Editor’s Note: This first section is spoiler free and includes a general description & my thoughts/observations.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is the signature attraction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The Walt Disney World version at Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened on December 5, 2019 and the Disneyland version opens January 17, 2020. The attraction is an immersive experience featuring several components and ride systems. The Imagineers have pulled out all the stops and utilized most of the tricks in their playbook for this experience.
The back story is the Resistance have set up an outpost on Batuu to hide from the First Order. You are a new resistance recruit. You are briefed by Rey and BB-8 on a plan and then set off in a Intersystem Transport Ship (I-TS) to a secret location. While traveling something goes wrong and you are captured by the First Order and are taken prisoner on a First Order Star Destroyer. You need to escape the Star Destroyer and return to Batuu without giving up the secret location.
For this attraction the Imagineers blend the queue, preshow and ride systems to create a comprehensive experience. Here is an attempt to describe it spoiler free, below I have more detail with spoilers if this makes zero sense to you — This includes a traditional queue that is similar in detail to Indiana Jones at Disneyland and then a briefing/preshow type room. Followed by a standing ride on a transport ship. Then a walkthrough of sorts and another preshow type room before finally reaching a ride vehicle. The ride vehicles are trackless (similar to Mystic Manor, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, or Ratatouille) and you move quickly through two stories of a Star Destroyer with large sets, tight spaces, audio animatronic figures, projections, and special effects. Also there are lifts and a drop sequence. The attraction ends with a sort simulator type experience.
Due to the complexity of this attraction and the demand Disney is using a virtual queue using boarding groups to manage the wait times and experiences. In a nutshell to use this system you enter the park, call up the App or visit a kiosk, and register for a group (if one is available). Throughout the day groups are called. Once your group is called you receive a push notification and have two hours to return. For more details on this I have another post detailing my experience with boarding groups for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World.
I was able to experience Star Wars: The Rise of the Resistance three times during my December 2019 Walt Disney World Trip. I found the overall experience to be one of the best Walt Disney Imagineering has ever created. I think this will be a new high water mark for theme park attractions. The integration of the queue, preshow and ride systems worked to create a great experience. I have always been a fan of longer, immersive experiences vs quick thrill ride type attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are at the top of my all-time attraction lists. You are immersed in the story and the experience just keeps building as you go through it. You are given time to adjust to the Star Wars Universe and then several “wow moments” are used to build up to the finale. Like any great attraction the level of detail is extensive and each ride through you pick up on elements you missed the previous time. The trackless ride system allows for some flexibility and variation and there are two primary paths through the attraction that offer slightly different experiences. I am looking forward to visiting again.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Since experiencing the attraction I have received several common questions via email, Twitter or in person from friends and family. If you have a question feel free to ask away and I will share my experience and two cents:
Q: How long is the ride?
A: This is a tough question to answer. The entire experience from the first briefing room through exiting the attraction took me about 30 minutes. Time on the trackless transport is about 5 minutes. With the boarding groups it took about an hour total time from entering queue to exiting.
Q: How bad is the drop?
A: I am not one for drops.. my limit is Pirates of the Caribbean. Anything more and I avoid it. The sequence in this attraction is very quick and the sensation did not seem that bad to me. I was apprehensive the first time but the subsequent rides were doable.
Q: How is the simulator portion if I have motion sickness?
A: This is harder to judge. One member of my family is prone to motion sickness. They do not enjoy Star Tours or even the Circlevision 360 films. They had no problems with Rise of the Resistance and actually went a second time with me even. The movement during the simulator portion seemed more fluid and less range of motion than Star Tours. It is more than say Smugglers Run though.
Q: How is the attraction for non Star Wars fans?
A: Your mileage will vary on this one, but I think any Disney Parks or theme park attraction fan will be impressed with the attraction. As a point of reference, no one in my immediate group during the December trip to WDW were die hard Star Wars Fans. A couple had seen a couple of the films but do not really know the universe or stories. They were not impressed with Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. They got nothing out of piloting the Falcon and once was enough for them, they have passed on it since that first ride and would rather relax or go see something else. They walked out of this attraction impressed and wowed by it and were willing to get up at 6am on vacation to go a second time.
