Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the first attraction to open in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In this ride review, we’ll share photos, video, where it ranks in terms of all-time Disney greats, and how the attraction compares to other interactive rides. (Note: this Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run review contains spoilers.)
Courtesy of the Star Wars Land media preview, I had the chance to meander through the queue and jump into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon several times, playing all three roles along the way. Each of these experiences was different, with my overarching impression being consistent throughout.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is, in a word, transportive. Both figuratively and literally. In this sense, it succeeds in a way that two recent very high profile rides (and arguably top 10 worldwide Disney attractions) have arguably failed, which alone makes it very compelling. That’s before we even get to the ride experience, itself…
The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run experience begins in the land itself, as soon as you see that famous starship from ground level. Obviously, the queue does not lead directly into that large and elaborately detailed (prop) ship–it leads into a gigantic show building.
Accordingly, it requires some effort to suspend the disbelief of guests, and convince them that they are entering a spaceport on Batuu and boarding the Millennium Falcon. My first time through, I was overcome with excitement and emotion, and didn’t actively think about this. It just worked.
I think this is how most guests will approach Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and will experience comparable results. It’s difficult not to be blown away by the detail and buy into the conceit that you’re inside an authentic port from the Star Wars universe, and subsequently, the Millennium Falcon itself. It’s very convincing, and ample to achieve suspension of disbelief.
On subsequent ride-throughs, I did actively think about the transition from the land to the ride while walking the queue, and still found myself buying into it. Of course, there’s always the potential to nitpick and tear apart the experience with insignificant little things or supposed “plot holes,” but Disney and Star Wars fans are not known to do such things, so I think we’re fine there.
For me, this is where Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run succeeds. Above, I mentioned two other superlative attractions that don’t do this as well, and those are Radiator Springs Racers and Avatar Flight of Passage. In the case of the former, you leave Radiator Springs (the setting of Cars Land), enter an entirely outdoor queue, and then emerge on a ride…that’s also set in a different Radiator Springs. It’s still a truly great ride, but the suspension of disbelief there is a bit wobbly.
Avatar Flight of Passage is another exceptional ride, save for the interminably long pre-shows. The Flight of Passage queue itself is a masterpiece of transportive themed design, but the wheels fall off once you begin the pre-shows. From my perspective, this is because so much of the attraction is a narrative contrivance to explain away why you just went from the mountains of Pandora to a room consisting of what are very clearly simulators.
Once you’re seated on that ride, I think you do suspend disbelief, but the gymnastics of the Alpha Centauri Expeditions and Pandoran Research Foundation, coupled with the link chairs and so on…gets a bit exhausting and is unnecessarily convoluted.
By contrast, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run uses a more straightforward approach, having guests enter a queue, wind their way through a ornately and convincingly-detailed spaceport, and then board the decks of a perfectly-reconstructed Millennium Falcon. It’s richly-crafted but easy to follow, and the end result is that you don’t question a thing. You are on board the Millennium Falcon.
As with Flight of Passage, the transition from the queue to the attraction involves a series of pre-show segments, plus a number of hallways and flight decks. Unlike Flight of Passage, these are not cringeworthy. Instead, you meet Hondo Ohnaka (of the Clone Wars) who explains that he has brokered a deal with Chewbacca to borrow the Millennium Falcon and heist some cargo. It’s a simple explanation that forwards the attraction’s narrative and this next-gen Audio Animatronics figure really impresses.
The ride itself takes place in an interactive Millennium Falcon flight simulator. For many of you, stepping foot in that cockpit is going to fulfill a lifelong dream, and be an emotional experience. As a more casual Star Wars (let’s say enthusiast), this was a goosebumps moment even for me. We’re using Cars Land for a lot of comparisons here, but I’d liken it to seeing the sh-boom moment when the neon flickers on for the first time in Radiator Springs.
No matter how limited your experience with Star Wars–so long as you have some exposure to this cultural touchstone–just entering the cockpit and taking a seat is going to resonate with you in some way. You might not be crying tears of joy…or you might!
In terms of logistics, six guests form a crew and enter the legendary Millennium Falcon cockpit, filling one of three roles: pilot, gunner, or engineer. The captain has flight responsibilities, gunners shoot at targets, and engineers are tasked with fixing damage incurred along the way.
As has been touted by Imagineering, the mission is interactive, with fulfillment of your responsibilities essential to success, and dereliction of duty certain to lead to your failure. It’s not a matter of simply pressing lit-up buttons or having “system override” do it if you fail.
We’ve already heard from some readers who are uneasy by this, either because they don’t want to be grouped with other guests who take it more or less seriously. I can (partially) assuage these concerns. First, there’s an auto-targeting system for the gunners, that essentially allows that one role to opt-out of the interactivity and enjoy the ride from a more passive perspective. So trade for that position if you don’t want a lot of responsibility.
