I was going to start this piece by attempting to establish my love for the Star Wars franchise, but what hasn’t already been said about this series? Not only is everyone constantly talking about it, but now we are talking about how everyone is constantly talking about it (and now I am talking about how we are talking about how everyone is constantly talking about it). Just trust me when I say that I am a Star Wars fan, and I am proud to have been one for as long as I can remember. I only recently realized that this love has blinded me.
I have been riding the hype train for the addition of Star Wars Land (or its recently announced official name, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) to Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World Resort. However, I now realize that the hype train is about to get into a head-on collision with my love for theme parks with intricate continuity. This is when I began to have a very bad feeling about this.
My concern was elevated once the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom neared. To be honest, I did a terrible job following the progress of this park for a couple reasons. First, I am not a huge fan of Jame Cameron’s Avatar film, and I realize this is not a unique opinion. I enjoyed it when it came out along with everyone else, but it is not a story that interested me enough to demand four sequels and a theme park adaption. Also, I didn’t even realize it was coming out in 2017. When the park was announced in 2011, I took the news as a rumor or a concept, ignorant to its validity. This is probably because it sounded like a bizarre concept for a Disney theme park. An entire land dedicated to an IP? No way!
So my interest in the park was non-existent five or so years ago. I then learned that it would be placed in Animal Kingdom, and my response to this news was essentially, “Okay.” Animal Kingdom might be my least favorite Disney park from a personal preference. The Imagineers did a great job as they always do, but wildlife does not attract me as much as the magic of stories or the future. When Disney began to market the new land in early 2017, I became slightly interested. There is no doubt that it looks beautiful, and the Imagineers did some amazing things with the source material they were given. Something still didn’t feel right, though, and I quickly realized what it was. Pandora doesn’t fit in Animal Kingdom. Whether it was the fantasy elements in Disney’s most grounded theme park* or the awkward overuse of an obscure, non-Disney IP, I felt like something was very wrong. Then I saw this video:
After watching this, my immediate reaction was, “Ehhhh.” The explanation is, in my opinion, a stretch, and it feels like the Imagineers know this. It sounds like they aren’t trying to convince the potential guests that Pandora makes sense as a land in the park, but instead, they are trying to convince themselves that it is cohesive with the park’s concept. I don’t think it is, and I don’t even have interest in Avatar or Animal Kingdom. I do, however, have interest in Disneyland and Star Wars.
I want to get one thing out of the way. I have no problem with Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The theming works perfectly, as Star Wars is ingrained and partly responsible for the culture of cinema. Plus, I think we can all agree that DHS could use the update. My problem is with the land existing at Disneyland. After its addition, we will have Main Street, USA, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, Critter Country, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. One of these things is not like the other.
I have no words for how awkward this inclusion is at Disneyland. I am one of the last people to exclaim, “But that’s not what Walt would have wanted!” because Walt was always developing and innovating. There are also problems with speaking for someone who has been gone for the past fifty years. That said, this seems like a gross misplacement in the park, one that doesn’t make sense with the park or its history.
Perhaps the best way to explain why the addition doesn’t work is by looking at what could have gone on the unoccupied land. If you have seen the Defunctland YouTube episode on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, then you know about Imagineer Tony Baxter’s proposed land, Discovery Bay. This land would have made a smooth, thematic transition between Fantasyland and Frontierland. If Discovery Bay was a bridge, then Galaxy’s Edge is a detour or, perhaps more accurately, a road block.
I would have been fine with the land being placed in California Adventure. That park was a mess from the beginning and today looks like it has been created by an online random Disney IP generator. But Disneyland? No!
This is my only problem with Galaxy’s Edge. I’m glad they decided to place it on a never-seen planet, and there is no one I would rather handle my beloved Star Wars than Walt Disney Imagineering. It just doesn’t fit for me. Hopefully, after I visit and I get used to the idea, it will seem just as at home as Mickey’s Toontown. If there’s anything that Star Wars has taught me, it is that there is always hope.
Do you agree with my feelings on Galaxy’s Edge? Am I way off base? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
* I realize the potential land of Beastly Kingdom would have done this, but it would have done it in such a better and different way. It would have been Animal Kingdom and Beastly Kingdom, not Animal Kingdom and Pandora. The continuity would have worked much better.