One of the key elements of a great Disney attraction is storytelling. Anything is possible when a good story is married to the perfect medium. While Walt Disney Imagineering generally knocks it out of the park when creating new attractions, it’s rare for them to catch lightning in a bottle. With Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm did the impossible and made an attraction that makes you feel like you’re actually in a Star Wars movie. The spark that was missing in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has been found in Rise of the Resistance, igniting a fire that now makes the land feel more complete. It’s still missing key elements that would elevate it to the next level, but it’s getting closer.
In Rise of the Resistance, we are recruits to the Resistance at a delicate time. A covert mission led by Finn to a First Order Star Destroyer has discovered that the First Order has learned about the secret outpost on Batuu and it’s no longer safe, meaning that we need to evacuate and regroup with the Resistance and General Organa on Bakura with the assistance of Lieutenant Beck and Poe Dameron. Of course, our transport does get captured by the First Order, and after interrogation by Kylo Ren and General Hux, the Resistance comes to our assistance to help us escape back to Batuu.
On paper, Rise of the Resistance has a very basic story. We’re being called to help, things go wrong, and we have to find a way to survive. It’s a formula that’s used in theme park attractions, books, movies, and television because it works. However, the story isn’t what makes Rise of the Resistance the incredible experience that it is. It’s the way that Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm were able to convey this story that sets it apart from so many other attractions.
As I’m about to get to the part with spoilers, I’ll cut to the chase for those who don’t want to continue reading on. Rise of the Resistance is a perfect blend of practical and projection effects married to an exciting score and ride. The queue and preshows continue to build up the story unlike anything else at Walt Disney World. Typically, preshows can feel like a way to reveal the story quickly and also build in safety spiels, but nothing leading up to the ride portion of this attraction feels even a little bit rushed. The ride itself is mild, but very exciting.
The trackless technology is very new to those who have only visited the domestic parks and stick only to Disney Parks, but a great comparison is the Ratatouille attraction in Disneyland Paris that’s coming to Epcot soon. The vehicles feel like they are moving around quicker than they are, but you aren’t jostled around from side to side. It feels like well-choreographed dancing. Many have been asking about the drop element and I would say it’s just as mild as the rest of the attraction. You do physically drop, but it’s over in less than two seconds and doesn’t feel like you’re forced down like Tower of Terror. That leads into the simulator portion of the attraction and it does shake you around a little bit, but not on the level of Star Tours. The seats on the vehicle are a bit snug, but people of all sizes should be able to experience Rise of the Resistance with no problems. Overall, it’s an attraction that is suitable for those that are young, old, and in-between.
Spoilers lie ahead, so continue on with caution.
The queue itself is very basic, but still intricately themed. The exterior portion is a lush, forest landscape that feels similar, but uniquely different compared to the terrain created for Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Once you make your way into the caves of the outpost, you start to feel immersed in the world of Star Wars. The halls have a similar vibe to those seen in Rebel outposts on Hoth or the hideout on Crait in The Last Jedi. Weapons and equipment are stored in the rooms leading up to where you will be briefed for your mission, adding an authentic touch to the entire attraction.
The first big wow moment of the attraction is the first preshow. BB-8 is able to bring Rey into the room via hologram where she briefs everyone on the situation described previously. The BB-8 animatronic is movie realistic and impressive, but the hologram of Rey is breathtaking. Holograms are by no means ordinary, so seeing Disney’s take on a hologram in real life is stunning. The second she appears in the room it sets a standard for what to expect for the rest of the attraction.
After the briefing ends, doors open with Resistance members urging everyone to get to the transports off Batuu quickly. Poe Dameron’s X-Wing is sitting next to the transport with BB-8 already loaded in, so take a second to look at the ships, because they are life-size and phenomenal. The transport doors open and everyone is ushered inside where Lieutenant Beck is positioned just behind the cockpit. The cockpit is occupied by the pilot and Star Wars fan-favorite, Nien Nunb. Stand as close as you can to Lieutenant Beck, because the animatronic is a wonder to watch. The movement is very fluid and they captured a realism to the Mon Calamari that makes it feel like he can actually see you. If you can’t get a great view of him, try to get to the back of the shuttle where there is a second window looking out the back of the transport. Video screens are in place throughout the shuttle so you can still see some of the interactions happening.