Editor’s Note: This last section includes spoilers. So if you are planning to experience Rise of the Resistance soon or just do not want to know details you should avoid this next section.
Extended Ride Experience Description with my Thoughts/Observations:
Below is an extended description of the attraction experience combined with my thoughts and observations from my first three times through it.
You enter the queue under a gun turret and proceed through a series of caves and hidden bunkers that make up the secret resistance base. There is an extended outdoor portion of the stand by queue that looks like it could be quite miserable in the heat of summer. There was little shade, only some fans. You enter a series of caves, think Indiana Jones queue at Disneyland, that feature several rooms with props. You can use the PlayDisneyParks app to interact with the queue, but I found this to be spotty at best and more frustrating than fun. It also drained my cell phone battery incredibly quick. I did not see any interactive elements. There was some seating available and drinking fountains in a couple spots. There were also cast members stationed along the queue that could help you out if you needed to leave the line to use the restroom or some other issue. Luckily with the boarding group process my average wait was less than 30 minutes and for the most part you kept moving. At that pace it worked well. We stopped a couple times due to issues and I could not imagine being stuck in that queue for hours if it were a traditional standby/FastPass setup. For the boarding groups the stand by line was being utilized only. If you returned because of a breakdown it appeared they were sending those guests through the FastPass Return queue, which I understand to be a similar set of caves/walkways just much shorter.
You eventually reach a room where cast members break the queue into groups. This is the merge point with the FastPass queue. You wait and then enter a briefing room. Here you meet BB-8 and Rey briefs you via hologram projection. Poe and others address you via video screen. There are two briefing rooms and they are mirrors of each other. With the set on the outside, so things appear flipped to you if you get to see both. The projection of Rey is really well done and BB-8 is great. You are not here long, just over a minute for the actual briefing. You are introduced to Lieutenant Bek who will be with you. He is a Mon Calamari Resistance officer.
Move to Transport Ship:
After the briefing you are ushered outside and members of the Resistance guide you across the courtyard to a waiting Intersystem Transport Ship (I-TS). You walk by Poe’s X-Wing with BB-8 onboard that is preparing to take off. And move toward a full scale spaceship. You enter through a door in the middle of the ship. The amount of time you are outside can vary slightly but it is very short, around 30 seconds seemed to be the average. Just enough time to get a glimpse around then you are rushed onto the transport ship.
I thought the detail to transfer from the secrete base to a spaceship was great. The extra detail/expense of seeing a full size X-Wing and then board a full size ship were worth it. It helps to build the excitement and sense of anticipation for the attraction. They could have very easily just built a hallway or something that went straight into a ship without the large scale outdoor set. From a story perspective it would have worked but the impact would have been nowhere near as great as what was created. I was able to experience this both during the day and night. At night the lighting added a little more to it. I am curious how this is in a big Orlando thunderstorm. It is mostly covered but depending on the wind direction it seems like the potential is there to get quite wet.
Intersystem Transport Ship (I-TS):
You board the ship through a door in the center of the ship. The interior of the ship reminds me of a subway or even the airport shuttle at MCO. There are poles/handholds to steady yourself. At the front of the ship are several screens and an audio animatronic figure of Lieutenant Bek. The back of the ship has more small screens and a large central screen that looks out the back. The door closes and you take off. There is some mild movement, shaking, rumbling. You can move around if you wish during the transport. Seeing the AA figure up front is interesting as is the view out the back as you leave Batuu. Speaking of which they do have different video for day/night. Total transport time is just over 2.5 minutes. As you are flying your ship encounters the First Order and you are pulled into a Star Destroyer hanger. Your ship is boarded by the First order and you exit out the same door that entered. I thought this scene was well done. You are given time to explore the ship the ship and the detail of having an AA figure plus several screens again shows the level of detail and execution. They could have chosen to do everything via projection but opted to have an AA figure which really adds to the wow factor and overall experience.