Second, even if you do very little, the ship won’t just sit there. There is some degree of system override that will ‘create’ a ride experience if you want to do nothing. Additionally, no matter what you do (or fail to do!) the journey along the way and end result are interesting and potentially cool.
Here’s where the bulk of my criticism comes into play, and this is not insignificant. My first ride-through, I was pilot. This is by far the most instrumental role of the crew, and I was certifiably awful at it. I had the same complaint with our recent Star Wars Void VR Review, but I wish there were a chance to warm up with the controls before truly feeling their effects.
Not that it would’ve helped a ton, because I was truly awful throughout the whole mission. My piloting was a comedy of errors, overcorrecting each way far too much every single time I had the chance. I’m not suggesting that the controls are too sensitive as, frankly, I lack the expertise to have an opinion on such matters. However, I will say that the best piloting I experienced on the attraction–even with people who had done it before–can best be described as mediocre.
Perhaps the controls offer too much latitude for pilots to bounce the crew side to side in the cabin (serious gamers would probably argue that there’s not enough control), but my result was crashing into…pretty much everything…along the way. On the “plus” side, my terrible piloting gave riders a chance to experience “Star ‘Body‘ Wars.” The end of the mission confirmed the obvious, that my ‘success’ was close to being in the negative.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about doing terribly, but more than anything I was relieved to be out of the hot seat of the pilot. Were it just me, I would’ve been fine with it, laughing off the experience that would’ve been really fun despite my atrocious performance. And even then, it was, as everyone else with me had already ridden the attraction a couple of times. So it was fine.
Conversely, if we were a group of unrelated riders all experiencing Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run for the first time after waiting an hour or more, I think the feeling would’ve been a bit different. I probably would’ve been embarrassed for causing everyone’s results to be weak. Worse yet, I could’ve caused someone to have motion sickness, putting a damper on the rest of their day. (Someone in our group did feel queasy afterwards.)
For this reason, I personally enjoyed the other roles far more than pilot. If it were just me and a group of 5 friends who had all done the ride before, I’d say bring on the chance to improve my piloting skills, but as it stands, I can’t imagine ever seeking out that role again in ‘real’ daily operations of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
With this said, the ride experience of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run itself is most satisfying when doing the other two roles and paying partial attention to your duties (there is no ‘partial attention’ to piloting), but not being totally beholden to them. From that perspective, it’s a really fun, really dynamic adventure. On subsequent ride-throughs (to the extent those are possible!), get more into the interactivity once and sit back once.
Another criticism here is that while the mission is perfectly engaging as an interactive experience, when treated as a passive, the attraction’s “film” is not nearly as engaging as Flight of Passage or even Star Tours. There are some really cool visuals along the way, but this is absolutely designed to be an actively engaging experience, not something you can just sit back and be engrossed in for the visuals.
When it comes to the overall experience, I’d say that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a more ‘gamified’ version of Star Tours meets Mission: Space meets Avatar Flight of Passage. You’ve got the intensity (and obviously, the Star Wars connection) of Star Tours, plus the interactivity of Mission: SPACE, plus the general queue to ride structure of Flight of Passage. The biggest difference is that the interactivity is actually meaningful here, but otherwise, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the culmination of lessons learned from those three attractions.
As for how Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ranks in terms of all-time Disney attractions, it’s incredibly difficult to say. The queue areas and pre-shows were all better than I expected, and really captivating–on par with the best Imagineering has done.
The ride component of the attraction is not on that level, at least not for me. It’s too rooted in interactivity, and requires the cooperation and skill of a group of 6 people. For some people, that element of Smugglers Run will absolutely resonate, but I’m not one of those people, I suppose. (In our full Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Review, I likened Smugglers Run to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror–the build-up is better than the ride component of the attraction.)
As it stands, I’d consider Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run a really ambitious “wish fulfillment” attraction, and an E-Ticket caliber supporting attraction. On balance, it’s better than the likes of Star Tours or Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout simply by virtue of the whole package. Beyond that, I’m not really willing to rank it, as this is one that will really vary from person to person. It’s arguably in the Disneyland Resort top 10, but probably just outside of that for me, personally.
It’s worth noting that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was never intended to be the flagship attraction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. That distinction is reserved for the now-delayed Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which is expected to do some unprecedented things. Smugglers Run, on the other hand, fulfills fan dreams of boarding and piloting the Millennium Falcon, something it accomplishes by iterating upon popular attractions, taking them to the next level in terms of detail, depth of storytelling, and tech wizardry. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s such a sleek next-generation wheel that you might not recognize its wheel-ness.
Overall, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a solid initial entry for Galaxy’s Edge. Aside from hardcore Star Wars fans, this probably won’t be the new favorite attraction of many guests. However, as the ‘supporting attraction’ in an elaborately-themed land that itself is worthy of spending hours simply exploring, I think Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run does an admirable job of filling its role.
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how early to arrive to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition.
Are you excited to pilot the Millennium Falcon, or does the Smugglers Run experience sound intimidating to you? If you’ve had the chance to experience Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!