As a kid growing up in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I was never really introduced to Star Wars; my parents and friends were not really big Star Wars fans either. I was, however, a major Disney fan and of course still am. Once Disney bought Star Wars I thought I would check out what all of this was about. I of course started with the originals, then the prequels, and now the third trilogy.
Throughout that time I found myself growing more and more attached to this universe. Now add in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge being built at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and my Star Wars knowledge and love keeps growing. I followed Star Wars Celebration a bit in 2017 when it was in Orlando and thought that it would be cool to go to some day, and if it goes back to Orlando I could combine it with a Walt Disney World trip. Lo and behold, it didn’t return to Orlando but did move to Chicago in 2019, and living nearby made it an easy decision to check it out.
I did consider making it a vacation of sorts and buying a 5-day ticket for Celebration but, never having done any sort of convention before, I decided on a one-day ticket for Saturday, April 13th. Once the panels were announced I was disappointed I would miss out on the big Episode IX day (which was Friday), but I was very excited in knowing I would get to check out all of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge happenings on Saturday.
I found the ticketing and entrance process at Chicago’s McCormick Place to be very easy. You either were mailed a badge or had to pick it up at the venue. In addition to that, there was an app that was almost necessary as it was needed to activate your badge and keep track of panel reservations. In past Celebrations you would just line up and/or camp overnight in order to get a spot in certain panels. This year they did a lottery and panel reservation system through the app and online. This seemed to get mixed reviews, and the app was glitchy so you may not always get panels or reservations you would want. I would say the app is the biggest thing that needs to be improved for the next Celebration.
I didn’t know what to really expect from this adventure I was on. I did get lucky and got into the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge main panel, which was held at the Windtrust arena across the street from McCormick Place. Before the panel began, DJ Elliot — who Disney parks fans may know — was on stage helping pump up the crowd. Mark Daniels, another Disney parks fan favorite, was interacting with the crowd as well. Finally, Star Wars actor Warwick Davis came out and played games onstage. Then it was show time!
The panel began with Walt Disney Imagineering Portfolio Creative Lead Scott Trowbridge coming on stage to introduce a new partnership for Star Wars Force for Change. One of the biggest surprises of the panel was that it being hosted by none other than Olaf himself — Josh Gad.
The rest of the panel outside of Scott and Josh was Imagineer Chris Beatty, Star Wars story guru Doug Chiang, Asa Kalama, Margaret Kerrison, and Matt Martin. The panel began by going over the land, its history and what you might find inside. We got our first look at the Dok-Ondar animatronic, and some other new images from inside the land. The biggest new items Star Wars fans got from this panel were Aurebesh/Star Wars themed Coca-Cola bottles and first glimpses of music from Oga’s Cantina and the new John Williams score.
I, as a Disney parks fan, found this panel to be more for the Star Wars fan who doesn’t know a lot about this new land coming to Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was fun and exciting to be there in person for this, but overall there was not much new in terms of details. Panel attendees got an exclusive Coca-Cola Aurebesh shirt.
After the panel, I went to the show floor and got to experience the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge booth. Inside this booth they have photo ops with an actual ride vehicle from Rise of the Resistance as well as the first look at merchandise that will be sold within the land once it opens later this year. One final special thing in this booth for guests was the “fanfessional” experience. Here guests could tell their Star Wars story and record a special GIF they could send to themselves. This booth was really a cool experience as a guest and parks fan.
Due to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge panel on Saturday several Imagineers and Disney executives — including Disneyland President Josh D’Amaro and Hollywood Studios Vice President Phil Holmes — were on hand checking everything out.
In part two I will recap other aspects of the show floor, show merchandise, and much more!