To create the look of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney relied on a tried-and-true system that served mastermind George Lucas so well. It anchored the new theme-park land in a real place.
“The trick to designing ‘Star Wars’ is that 80 or 90 percent of it is real, and then the other 10 percent is the freshness that takes it into the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” said Doug Chiang, vice president and creative director for Lucasfilm.
The result is a stark, solid-rock existence, presented primarily in earthy tans and beiges. It’s otherworldly, but has roots in the petrified forests of Arizona and influences derived from field trips to Istanbul, Turkey, and Marrakesh, Morocco. This is Batuu, a new-to-us “Star Wars” planet, set on the edge of the galaxy. The land debuted Friday, May 31, at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and a clone of it opens Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Galaxy’s Edge features domed structures, steep stone walls, winding paths, discrete entrances, an open-air marketplace and thousands of visual bits inspired by scouting trips.
“There’s so much you can mine in terms of design when you go on location,” Chiang said. “Just smelling the air, feeling the moisture in the air will inform how you design, what materials go into it.”
“It really is just very impressive how they did it. It looks fantastic,” said Denise Preskitt, owner of the Mousesteps website. She checked out Disneyland’s “Star Wars” land on opening day. “It’s supposed to be big, but it’s much bigger than I expected.”
Chris Spokesmayne, an Orlando-based YouTube livestreamer, also attended the first day of Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim.
“You know, as a ‘Star Wars’ fan, it was awesome,” said Spokesmayne, who said he went to the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride first. “We were bee-lining it towards the ride, because we knew that we’ll get to explore the land after, but it’s so hard to bee-line towards the ride because you’re just looking at all of this amazing architecture. It was incredible,” he said. “We felt like we were transported somewhere else.”
The land is a mix of a the familiar and the fresh.
“One of the things that we decided very early on is to build a new place, a place that was not a memory of somebody else’s ‘Star Wars’ story,” said Scott Trowbridge, creative executive with Walt Disney Imagineering. “It was not a place to be visited in one of the early films. We know those places, we know the stories that happen there. We know the characters’ experiences there — and we know that we’re not part of those stories,” he said.
Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, had access to plans from the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie, including concept artwork by artist Ralph McQuarrie. That formed another creative launching point for Batuu.
“It had to have layers and layers of history and story,” Chiang said. While park visitors may have previously been unaware of this far-flung planet, characters in the “Star Wars” universe are familiar with Batuu, which has existed for thousands of years. Thus, Chewbacca has brought the Millennium Falcon to the edge of the galaxy for repairs, the Disney story goes.