Sorry about that. I wanted to wait until I got home to post about it. The whole experience was a whirlwind and awesome and I'm so happy I got to do it.
I spent a lot of time taking photos and shooting video for Disney bloggers. That's how I weaseled my way in: support personnel for DPMP wannabes wanting more photos with them in the shot, having someone to hold the camera at more than arm's length while they logged Instagram stories, stuff like that. I've decided I'm not going to apply for DPMP again (more on that later), so it was extra special getting to do this to end that chapter. I did get to taste some of the foods and drinks available in SWGE, interacted with the cast members a bit, and got to ride Smuggler's Run a few times.
I got in town just early enough to make it over to the dedication ceremony Wednesday night. Could clearly see even 40+ years later why Mark Hamill was cast as Luke and Harrison Ford was cast as Solo. Hamill's speech about how thankful he was to be part of the SW franchise and all the great stories he's heard from fans over the decades was really moving. Got a kick out of Hamill talking about being there for the opening of Star Tours and what a big thrill it was to have an actual Disney Parks ride tied to movies he'd been in. And now this. And then Ford ad-libbing a tribute to Peter Mayhew and throwing off the cue for the fireworks was just Han Solo enough for the moment.
Walking around SWGE on Thursday, the word that kept coming to mind was "gratitude". I'm not the most intense Star Wars fan, but the movies and its universe have been part of my life for pretty much all of my life. The first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater, back in the one-screen movie house in the town I grew up in, was Star Wars: A New Hope during its initial theatrical run. I was Luke Skywalker for Halloween when I was 5. My favorite Christmas present from childhood was the Death Star play set. SWGE is built for people like me. They worked so hard to get so many details right, stuff casual fans or non-fans wouldn't have noticed. Shout-out to the people at Coca-Cola who designed special beverage bottles for SWGE printed in SW language, with design inspired by thermal detonators. So many moments that warmed the heart of my inner grade school kid.
Another word that kept getting thrown around was "immersive". You really do disappear into Batuu. The basic premise of Batuu it is was once a bustling port and hub of travel and commerce, but then lightspeed technology developed at Batuu was no longer a necessary stop to refuel and buy supplies. So now it's a little run down because there isn't as much money flowing through it, and because it's no longer a strategic location in the galaxy it's become a haven for beings of the galaxy who would rather not be found. IMO it's genius they chose Batuu, grounding it firmly in the Star Wars universe while giving the cast and crew freedom to create their own characters and evolve the story there as the SW universe expands further.
Anyway, it's an architectural wonder. They do a great job giving you great sights of Batuu from basically anywhere in the SWGE section without being aware that you're in Disneyland. There's one spot where you can see some of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but its figure kinda fits the view so I get why they left it in. I suppose the weather being 72 and sunny every day might be a giveaway that you're in Southern California, but it works.
The cast members interact with you as if you are on Batuu. There's code words and catchphrases you use and pick up around the cast that help unlock new things to look for and see. I don't know how much of that will be experienced as huge crowds get unleashed into the SWGE, especially when the DHS version gets going. I was blown away by how good the cast was before the thing even opened. Usually the cast member experience at DLR is inferior to WDW, but on Batuu they bring it. It's comparable to the wizards of Diagon Alley Orlando interacting with the muggles who wandered in, or if one of those historical places you went to on field trips where the staff all acted as if it was a specific place/time was actually awesome. It did get a little rough talking "credits" with the bartenders and merchandise sellers, but overall you see how much work they've put into creating an immersive experience.
