When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2019 (on May 31 and August 29, respectively), it was by far the most immersive land in any Disney park. Seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time, brushing shoulders with Stormtroopers, and finally learning what blue milk tastes like can be pretty overwhelming – making it easy to miss some of the little-known details and mysteries the land has to offer.
Travel + Leisure got a sneak peek at a new book all about the development of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and also spoke with two Disney Cast Members who worked closely on the project to uncover the secrets you need to know about before your next visit.
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The Design Team Traveled Around the World for Inspiration
For the Black Spire Outpost to feel real, Imagineers traveled all over the world looking for inspiration. They explored open-air markets in Morocco, Istanbul, Turkey, and Greece, snapping countless photos of everything from street market items to stonework and cracks in the pavement. In The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe, Walt Disney Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Scott Trowbridge said, “Because we’re building in the real world, and we want our work to be believable, these trips are really important for us. There’s no real substitute for going to places that are evocative of what we want to create.”
There’s a Very Good Reason They Created a New Planet for Disney
Galaxy’s Edge, along with the rest of Hollywood Studios, is intended to be a place where visitors can live their own adventure. When Imagineers had to choose where to set the land, they had a wealth of planets to choose from, but they instead created a brand new one. “We wanted it to be your Star Wars story. Not Luke’s story, or Han’s or any other Star Wars character, ” Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Creative Director Scott Mallwitz told Travel + Leisure. “It takes you away from trying to follow a story that’s already been told and takes you into living out your own story with your friends and family.”
By creating a new destination within the Star Wars universe, both lifelong fans and those unfamiliar with the franchise get to step foot onto a planet that’s new to them. No matter your entry point, it’s a whole new world begging to be explored. Mallwitz added, “We’re hoping for those guests who have never experienced Star Wars that the land itself will be the source of inspiration and their way into Star Wars.”
You Can Use Your Phone to Dive Even Deeper Into the Story
The Play Disney Parks app has been around since 2018, but the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge marks the first time a land at Disney was developed to fully integrate with the app. Inside the land, you can transform your phone into a Datapad that lets you hack into droids and door panels, scan the contents of various cargo crates, translate Aurebesh (a written Star Wars alphabet) messages throughout the land, and eavesdrop on characters’ conversations. “There’s a number of things that are in there that we don’t actually talk about or label out in the open that take your adventure to the next level,” Mallwitz said.
The Planet of Batuu Has a Long and Mysterious Past
Even though Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set during the most recent Star Wars trilogy, the land was designed and built with a lore dating back hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years. The massive petrified tree trunks dotting the landscape signify an ancient forest once stood where the Black Spire Outpost now thrives. There are other clues to the planet’s history, too. While queued up for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you may notice wall markings and navigational charts that appear to have been in the underground tunnels since ancient times. Mallwitz shared, “The land is outside the Star Wars world you know, so we had to invent our own history and own mythology. It’s intentional that everything on the planet isn’t from the same time period.”
Related: 20 Walt Disney World Secrets You’ve Never, Ever Heard Before
Nobody Knows Why the Black Spire is Black
Adding to the land’s secrets is a lone petrified tree in the center of the village that is darker than all the others. This “black spire” gave the outpost its name, but its origins are a mystery. Jackie Swisher, vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, told Travel + Leisure, “Why it’s black is something of a mystery. There’s clearly something that has happened here, but we don’t know exactly what.” On your next visit, see if you can find the black spire and the new tree growing in the same spot – yet another symbol of the marriage between old and new on Batuu.
The Land and Its Attractions Had Fun Code Names When They Were Being Built
Disney tries its hardest to keep big projects under wraps. In The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we learned that when Galaxy’s Edge was being built, the land was referred to as “Delos,” a Greek island the designers visited while searching for inspiration for the land. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was “Big Bird” and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was known as Alcatraz, presumably because it is a First Order prison from which riders must escape.
It’s the Only Place to See a Full-size Millennium Falcon
This may come as a surprise, but until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a full-size Millenium Falcon had never been built. The models used for the films were either scaled, computer-generated, or only partially built based on what was needed for shooting. The more than 100-foot-long versions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland are now the only two full-size Falcons, and they are accurate down to the tiniest detail.
The DJ in Oga’s Cantina Had a Prior Job at Disney
Oga Garra may be the proprietor of Oga’s Cantina – the local watering hole in Galaxy’s Edge – but DJ R-3X (or DJ Rex) provides the entertainment. From behind his turntables, he spins a series of intergalactic bops, but DJ is not his first career. Before it was updated to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, DJ R-3X served as a Star Tours pilot droid. Legend has it that he found his way to the Rebel Alliance and crash landed on Batuu. Fun fact: DJ R-3X is voiced by Paul Reubens.
There’s a Good Luck Charm in the Land
One of the highlights of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the large, open-air marketplace. There are various stalls with toys, clothing, and other wares one might expect to find on an otherworldly shopping spree. At the entrance to the land sits a large obelisk and, like most other things in the land, it has an interesting backstory. In The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Imagineering Managing Story Editor Margaret Kerrison is quoted as saying, “If you touch it and say, ‘Til the spire’ then it gives you good luck so that you may return in good health to this place again.” We can’t wait to test that one out.