D23 Expo has plenty to offer Disney fans, but as far as this fan is concerned, the must-see stop in the exhibit hall is the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Pavilion. There you'll find A Galaxy of Stories, the very first detailed look at the upcoming Star Wars-themed lands coming to Disney Parks—specifically Disneyland Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios. You'll find artifacts from the as yet unnamed planet (perhaps we'll get a name at the Expo's Parks & Resorts panel on Saturday) the land is set on, as well as new concept art for the area. But the star of the pavilion is a half-inch scale model depicting the Star Wars land in whole.
It is impressive. Most impressive. Like, jaw-on-the-floor impressive.
The 50-foot-wide model shows off the never before seen planet. Though a few placards mention some details about objects and characters you'll find on the planet--including musical instruments and an Ithorian--this display is all about the visuals. There's a Resistance base on the left side of the land, as well as an X-wing and an A-wing. Over on the right side of the land, you'll see a First Order flag and a parked TIE fighter. The E-ticket Millennium Falcon attraction is tucked away on the back right, while the other E-ticket attraction that puts guests in a fight between the First Order and Resistance is on the left of the land.
And speaking of that E-ticket attraction, this First Order Fleet Transport appears to be a ride vehicle (when I asked an Imagineer if it was a ride vehicle, he responded, “Do you think it looks like a ride vehicle?”).
This model is specific to Disneyland (though Hollywood Studios will be similar) and features three entrances. The left entrance by Critter Country will take you to Resistance territory, while the far right entrance in between Fantasyland and Frontierland heads into the First Order area. The middle entrance from Frontierland could lead into more neutral territory.
Besides what was shown in the model, we learned a few details from Walt Disney Imagineering executive creative director Asa Kalama. He explained the planet at hand is on the edge of unknown space. In the sublight era of space travel, the planet was a major trading hub. However, with the advent of lightspeed, it's become a little overlooked. Now it's where people go to disappear or find crew members ready for adventure. Guests will encounter new characters and some familiar faces. Hmm, BB-8 is shown in the model and so is Poe Dameron's X-wing.
As for why both the Resistance and First Order are there? Kalama said the planet has become occupied for a specific reason.
It looks like they've maximized the 14 acre space by using winding paths and adding spaces for guests to linger. I was optimistic before seeing the model, but now? I'd be okay with moving into any of the buildings on this model. I think the Star Wars expansions are going to have all kinds of atmosphere and character.
Visit the gallery below to examine the model from all kinds of angles and to see all the placards and items on display. Soak in all the details, then steer to the comments and let us know if you'll be plotting a course to visit the Star Wars-themed lands when they open in 2019.
Images: Amy Ratcliffe, Aaron Fairbanks