Disney has released a slew of updates about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, including opening seasons for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the name of the village on Batuu, and some additional concept art. For vacation planning purposes, opening timeframes are most pertinent, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will debut in Summer 2019 at Disneyland and in Late Fall 2019 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Beyond that, Disney revealed that the name of the village in Galaxy’s Edge is called Black Spire Outpost, which is an infamous stop for traders, adventurers, and smugglers traveling around the Outer Rim and Wild Space. During panels at that event, Imagineers also confirmed the rumor that Galaxy’s Edge would feature full-sized AT-ATs, that the second attraction (after the Millennium Falcon ride) will take place aboard a Resistance Troop Transport ship, and that there will be a “creature stall” of some sort.
We’re late to the punch with this “news,” so there’s a good chance you’ve already read about it elsewhere. If not, here’s the link to the Disney Parks Blog article featuring new concept art and details about Black Spire Outpost on Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Rather than regurgitate those details here, I’m going to focus on what I think is most interesting here: the opening ‘seasons’ for the respective Star Wars lands…
Let’s start in reverse order, with the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World. While it’s common to think of December as winter (well, except perhaps when in Florida), it’s important to remember that fall technically does not end until December 21. This would put the specifically vague period of “Late Fall 2019” from around Thanksgiving until Christmas. Walt Disney World would undoubtedly like to open Star Wars land before Thanksgiving, but a desire by operations doesn’t necessarily translate to reality.
The problem with this Thanksgiving to Christmas opening range is that there aren’t many weeks that would provide a good, quiet time for the Star Wars land to debut with minimal operational headaches. It might sound appealing to have a splashy debut the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas, but those periods are already operational nightmares in the parks.
With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge sure to exacerbate crowds to an unprecedented degree, opening the new land during anything above a moderately-crowded time would be unpleasant, and opening during peak season could be downright disastrous. Walt Disney World is sure to train Cast Members and prepare crowd control for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but there’s really only so much advance preparation that can be done.
Some aspects of opening a new land are necessarily trial by fire. We saw this with Pandora – World of Avatar, which was chaotic for a stretch following its Memorial Day weekend opening, and that’s not nearly as crowded of a time as December. Moreover, the Avatar franchise does not have nearly the loyal following of Star Wars. (The crowds Pandora continues to pull should be eye-opening for operations in terms of Galaxy’s Edge expectations.)
The potential scenarios at Disneyland aren’t much better. At the resort level, Disneyland still doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to support Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Parking is a hassle on normal weekends, with the lots filling to capacity early somedays. The new parking structure won’t be done by next summer, which will mean crippling traffic on surface streets and the I-5 off-ramps unless further crowd control measures are put into place.
Inside Disneyland, the situation is only marginally better. To Disney’s credit, efforts have already been made to increase capacity and eliminate choke points. That still doesn’t change the fact that this is a 60+ year old park that was not designed for today’s–much less tomorrow’s–crowds. Don’t be surprised if the entire park has a one-way traffic sort of scheme used for crowd control around Main Street during nighttime spectaculars.
Hard ticket events are likewise a possibility at Disneyland, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a prolonged hard ticket event period–perhaps for several weeks from late May through mid-June 2019, with media previews late in June and the grand opening happening the second to last or last weekend of June 2019.
This give Disneyland’s operations team a chance to see crowd trends, plus what works and what doesn’t in a more controlled scenario. Just as important (to Disney, at least), it provides an up-charge revenue stream. And we all know Disney has no bashfulness about capitalizing on those nowadays.
Whether these hard ticket events last for a week or a month (or more) remains to be seen, but a one-night event a la Pixar Pier’s opening seems unlikely. Star Wars is a license to print money, and there’s no shortage of fans who will pay exorbitant amounts to experience Galaxy’s Edge early and/or with less crowds. Heck, I’m not a diehard Star Wars fan and am generally averse to Disney’s various new up-charges, but even I would pay extra to avoid those crowds.
It would seem that the only thing that would prevent Disneyland from doing hard ticket previews of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is if construction falls behind schedule. Thus far, we’ve seen no indication of that, but things could always change.
Another possibility is timed entrance tickets to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This is not an either/or thing for Disneyland; we expect both hard ticket events followed by timed entry tickets once the Star Wars lands open. This is something that Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan still utilizes on busy days years after that land’s opening, and it’s fairly effective.
At USJ, it’s a mad dash for paper timed entry tickets (think paper FastPass) once the park opens, but the U.S. Disney Parks could easily make this a largely-electronic process, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge entry becoming the new hot ticket FastPass+ or MaxPass. We expect both coasts will use timed entry; if not, the lines simply to get into the land could consume much of their respective parks.
Ultimately, save for opening in the middle of September or January (incredibly unlikely scenarios), there aren’t really any “good” times to debut Galaxy’s Edge. Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon with incredibly diehard fans; between that and diehard Disney fans, the opening of this new land is bound to be a maelstrom of crowds, long lines, and chaos no matter when it opens.
If you want to avoid the worst of this, going to a preview (likely paid) or waiting for at least one month after the respective openings is bound to be your best bet. One month may not seem like much time for crowds to die down, and it’s not. The reality is that crowds won’t truly die down for years to come. Once you get outside the opening rush, the difference between one month and one year after opening will be pretty negligible. Waits will be more dictated by seasonal crowd patterns than time removed from the grand opening. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is going to draw hordes of guests with wait times measured in hours for years to come.
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What are your thoughts about the opening seasons of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Will you avoid Disneyland and DHS during the debut frenzy of this new land, or do you plan on going right away to experience Batuu? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!