Recently we got a chance to speak with Disney Imagineer Alex Lee, an entertainment producer for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. In the first part of io9's interview, conducted over video chat, Lee shared how guests have been influencing the ongoing evolution of Walt Disney World’s first fully immersive experience. In the second part, he explained how it’s all thanks to the hard work of the crew inside guiding guests—and those behind the scenes making the magic.
As we’ve covered previously, the two-day “cruise” invites Star Wars fans to participate in their own adventure in a galaxy far, far away, an experience that’s filled with ways for guests to become a part of the story. As you might imagine, it takes an enormous amount of coordination between all those secret missions, lightsaber training classes, musical performances, and even the food served aboard the Halcyon, all creatively brought into the experience from an array of sources. “It’s a diversification of stories, but also a diversification of how I’m building my own team of designers, vendors, and partners who haven’t typically worked in a theme park environment but do great work,” Lee said. “We’re able to help clear some of those boundaries for them and allow them to have a chance of executing work and coming into this franchise. A lot of them come from marginalized communities or [are] owned by vendors of color.”
As reactions to Galactic Starcruiser continue to pour out on social media, the effect the cast has had on visitors is seen not only in reaction videos but also fan art and writing. “I am honestly enthralled by the response to Gaya and her crew,” Lee said, referring to the music performer who headlines aboard the Halcyon. She’s a Twi’lek pop star, but her role is more than just her concert appearance—she’s an original character for the experience, with a storyline that has resonated with Galactic Starcruiser visitors.
Lee pointed out it’s partly due to the dedication from the assembled talent—and partly due to the chance Lucasfilm took to bring the whole thing to life as kind of a living play inside the Star Wars universe. “I think what we presented to Lucasfilm to collaborate and bring on the artists that we did felt like such a risk, because it’s not what has been identified in Star Wars mainstream media, but we were able to dive into the deeper catalog of all of their assets to create Gaya’s story,” Lee said. “We were telling such overt stories and such overt messages through her progression over the two days that people may or may not pick up on, and they love her. I think the response to her music and the type of warmth that she exudes for the type of character she is. We got to tell a whole new story of the Twi’leks, what they are in the Star Wars universe and reframe the narrative for them ... We’re proud of the roles and stories that we created to highlight local Orlando talent in a way that’s really meaningful, and bringing a very intense art form, writing music and improv—[it requires] high stamina in a very sandbox story.”
During rehearsals right before experience previews, Star Wars hero (and current Moon Knight star) Oscar Isaac visited the Halcyon to get a sneak peek of its voyages into a world he’s quite familiar with. “It was great that someone from Star Wars, who was creating stories for everyone else, understands that’s what we were doing, an experience that’s very heartwarming that wasn’t a film,” Lee said. “And here he was, in a full environment. So it was so much easier for him to play. He was very excited in the bridge where he has a particular affinity to [since he played a pilot in the films]. We tell so many different stories of both the First Order, as well as with the Resistance, that we were able to share with him and the various stories that we were telling and the archetypes that you see. Like Sammie, our mechanic [character], is very much a wannabe hero, and you see that full arc. That’s a very familiar trope within the Star Wars storyline.”
With characters that really bring the experience to life—something that’s since been given the seal of approval from Poe Dameron himself—the stories aboard the Halcyon continue to expand from their original intentions. Disney’s Imagineers hope to offer an experience that affects travelers in meaningful ways—and not just the hardcore fans, but also curious parties with casual interest (and deep pockets). “We’re able to take on things that are more real-world based and messages that are overt and relevant now and tie that back into a Star Wars franchise,” Lee explained. “So we kind of got to play on both sides of that and find a strong middle ground of what guests are looking for from Star Wars.” While Star Wars fans can expect appearances by familiar characters—again, we are asking you to please not rat out Chewbacca—it’s the new ones you meet that Disney Imagineers hope stay with you when your own adventure unfolds aboard the Halcyon.
Find out more about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser on its official Walt Disney World website.
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