So.... Smuggler's Run. There's going to be fisticuffs in one of these cockpits, or right outside. At some point a couple groups who don't know each other and spent a couple hours in line waiting to ride it only to have it ruined by some idiot kid who begged to be pilot but didn't fly the mission and instead just spun the Falcon around in circles is going to cause violence from the other group who had their ride ruined. I better back up a little bit.... there's six chairs in the cockpit: two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. One pilot handles horizontal movement, the other vertical movement. The two gunners shoot at stuff. The two engineers press buttons and such fixing problems that pop up with Falcon during the run. This would be an awesome setup for a place like Main Event or Dave & Buster's or even the old DisneyQuest where you could take your own group in and go for it on your own terms. But waiting a couple hours and getting teamed up with another group you don't know? Or having three people who really really want to be pilots and only one opportunity to ride the ride on that day or even a lifetime? That's gonna cause some trouble. The pilot controls are wicked responsive and really tough to pick up without practice or a lot of gaming experience. For someone who has played a lot of flight or driving video games it won't be too rough, but getting both pilots on the same page will be a challenge without rehearsal... too much risk of having all the waiting ruined by giving the stick to someone with all the skill of my wife playing Mario Kart. I got a turn as pilot, gunner, and engineer. Pilot was by far the most fun but also the most pressure. You can overcome a lousy gunner or a slow engineer but a crap pilot is tough to get past. I found engineer to not be that much difference from Mission: Space as an experience, but a bit more challenging. Gunner required a bit of suspension of where the true gunner chairs are on the Falcon and what the sightings are like, but was still fun.
The queue for this ride is part of the experience, both as an interactive storytelling experience and as a love letter to fans of the Millennium Falcon. I'll admit it; I got a little choked up sitting at the Dejarik table inside the Falcon, just like I'd sit my Luke Skywalker action figure there in my best friend's Millennium Falcon when we were kids while his Han Solo figure sat in the cockpit. And there's a color coded wait right before you enter, kind of a hybrid of the Dumbo queueless queue and the 30 Rock waiting room at the Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Studios Orlando. You're put into a group of six, assigned a color, and then the role cards are distributed. For us, they allowed trading roles but not colors. But I could see a stink being put up for a twosome wanting to trade out of a color because they got engineer instead of pilot.
Disneyland sells beer now. That's new. I sampled a Bad Motivator IPA. Not my thing, but IPAs in general aren't my thing. The milks were pretty good and will be a ton of fun for kids and something you will be able to re-create at home.
Didn't get the full feel of the light saber builder show. It looked like they are going for an Ollivander's type thing bringing people in small groups, and choosing someone (presumably a kid) to test different light sabers for the young Padawan. This shtick works well at Ollivander's since it's authentic from the books and movies. But I don't want to be the parent who has their kid chosen for light saber testing then told they can't have it because the saber is 199 "imperial credits". Sure at Universal they are charging $40-50 for that stick of plastic, but the sensors on the ends can execute "magic" tricks at stations when done properly. No such luck at SWGE.
The build-a-droid thing was really cool. As a frequent parkgoer who knows what a premium time is within the Parks, I would have preferred the build-a-droid out in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs because building one can take a while, but the mix of classics and customized pieces are really well-done. But I didn't buy one.
For those of you going to DLR these first few months... they are doing the timed entry thing by sending one group en masse at entry time, and that group is who is in there for the next four hours. They aren't sending people in and out every hour like I'd expected. Our guess is waiting to hit up Smuggler's Run until a little later in that four-hour time will probably have a shorter wait, as there will be a crush to the queue at open but a lot of people only riding it once. And without fresh meat coming in every hour, that line should thin out after two hours or so.
So yeah, I'm not going to apply for DPMP again. After really thinking about it, I realized what I really want is to be chosen to the Panel, not do the actual work of the Panel or launch my own Disney-related brand before or after. My interests are too broad. And with the kid at the top of her class after two years of high school, 99th percentile standardized test scores, and a group project for her Energy & Sustainability class last spring that might escalate into a patent application, she needs her father around supporting her at homework and activities time, assisting in the college search and selection, not playing Disney Trip Planner for little compensation and no plan to leverage the exposure. So that's what I'll be focusing on the next couple years. I'll have more time to play after the kid moves out. So don't expect me to participate in this thread much going forward. But we are going to WDW for the kid's birthday this fall (we booked the trip thinking SWGE Orlando wouldn't be open yet and the Parks would be a little less crowded; whoops) so I might livepost from queues there to help my cope with the waits.
Thank you for your time.