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Two classic Star Wars creatures tend bar in a black-and-white sketch. One has fox years and a pig snout, the other four eyes and a hornlike snoot for a mouth. Image: Andrew Domachowski/Abrams Books

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Art book reveals the most interesting ideas behind Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

All the rides, attractions, and characters that made it into the Disney theme park land — and some that didn’t

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Publisher Abrams continues its history of producing excellent Star Wars art books with The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a new volume that uses firsthand interviews and never-before-seen concept art to detail the creative process behind Disney’s most ambitious theme park land. The result is a surprisingly thorough examination of what went into creating the planet Batuu — and details on some concepts that got left on the cutting room floor.

Among author Amy Ratcliffe’s most quoted source is Erik Tiemens, the Lucasfilm concept design supervisor assigned to the project. He says that one of the biggest challenges early on was placing the Millennium Falcon in just the right spot.

A sketch of the area outside the Rise of the Resistance ride as conceived by Erik Tiemens. It shows the lavish drapperies of the marketplace from above.
Souk Alcatraz Exit Rockwork. (Alcatraz was the codename for the Rise of the Resistance ride, while the park itself was codenamed Delos — after the Greek island, not the fictional company in Westworld.)
Image: Erik Tiemens/Abrams Books

“Bob Iger came by to review our model,” Tiemens says in the book. The then-CEO of Disney had stopped by to review the team’s plan for the Disneyland version of the park. “He looked at the model of the land in progress and said, ‘Do me a favor. Just don’t bury the bird.’”

Disney didn’t want the fastest ship in the Star Wars galaxy just hanging out front like it was on a used car lot. The company also didn’t want it so buried inside the land that folks couldn’t find it. Multiple pieces of concept art show the Falcon was situated in several different settings, including one that’s a dead ringer for Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine.

An elevation view of several towers that have been occupied by the First Order.
Garrison Watchtower Design V01. “With some of those garage doors, we based it on Roman architecture, actually—the way that ruinlike structures have pattress reinforcements,” Tiemens says in the book.
Image: Erik Tiemens/Abrams Books

Eventually, Disney Imagineers elected to place it in a highly vertical space where Batuu’s faux petrified trees would draw the eye upward, making the long, flat ship seem just a bit more grand than it otherwise would have. While it’s obscured from both entrances, Iger still got the centerpiece he was looking for.

“There aren’t giant signs that say ‘Millennium Falcon ride this way,’” says Scott Trowbridge, Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “It is intended to be a place that is explored. It is intended to be a place where you can make discoveries, and where you can feel that there is still yet more to be discovered.”

Light pours in from an open ceiling into a smelting area, with patrons standing at long tables to assemble their new droids.
Droid Shop Color Key. “Early on, we were focused on concepts around this idea of a smelting machine or foundry. There was this idea of doing some big centerpiece machine that was stamping out the equipment. We had parts going straight from metal being melted down to being stamped out. It would come out on the conveyor and you pick these brand-new parts up and assemble. And then the story shifted a little bit away from a foundry story and more of a repair shop.” —Chris Beatty
Image: Erik Tiemens/Abrams Books

With the general idea of where the Falcon needed to be placed settled, the team was able fill in the rest of the design. Elements of the land’s winding streets and its lively marketplace, conceived during research trips to Marrakech, Morocco, and the Greek island of Delos, came next. According to Disney Imagineering creative director Chris Beatty, the park map was actually locked in during a meeting in Istanbul. The shape of Galaxy’s Edge was cast in stone while the team was staying in the same hotel as Agatha Christie did when she wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

Of course, it took a lot of “blue-sky Imagineering” to get to that point. That means that a ton of great ideas were left behind. For instance, the portion of Galaxy’s Edge that serves as the Resistance outpost could have been much, much larger than it is today. Concept art shows jungle settings and huge trees reminiscent of the colossal baobab at the center of Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. Other images show visitors walking through chunks of the Black Spire’s petrified trees that have fallen across the path.

Two blue bartenders stand. Large packs on their back are connected to the arcane instruments above them.
Village Bartender V02. “We slowly started to peel back the layers of reality, figuring out how we could achieve an alien bartender. We knew that if it was a cast member wearing a suit, it would be a lot of prep and not be the most practical way to go about it, so maybe the better way was to have an animatronic bartender. Something that we could actually operate twenty-four hours a day. But then there’re sacrifices with that, because you’re limited by the actual physicality of having that bartender interact with the guest.” —Doug Chiang, Lucasfilm vice president and executive creative director
Image: Stephen Todd/Abrams Books

The book also details multiple shops and attractions that never made it into the final design. At one point, Galaxy’s Edge included a dark and seedy spice den populated by aliens and Twi’lek dancers. There’s a design for an upscale clothier, complete with elegant jewelry kept under glass. There are drafts for at least a dozen animatronic bartenders destined for Oga’s Cantina, including a few that would have floated inside a massive fish tank behind the bar. There’s even an alternate design for Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, which would have been lit by a massive chunk of kyber crystal embedded in the floor.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the book is that Galaxy’s Edge designers originally considered having many different types of characters roaming the park and interacting with guests. Concept art shows ground crew servicing the Falcon, and fully costumed aliens in multiple different settings. Several pieces even make mention of an elephant-sized animatronic named Elee that would circle the park on a loop offering rides.

Early concept art for Savi’s workshop shows a lightsaber in the corner on a test bench, and a blue-tinged hologram floating in the air above a station.
Saber Room Interior V01
Image: Ric Lim/Abrams Books

Finally, the last chapter in the book looks forward to the next stage of development at Disney World, specifically the Galactic Starcruiser hotel. Fans still don’t know how much a weekend stay at the high-concept, in-fiction hotel will cost, but the book does give us a first look at its main character. The book includes early images of the unnamed captain of the Halcyon: a blue-skinned female Pantoran whose dress and demeanor are vaguely reminiscent of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Concept art showing a large speeder bike cum land speeder filled with jugs of blue milk.
Blue Milk Cart Front V02. “For the milkstand, we thought we could have big plastic containers that hold liquid—almost like when they spray crops or something. We thought about having something floating and set-dressing it.” —Tiemens
Image: Nick Gindraux/Abrams Books

Of all the Abrams books that we’ve had the chance to preview here over the last few years, The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge contains some of the most new and unexplored material to date. That makes it a treasure for all Star Wars fans, and especially those who have been lucky enough to visit Galaxy’s Edge — or those who plan to in the future. The 256-page hardcover book has a retail price of $50 and goes on sale April 27.

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