Star Destroyer Hanger
As you exit the Transport you enter the large hanger you have seen in many of the promotional photos leading up to opening. There are 50 stormtroopers assembled to greet you. There is a fleet transport vehicle parked on one side as well a full size tie fighter. If you look back you see your full ship in the hanger too. Cast Members playing the first order role explain that you are now a prisoner and you are told to exit the ship into the hanger. At this point there can be some variance. One time there was a large queue that wrapped formed. Another time they just had us line up against the rail. Then the third time we were told to pass through the hanger. I preferred being able to spend some time and admire the large hanger. The opposite side from where you exit the ship is looking out into space via a very large projection screen. You can see other ships and things fly by. Having some time to linger in the reveals more details. Such as some of the stormtroopers move slightly. Or you can take a photo in the transport. The Cast Members playing the first order roles were really into it and this added to the experience. You do not see the typical Disney smile.. instead they are stern faced and more authoritative with their instructions. I thought the time they just had us walk through (which of course was the time I was taking video) was a less than ideal experience. You get the initial wow of the room but you do not really get to appreciate it. On the other end the spectrum the time the line wrapped and paused in there for several minutes seemed on the long side. It seemed as if they were still experimenting with the timing. I was surprised they kept bringing shuttles full of guests in. Seeing the next shuttle offload without landing does break the immersion. Most did not care as they were observing the details of the room and not thinking about how people were exiting from the ship you were just on and they were not…
At this point you file down a hallway and then are broken up into groups of four groups of four for each jail cell. They story is they are separating you out for interrogation. You see stormtroopers and a large number of first order cast members here. You are assigned a color and quizzed on the color as you wait in the central hallway under the supervision of your captors. These colors are important later as it tells you which row you are to board on the transport. The hallway features several doors that look the same and groups are lined up and moved around the hallway to enter the active jail cells. The cast members playing the First Order roles here were great the three times I went through. They were really enjoying their roles and playing the parts perfectly. It was interesting to watch the interactions and reactions of others. Since most guests it was their first time they were a little unsure of the situation and people were quiet for the most part and just watching and listening. A very different mood than most attractions. The level of detail in this space was great as you would expect. Having the Stormtrooper figures at the watch position added to the overall experience. There are two lines to choose in the hallway. Both lead to exactly the same spot and the cast members forming the groups call from both so there is no difference in experience to which you choose. It comes down to which side of the hallway do you want to see. The amount of time here varied slightly with some pauses or a smooth pace over the three times I went through.
Your group of 16 guests is moved into a holding cell. You will want to move in far enough to see back over the door. On the second floor above the door you entered there is a projection screen that features your captors. Kylo Ren stops by and threatens/questions the group. They warn of the interrogations to come. He is called to the bridge and you are left unwatched for a few moments. During this time a glow starts on one side of the room and a hole is cut in the wall. The wall is opened and members of the Resistance explain they are there to break you out. The effect reminds me of the magic mirror at Enchanted Tales with Belle. You are rush you onto one of two waiting First Order Fleet Transport piloted by a reprogrammed R5-series astromech droid. These are the trackless ride vehicles for the finale of the attraction. You board the row with your color and buckle in. Your seat belts are checked. While this is happening on the video screens you are brought up to speed on the place. The transport is programmed to take you to an escape pod to get off the Star Destroyer and return to Batuu. You are in the holding cell for about a minute only. It is a very quick scene. I found the projections hard to see depending on where you were in the room but you could hear and get a glimpse so it still worked. The break out effect is well done and was great to see. The cast members breaking you out were really into their role again during my visits and it was fun to see.
