It sure has felt like a long wait since Disney CEO Bob Iger announced grand new Star Wars-themed areas (later revealed to be named Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) for Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World back at D23 Expo 2015. Over the following three and a half years, new details have slowly trickled out about the 14-acre expansions currently under construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the original Disneyland in 2019: upon opening they will both incorporate two E-ticket attractions— Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance– plus a fully realized, bustling city set on the now-canon planet Batuu, complete with a marketplace, character meet-and-greets, and of course a cantina.
But the most intriguing aspect of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge concerns a buzzword that has perhaps popped up too often in recent discussions of theme park design– its immersive nature. The word “immersive” has, in fact, become so overused that it can mean any number of things, and has been employed to describe virtual reality experiences, pop-up activations at comic conventions, and even promotional websites. But a growing live theater movement in major cities around the US has probably best utilized and exemplified the term, plucking enthusiastic patrons from their everyday lives and depositing them for hours at a time in entirely separate realities, removed from the restraints of a stage or screen. And immersive theater is, to my understanding based on panel discussions I’ve seen at the parks and Star Wars Celebration, the burgeoning art form Disney Imagineers have borrowed from the most in developing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.