Travel Podcast Ep. #3: “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York, and Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. They all pack the same punch for Star Wars fans Kent and Canaan Reiersgaard from ‘No Vacation Required.’ These Star Wars gurus and long-time contributors to Expedia’s ‘Viewfinder’ travel blog join host Nisreene Atassi to give the lowdown on Galaxy’s Edge, the newest Star Wars-themed addition at Disneyland and Walt Disney World theme parks.
They were lucky enough to be among some of the first people to step foot in Galaxy’s Edge and they are sharing all of the in-depth details only a true Star Wars fan can appreciate. From checking out the Millennium Falcon to getting a taste of “blue milk,” their journey through Galaxy’s Edge will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different planet.
Nisreene Atassi: So there’s this thing that happens when fans talk about Star Wars. It’s similar to the energy and excitement generated when Disney people plan a trip to Disneyland. I could be dating myself here but a really long time ago there used to be this Disney commercial and there was this adorable little kid who would sit there and say “I’m too excited to sleep” because he knew he was going to Disney the next day. And for some reason that really resonated with me and that’s sort of the excitement you see across the board no matter who you talk to. So what happens when Disney creates an entire Star Wars Land? It feels like the combination of the two is excitement on a whole other level. It’s the biggest park expansion in Disneyland history and we’re about to get a rare glimpse into Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Get ready to feel the force of a whole new world. I’m Nisreene Atassi and this is Out Travel The System.
Construction began on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge about three years ago. It’s 14 acres of Star Wars-inspired Disney magic modeled as a remote frontier outpost on the planet Batuu, the new land made its public debut at Disneyland in California this past May and opened to the public at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida at the end of August. But before any of that Kent and Canaan were there. Kent and Canaan Reiersgaard have been traveling and documenting their travel experiences for more than 10 years and have developed a philosophy towards life that is rooted in everyday fulfillment and attitude. Hi Kent and Canaan, thank you for coming on the show today.
Kent Reiersgaard: I’m going to say bright sun so bright suns because that’s what they say on Batuu.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh I love that you guys are really in character already fantastic.
Kent Reiersgaard: Oh we’re deep in it.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Listen once you visit Disney’s Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge you have to be in character because you need to keep up you need to know what’s going on and the first thing is to know the language so bright suns which means “good morning.”
Nisreene Atassi: Bright suns to you both! Before we dive into Galaxy’s Edge, talk to me a little bit about your philosophy on life and how travel fits into this.
Canaan Reiersgaard: More than anything we believe in the transformative power of travel and we hit a point over a decade ago where we were sort of living other people’s dreams and goals and we decided how do we want to live our life, how do we want to give back? Learn about the world and just live based on everyday fulfillment. So we started our own business so we could travel the world do some volunteering along the way have all these rich transformative travel experiences. We call it “No Vacation Required.”
Nisreene Atassi: I love that. And it’s not a vacation because it’s part of your everyday life.
Kent Reiersgaard: Exactly. You don’t have to wait for those two weeks out of the year to feel good.
Nisreene Atassi: You’ve been able to go to Disney a couple of times now. How are you lucky enough to get such access? So I know that you were amongst the first group of people to actually even get to go in and experience Galaxy’s Edge. You’ve got exclusive access to some of the creators of it. Tell me a little bit about your journey sort of up to this point and how you were able to get that.
Kent Reiersgaard: Yes so several years ago we were on an assignment with Marriott in Orlando and our friends at Expedia had said, “Hey why don’t you meet some of our contacts while you’re down there and see if you all can come up with any magic for content over breakfast.” We just started talking about some of the ideas we had. From there we’ve had this multi-year relationship with Disney. They give us really good access preview access so we can start sharing our experiences and telling people about the experiences they can expect when they visit places like Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Nisreene Atassi: Amazing. So how many times have you been to Disney?
Canaan Reiersgaard: Oh my gosh I don’t even know that we can count it anymore probably over 20. You know what probably still less than a lot of Disney fans.
Nisreene Atassi: Alright well let’s dive into the good stuff because I know our listeners want to hear all about it. So you were on the construction site of the Disney World version in Florida in May and had early access to the Disneyland version in California in June. At that point, no one outside of Disney folks really knew what to expect. Take us back to the reveal. How would you describe what you first saw and felt entering the land?
Kent Reiersgaard: You know as travelers and the listeners to this podcast will know you have those moments where you go to a new place and you see something that you’ve only seen in pictures before maybe in your whole life. You’ve seen the Eiffel Tower in pictures and then you get to Paris and you see it in real life and you have that moment where you’re kind of awestruck. There it is. I am here. I made it.
And that is the experience we had at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge as you enter the land. It sort of unfolds but you have this moment where you get just a few steps in and the spaciousness of the land is truly inspiring. I mean you said it in the beginning it’s 14 acres but it feels boundless.
