The new land is themed to a small town on the planet of Batuu. The new planet is described by Walt Disney Imagineering lead designer Scott Trowbridge as;
“This remote outpost on the galaxy’s edge was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but its prominence was bypassed by the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe haven for those intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order. While Batuu may be new to us, it is clearly already familiar to many characters from the Star Wars saga as a stepping off point for epic adventures.”
The land will be split into two sections; one for the First Order and one for the Resistance/Rebels. The First Order side is the side closest to the newly renamed Grand Avenue area that many believe will be used as a holding area for those waiting to enter Galaxy’s Edge. After crossing through a tunnel into the new land guests will encounter the more urban decay style First Order area with a large, possibly multi-level restaurant, in the middle of it. Here in Orlando, that restaurant is perhaps where the hotel guests will eat breakfast before the land opens to day guests. An outdoor stage in the First Order area will likely house small shows similar to the Star Wars ones that have been featured off-and-on the past few years at Hollywood Studios.
The central feature of the First Order area will be a massive trackless ride, currently known as “Battle Escape.” The ride codenamed “Alcatraz” is rumored to be one of the most expensive rides ever conceived by Disney, with most estimates putting its cost at nearly half a billion dollars, or roughly the same price as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Shanghai Disneyland. With a rumored excess of 150 animatronics and confirmed scenes featuring nearly life-size AT-ATs the “Alcatraz” ride is reported to have 18 different scenes in it (for comparison the Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure has 13 scenes with a ride time of between 5 and 7 minutes).
Coming out of the merchant’s alley area guests enter into the Rebel side of the land. This more lushly landscaped area will feature the 100-foot wide Millennium Falcon that will be near the entrance of the Millennium Falcon ride where groups of six guests can pilot the Falcon in a simulator experience. Individual guest performance on the ride will affect how various characters in the land interact with them.
The ride will feature multiple pre-shows similar to Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida. The ride is also rumored to have custom endings that be affected in part by how each guest
Also in the Rebel controlled area guests can hang out in a cantina inspired by the Mos Eisley Cantina. Animatronic aliens and droids will perform on a small stage in the bar and will be scattered throughout the space. The OC Register mentions guests can “order a soft drink” at this bar. It’s still unclear if the Disneyland version will serve alcohol in the traditionally dry park, but it’s highly likely that the Hollywood Studios one will have a full alcoholic drink list on top of non-alcoholic favorites like blue milk.
A large berm is currently being constructed between the new Star Wars land and the existing areas of Hollywood Studios. This berm will be covered in tall, lush landscaping that will help block the other areas of the park while giving the Rebel area more depth. A droid mechanic shop sits in the middle of the highly landscaped, forested Rebel area.
Guests at DHS will then exit into the Toy Story Land area which is slated to open within the next half a year. That lower budget land will include a flat spinner ride, a family coaster, a quick service food window, and new bathrooms.
Disney is preparing for a massive influx of guests at DHS when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in late 2019 (roughly three to six months after the Disneyland version opens). The 2021 50th Anniversary celebration will be the biggest celebration ever for a Disney resort and Star Wars will play a crucial role in the marketing around the event. Construction timelines point to Disney wanting to be done with the majority of the construction projects in and around Hollywood Studios by the late 2019 opening for Star Wars, roughly just over a year before the launch of the golden anniversary celebration.
But by far the most significant investment that will open between now and when we can finally visit Batuu will be the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway that is replacing The Great Movie Ride. That ride, which like both rides in Galaxy’s Edge, will be well over 5 minutes long and using the cutting edge, never before seen technology relying heavily upon projection mapping. The new Mickey Mouse ride is believed to have an opening date in early 2019, a few months prior to Star Wars. Disney has been tight-lipped on the new Mickey ride, focusing instead on Toy Story Land which will open before it. Once Toy Story Land opens this spring, Disney will likely shift their focus to promoting Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
All three areas are expected to open by 2020, just in time for Disney World’s huge 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021.