The transport is the first “ride” portion of the attraction, because it really does move as it makes its way from Batuu into space. The simulated portion of this part is EXTREMELY mild. Handrails are situated around the transport, but they aren’t necessary unless you don’t balance well. However, the transport moves just enough to add to the realism. Furthermore, you do feel the authenticity of movement, because the doors that opened for boarding are the exact same doors that open when the ship is on the Star Destroyer, meaning the vehicle really does move.
When the doors open, First Order officers are at the ready to pull the prisoners off of the ship. The room that everyone moves into is massive and filled with stormtroopers; the scale is hard to understand until you step foot inside. First Order officers continue to move the prisoners into interrogation rooms, so Kylo Ren and General Hux can learn the location of the secret base. The halls that you walk through to get to the interrogation rooms are completely movie realistic. Yes, that phrase is being said a lot, but it is something that Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm took great pride in when creating the attraction.
Inside the interrogation room, General Hux and Kylo Ren appear using screen technology. It’s simple, but effective. The claustrophobic rooms actually add an unnerving element to the experience, but the Resistance manages to cut through the walls to help break everyone out. The effect used in this moment blends practical and projection effects seamlessly and turns what could be a routine preshow portion into a true wow moment.
In the next room, Resistance members load the prisoners onto transport vehicles being driven by an R5-series droid that will safely get you to escape pods and back to Batuu. There are two rows of four seats in each vehicle and the ride vehicles go out two at a time. The far left and right seats in the front are ideal if you want to see with no distractions. The middle seats in the front row can be a little distracting due to the R5 droid in front of you, but it adds to the experience. The back row is slightly elevated above the front row and does give you a bit of a broader scope, but like anything in life, your view could be blocked if you’re behind someone taller.
If you’re still reading this portion of the article then that means you’re okay with spoilers, so I’d encourage you to watch our video of the attraction to really understand the details of the ride, because I’ll just be talking about the highlight moments from here on out.
The first highlight moment for me is when the vehicle pulls up and encounters two stormtroopers, which ultimately blows everyone’s cover. This is the first moment where you get to experience how Disney attempted to bring blaster shots to life. The effects are accomplished with special lighting, projections, and in some cases, an actual physical change to the location that was hit. No, you don’t see the blast physically launch, travel through the air, and make an impact, but the kinetic energy of the ride allows some forgiveness when it comes to the blasts.
From this encounter, the vehicle moves into the room with the AT-AT walkers, which have been promoted very heavily for a long time. The walkers are simply massive and tower over the vehicles. The walkers are awesome, but this room is special for another reason. At this point, the two vehicles take two different paths. One vehicle inevitably ends up in an elevator facing directly at the cockpit of a walker and the other transport is facing the side of the other walker in the room. However, both paths have an animatronic Finn fighting off the First Order in this room that you can catch a glimpse of as the vehicle is backing into the elevator. The room is actually almost too much, because of everything there is to see. Between the AT-AT walkers, Finn, stormtroopers, and blast effects happening all around you, it feels very frantic, but exciting.
If everything went right, the elevators would take the vehicles down, but of course, things need to go wrong so they go up instead. If the vehicle is on the path that’s looking directly at the AT-AT walker then it narrowly escapes as the walker begins to fire, but the other path has the vehicle escaping at the last second before stormtroopers begin to blast like crazy.