First Order Fleet Transports – Star Destroyer Escape
Your transport sets off into the Star Destroyer. As you travel along of course things do not go as planned. You are identified as resistance and a battle ensues. There are laser blasts and other effects as you encounter storm troopers and other droids. Your transport tries multiple paths going forward and backwards. You move quickly through several spaces and end up in a hanger with two full size AT-AT walkers. You move around their feet dodging blaster fire. You catch a glimpse of Finn helping you escape. At this point your transport locks into one of two lifts. One brings you up the second floor eye level with the head of an AT-AT. The other up to the second floor from the side.
Once on the second floor you continue looking for a path to escape. You end up on the bridge and encounter an audio animatronic Kylo Ren. You escape from there and continue moving toward the escape pods. Kylo Ren is hot on your trail at this point and at one point uses his light saber to cut into the room you are in from above. This is another great effect! You escape that room and pass through a series of turboblaster canons fighting your rescue party outside.
The music starts to change at this point as the Star Wars theme is more prevalent with the resistance gaining the upper hand. You encounter a second Kylo Ren figure who threatens you. At this moment that portion of the ship is hit and you quickly make your move to the near by escape pod. Your transport ship locks into the pod and you are ejected from the ship. During the escape sequence your transport moves forward, backwards, sideways through the ship. You see the second transport as you move from scene to scene and battle your way off the ship. The trackless ride system allows for a lot of movement and directional changes. The effects throughout with blasters, ship damage, etc.. add to the experience. The full size AT-ATs are impressive as is the turbo lift that quickly takes you up to the second floor while allowing you to see the full scene around you. You encounter AA figures and projections that are mixed. The mix of projection and physical sets is extremely well done. It reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai.
Once you are locked in the escape pod the door closes and this is where the drop happens. You quickly return to ground level and the simulator portion of the experience begins. If you watch the screen in front of you, right before the drop you see the other escape pod which hints at what you will see. Then the drop leads right into a 20 second simulator experience as your escape pod hurls back toward Batuu. You come in for a rough landing but you survived the experience. You are thanked for helping the resistance and see the other escape pods before being dropped off at the unload station which is in a large open space that is partially outside (there is no front and the walls on the side stop short of the ground so you are outside but covered/protected from the weather). Here you disembark and wrap up your experience.
The drop and simulator finale are the last set of tricks the Imagineers employ in this experience to bring your great escape to a fitting finale. The movement and sensations seem appropriate for the overall experience. They bring a thrill to it but hopefully will not be limiting for a lot of guests. I for one had no problem with it and I do not go on coasters and drop type thrill rides.
I always get asked what my favorite attraction is or where an attraction ranks. It is always hard and I usually give a non-answer answer that spins in circles. Many call Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the best attraction ever. I did find the overall experience to be among the best. Would I put it at the top of the list I am not sure. I need to experience it more and see how it ages. I definitely think it is at the top of anything built in recent years in a stateside park. I would have no problem saying it is the best attraction since Radiator Springs Racers or Indiana Jones in Anaheim. At WDW I would put it at the top of the list of currently operating/versions of attractions. Where it sits looking world wide is a bit more challenging. Bottom line is it is a great attraction and well worth visiting. With the boarding group process you do not have to invest half your day in line which makes it that much better in my opinion. You are able to experience the queue and then all the attraction elements at a reasonable pace and time (assuming nothing breaks).
Final note: Like any new attraction there are kinks to work out. Ranging from cast member interaction and timing to technical ones. This attraction involves a lot of technology that requires nearly exact timing and execution or it will have a degraded experience and may stop. This has led to a lot of downtime and capacity limitations. Over time this will work itself out but for now daily capacity is extremely limited. Over the month plus of operation the Walt Disney World version has had more good days than bad recently but challenges still exist. I would expect Disneyland to have the same rocky launch. So bring your patience and if you want to experience the attraction be sure to keep up with the current boarding group changes and processes as Disney continues to tweak them.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Boarding Group Experiences @ Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- WDW Pictures: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- WDW Pictures: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Queue
- Disneyland – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Construction Pictures
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