combined with the CGI-enhanced re-release of the original trilogy, they created an opportunity to indoctrinate a whole new generation of fans.
I loved it. Unlike Star Trek, Star Wars was a little easier to grasp — heroes with blue and green lightsabers battling villains with red weaponry. The stories were not so unlike the fairy tale storybooks we were raised with.
As I got older, I took to reading the expanded universe novels and learned there was a whole world of stories, characters, and details outside of the movies. There was love, betrayal, life, death. It was incredible, and I consumed the books as quickly as my parents would buy them for my eighth grade self.
That expanded universe was retconned when Disney bought Lucasfilm, but they had done their job. I’m a Star Wars guy. I have an appreciation for Star Trek — as if you have to choose between the two — and it’s generally consistent logic and foundation in science, but I love those classic clashes of good versus evil, with a dash of spiritualism via the Force.
My best friend Ana and I met nine or so years ago at the East Los Angeles College student newspaper, the Campus News. The name is a little on the nose, but it was a great launching pad for young journalists.
Ana and I quickly realized we had a lot in common — we liked all manner of the same nerdy stuff, Star Wars included. What was even stranger is that she and I share the same birthday, May 22, though separated by two years. Anyway, while my career took me into newspapers professionally, Ana has done a few different things since then, most recently working at the Disneyland Resort.
Suffice to say we were both excited when the cast member preview for the so-called Star Wars Land, Galaxy’s Edge, was announced. It promised to be everything we had waited for since we were kids — a fully immersive Star Wars experience. What made this perfect, of course, is that she managed to book her preview slot on our birthday.
Because it’s still early, I’m not going to spoil Galaxy’s Edge for you. It’s clearly a love letter to Star Wars and its fans, and part of the magic is discovering everything it has to offer for yourself. From the second you step into the land, Disneyland disappears, and you’re on the planet Batuu on your way into Black Spire Outpost. The cast members don’t know what “Smuggler’s Run” is — for the uninitiated, that’s the name of the ride in which you pilot the Millennium Falcon — but they know where you can find Hondo Ohnaka, who’s looking for flight crews to help transport goods for him.
A friendly cast member shared a quote from Marshall in “How I Met Your Mother” that perfectly explains the entire Galaxy’s Edge cast member philosophy:
Ted, the only people in the universe who have never seen Star Wars are the characters in Star Wars, and that’s ’cause they lived them Ted, that’s cause they lived the Star Wars.Marshall, in response to Ted telling him that Stella had never seen Star Wars
Even without the fancy, app-based alternate reality game, you can play in character with all of the cast members in Galaxy’s Edge. That same friendly cast member explained that their job is essentially one-on-one improvisation. So play. Be a Jedi in hiding. Be a First Order supporter. Be a scoundrel. You can basically be the Star Wars character you’ve always wanted to be.
This is as spoilery as I’m going to get — if you go, make sure someone in your party is ready to drop $200 to build a lightsaber (though they only allow two observers to go along with the builder). It’s expensive, certainly, but not only do you come out with a high-quality lightsaber that doesn’t feel like a plastic toy, you also participate in an intimate, almost spiritual ceremony that is a true show-stopper in a land created to do that at every turn.
As with all else in my life, I was exceptionally fortunate that Ana chose to bring me along to experience Galaxy’s Edge just a little earlier (and probably with fewer people to compete with). For four hours, I reverted to that kid who grew up associating with a sandy-haired boy from Tatooine staring out into a twin-sun sunset and wondering what adventure lied in store for him.