This leads into a short, but impactful moment when the transport vehicles creep up behind Kylo Ren and General Hux animatronics standing in the bridge. The Kylo Ren animatronic turns around quickly and swiftly in an impressive manner, while General Hux continues facing forward. It’s probably for the better that General Hux didn’t turn around, because you can make out his face a bit and it’s not the most realistic work that Walt Disney Imagineering has done. As for Kylo Ren, he’s wearing his mask, so we can’t really tell if they were able to get a grasp on that Adam Driver look, but the way the animatronic moves is very similar to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Great Movie Ride, which was impressive up until the day it closed.
The Resistance shows up to help out the prisoners, and of course, Kylo Ren can’t just let the prisoners go, so the pursuit begins. First, he comes charging at the vehicles using video technology, but the vehicles escape into another elevator unit. The floor does replicate the feeling of being in an elevator in this scene adding to the authenticity, but that’s completely overlooked by Kylo Ren’s lightsaber cutting down through the ceiling of the elevator and carving through it like butter. From the elevator, the vehicles move past guns firing at the Resistance fleet and this is another wow moment. The guns are giant and continually moving along with the action, once again taking advantage of motion in the attraction. Had the guns been stationary it would’ve been a simple show scene, but it’s one of the most exciting moments with everything in motion.
The final encounter with Kylo Ren is where all of the elements of the ride come together to make a truly special moment. The Kylo Ren animatronic is extremely life-like. He’s using the force to push and pull the trackless vehicles back and forth – an effect that couldn’t be accomplished with a track. Video screens show the battle still raging out in space and a fighter crashes just behind Kylo Ren’s position leading to an explosion and a massive practical special effect. Honestly, as fun as the escape pod drop and flight back to Batuu is, the ride peaks at the Kylo Ren moment, which then leads to the escape pods. The prisoners are greeted back on Batuu by Lieutenant Beck, who also made it home safely, and thus the attraction ends.
Rise of the Resistance is just flat out insane. I know it’s probably too soon to say it, but this is easily the best attraction at the domestic Disney Parks. I haven’t been to any of the Asian parks yet, so I don’t want to overconfidently say it’s the best Disney attraction ever created, but it very well could be. Everything went right with this attraction. The queue is immersive and well-themed, the preshows are essentially just a continuation of the line and the story but they are masked in an exciting way, and the ride portion transports you directly into the middle of the action of a Star Wars movie. It is unlike anything Disney has done at Walt Disney World or Disneyland before. Some might say that Flight of Passage is the better attraction still, but I see Rise of the Resistance as a step forward in so many ways compared to what Disney has done in the past versus an attraction that is the next evolution of a Soarin’ simulator.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge received a good deal of criticism from fans for not being complete, but Rise of the Resistance really does complete the land. Most were expecting Rise of the Resistance to be the icing on the cake before the land even opened, but it was the opposite. The rest of Galaxy’s Edge was the icing and Rise of the Resistance is the cake and even if it didn’t have the land to support it then, it would still be the best attraction that Walt Disney World and Disneyland have created. The attraction takes elements from so many other great attractions at Disney and even shows inspiration from great Universal attractions like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but the end result is the new benchmark for Walt Disney Imagineering.
That being said, not everything that comes after Rise of the Resistance should be held at the same level. I’m incredibly excited for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Like Rise of the Resistance, it’s also doing brand new things with technology and will probably blow everyone away, but it’s a completely different experience and it doesn’t need to do the same thing that Rise of the Resistance has done. Also, it very well may be the best Disney or theme park attraction created, but it doesn’t have to be your favorite. It’s too early to tell, but I’m not sure if my fondness for Country Bear Jamboree, Tower of Terror, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey can be easily replaced by the newest and nicest attraction on the block.
Regardless of your thoughts on Star Wars, if you love and appreciate theme parks then you have to experience Rise of the Resistance. Star Wars fans won’t walk away disappointed and theme park fans will applaud for the achievements of Walt Disney Imagineering. The attraction is technologically complex, so it will probably be suffering with downtimes for the foreseeable future and hordes of crowds hoping to get a chance to join the Resistance. It will be worth the effort though, and I know I’ll be there with the crowds the next time I need to get a fix of Rise of the Resistance.