Disney Parks created a new corner of the universe with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While the planet Batuu has appeared in a handful of canonical stories, much of the texture and detail on display at Disneyland has been created whole cloth.
And yet, to fans of the Expanded Universe — the term used for the the wide array of books, comics, animated series, and video games based on the Star Wars franchise — there is an awful lot that will feel familiar. Designers found room for nearly every niche within the fandom through the clever use of historical layering.
Around the corner from Droid Depot, you’ll find an interesting tableau of broken down old R2 units. A yellow one sits as though lounging inside an old oil bath — a callback to an early scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. But if you look closer, you’ll see a set of Trade Federation droids.
These bumbling baddies played a big part in the prequel trilogy, but also the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon. Inside Galaxy’s Edge, the pair look like they’ve seen better days. The one on the left has been shot up, missing chunks of its torso as well as the armored plate on its forehead.
There’s more for fans of the animated series to discover all throughout the park. I was delighted to find a Kalikori, a totem-like family heirloom passed down from within Twi’lek families from generation to generation. Fans learned all about them in season three of Star Wars Rebels, where Hera Syndulla risked her life to rescue hers from the clutches of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Thrawn casts a shadow over Galaxy’s Edge. Anyone who has encountered him in the lore knows that his love of art and artifacts rivals even Dok-Ondar’s. It’s hard to step inside of the Ithorian’s shop on Batuu, called the Den of Antiquities, without wondering how many of these items — or ones like them — Thrawn once used to gain the upper hand. Timothy Zahn’s book Thrawn: Alliances even includes a scene where characters show up inside Oga’s Cantina, years before the story events that happen inside the park.
Also inside Dok-Ondar’s, you’ll find an expensive callout to a single comic book. Just to one side of the registers, you’ll find a baby sarlacc writhing inside its containment capsule. The animatronic is packed with motion and subtle detail, and is likely one of the shop’s most expensive embellishments. But it will mean something to comic fans, and so Disney Parks made the effort to include it.
The most impressive example of Disney’s decision to embrace the new Expanded Universe is the park’s heroine, Vi Moradi. Originally created for Phasma, a novel by Delilah S. Dawson, Moradi is the Resistance’s master spy, equal parts Poe Dameron and James Bond. You’ll actually find her roaming the park, hiding out with guests to escape roving First Order patrols.
Fans can interact with Moradi as she travels throughout the park, always staying one step ahead of the First Order stormtroopers on patrol. In fact, the action sequences inside Galaxy’s Edge seem to take their inspiration from Dawson’s upcoming novel Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire, which will hit store shelves in September 2019.
No one seems as genuinely surprised as the author herself. “I had no idea she would be this big a deal,” Dawson wrote on Twitter in the days before the park opened to the public. There are even items on sale at Black Spire’s shops that tie into the novel.
While the events at Galaxy’s Edge will repeat, Groundhog Day-style, for the foreseeable future, there is still a lot left for fans to discover. Some of its secrets haven’t even been revealed.
For instance, why is the droid bounty hunter IG-88 lying in ruin inside Dok-Ondar’s shop? I have a suspicion we’ll know more after the premiere of The Mandalorian later this year on Disney Plus. Who are the Gatherers inside Savi’s workshop, and why are they roaming the galaxy in search of bits of lore linked to the Jedi? I hope to find out once Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters.
With that in mind, the impetus behind Disney’s embrace of the Expanded Universe makes a lot of sense. The main arc of the Star Wars films — the birth of Anakin Skywalker, the story of his fall and his redemption, and ultimately the rise of a new generation of Force-sensitive heroes — is just a tiny part of a fictional universe that has been building for more than 40 years. With Galaxy’s Edge, Disney is rewarding its most dedicated fans by connecting them to a physical place, to details that only they can appreciate. But, at the same time, they’re spurring on a new generation of fans to dig deeper into that same lore and take hold of something that they can call their own.
We are all, in some ways, like Rey. We are all stranded, orphaned alone here in the real world, well outside of the fantastic stories that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
It would have been easy to make Galaxy’s Edge feel a parade of Star Wars’ greatest hits. Instead, this land feels real. It’s a place that every Star Wars fan can call home, if only for four hours at a time.
Update: This story originally said that characters from Timothy Zahn’s book Thrawn: Alliances would appear inside Oga’s Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The story has been corrected to match the Star Wars timeline.