Here's a familiar and effective design trick often used at theme parks: Corral guests under or through a passageway that forces the crowd to narrow before a grand reveal.
Think of Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A., where parkgoers are shunted through a passage under a train tunnel that gives way to a romantic, turn-of-the-20th-century town and a fantastical castle. At the entrance to Disney California Adventure's Cars Land, an archway both shadows and frames the intricate yet massive hand-sculpted and rust-hued mountain range inspired by numerous Southwest landscapes.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, opening this weekend at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., is no different. The 14-acre land -- the park's largest expansion themed to a single franchise -- will usher guests through its entryways from Fantasyland and Frontierland into carved tunnels that lead to grand reveals of the bustling Black Spire Outpost.
"It promotes a sense of discovery -- a sense of adventure -- a sense of, 'I want to go and explore. I want to go and turn the corner,' " says Chris Beatty, an executive with Walt Disney Imagineering, the company's arm dedicated to theme park experiences.
The obvious similarities between Disneyland's past and its "Star Wars"-led future, however, will all but end there.
Envisioned as a busy, rugged space port, Black Spire Outpost's sheer size and activity will provide an immediate contrast to Disneyland's quaint, homey and protective feel. Forced-perspective illusions, designed to make objects appear larger, are needed sparingly here. A centerpiece of the land is a lifelike creation of the Millennium Falcon ship, which stands at approximately 100 feet long. On Rise of the Resistance, an attraction opening this year, an auditorium-sized ship hangar will drive home the point that guests are but one speck in a larger galaxy.
Throughout, we'll hear the roar of spaceships and musings of war. But traditional theme park trappings -- character meet-and-greets, passive rides and churros -- won't be found on Black Spire Outpost's planet of Batuu (to reflect the rugged nature of the land, you'll snack on turkey jerky).
Forget standing in line for a photo with Darth Vader; instead, you may find yourself attracting the attention of a bounty hunter, speaking to you not as a theme park guest but as a member of the "Star Wars" universe. Much of the non-essential signage will be written in the "Star Wars" language of Aurebesh, requiring a translation app to mimic the sensation of being a tourist on another planet.
And those who want to bring home a fancy, hand-built lightsaber need more than just a willingness to pay $200; the plan is to ask guests to provide a password to gain entry into the not-so-secret guildlike shop dedicated to saber-crafting.
INTO A NEW ERA