Canaan Reiersgaard: I think it’s important to say they do all these things and we learn this from speaking to the Imagineers. So, for instance, at least one of the entrances in Florida they sort of constrict the entryway because they want you to feel you know more shoulder to shoulder perhaps with the people around you so you kind of have that little bit of a wow something’s changing something’s different and it becomes almost claustrophobic in a way but then you open and boom there’s the 14-acre black spire outpost which is where Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is on the planet of Batuu and Disney as we know from Cinderella castle. They’re such masters at forced perspective. There’s that moment of awe and in fact, you’re in a 14 acre land of a theme park.
Nisreene Atassi: So then every time you would go through something and turn the corner would that moment happen sort of all over again every time you saw something new?
Kent Reiersgaard: Absolutely and I think that’s really where the magic is. So you have that first moment of awe when you see the expansiveness of the land, but there’s also that sense of wonder that you get normally exploring a new place. The truth is everybody thinks that you are going to enter that land and see the Millennium Falcon because that’s the big moment and that would sort of make sense. But in fact, you have to go find the Millennium Falcon. It doesn’t immediately reveal itself. And there’s a moment where you turn a corner and you’re just passing the Grand Bazaar and holy cow there’s the Millennium Falcon.
Nisreene Atassi: How is Galaxy’s Edge different from the usual Disney park experience?
Canaan Reiersgaard: I think that’s one thing that’s so exciting and I can’t wait for listeners to experience it for themselves because we’ve been talking about the immersion in general at the lands within the Disney parks and in our opinion, Disney’s really upped their game a couple of years ago with Pandora the world of Avatar at Walt Disney World you kind of got a taste of where they’re heading. With Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, it’s a whole new thing. I mean you walk into this land and you definitely feel like you are in another place where you know many of the other lands in Disney you know you’re at Disney, but here the cast members are very theme aligned. You’re hearing some of the language, the actions from the cast members are very much as if they are characters. They are the citizens of Batuu and you truly feel transported.
Nisreene Atassi: You mentioned that you had a chance to talk to the Imagineers. What exactly is an Imagineer?
Kent Reiersgaard: Canaan do you want to take that confusing question? Imagineers are really a lot of things at Disney, but predominantly engineers.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Yes engineers, but I think we can safely say that broadly speaking they’re the people who create the experiences you have at Disney.
Nisreene Atassi: So when you went in early May you got to do something really really cool and you actually got a chance to chat with one of these Imagineers responsible for creating and building the new land. What was it like to hear it from their perspective?
Canaan Reiersgaard: I’d say it’s like having Steve Jobs teach you how to use the iPhone.
Nisreene Atassi: That’s bold.
Kent Reiersgaard: I mean it’s both thrilling and intimidating because you know you’re like what question can I ask one of the few masterminds behind this entire billion-dollar concept. You get to learn about what’s behind it. For instance, we learned that among many other investigative things the team traveled to Istanbul and Morocco and Jerusalem to kind of get a feel for what they wanted this planet to look like and you learn about how these places motivated their architecture choices and their perspective choices. It’s just really exciting to have that eye and to what they were thinking in development.
Nisreene Atassi: I mean talk about the coolest job you could possibly have. I mean I feel like we could probably spend an hour talking to them about what their life is like and how they just come up with all of this stuff it’s so amazing.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Yeah I remember the thing that really struck me was how excited they were for their friends and family to see this vision they had realized that they couldn’t talk about this secret project I’ve been working on. Yeah like they’re in the CIA but now you get to see their passion large and in real life and it’s clear that it was done by people who really really cared about the experience they were creating.
Nisreene Atassi: I love that. So we actually have a clip from one of your conversations. This is Scott Mallwitz, Executive Creative Director of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Scott Mallwitz interview: “I think it’s a total level of immersion right. I think it’s taking you to a place in a galaxy that you’ve always hoped to visit, to a place that isn’t tied to any stories that you already know. But it’s certainly part of the Star Wars story overall. I think that was the design team’s goal is to just is to present all of the authenticity of Star Wars without tying it to Han’s story or Luke’s story. We really wanted to be about your story.”
Nisreene Atassi: It felt like there was a lot of energy on Scott’s side. I’m sure you must have really felt that was probably really palpable when you were interviewing him live.
Kent Reiersgaard: Yeah it’s interesting to hear that because we had literally just walked out from a pre-pre-pre preview we had in Walt Disney World so months before the Walt Disney World opening and we just couldn’t believe what was happening and we were just you know sort of bumbling.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Yeah well we weren’t even prepared to do an interview and he was there and they were like, “Do you want to talk” and it’s like oh wow, gosh I’m kind of dumbfounded right now, but yeah let’s do this.
Nisreene Atassi: So cool. So how much did your experience at Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland feel like your own story versus you being in someone else’s story?
Canaan Reiersgaard: As Kent said one of the things that we most enjoy most about visiting a new space is trying to immerse ourselves and feel like we’re getting an authentic sense of the culture. And I actually felt like we got that in exploring Black Spider Outpost. They’ve created that ability to have a sense like you’re visiting a new place not Disney but a whole new planet.
Kent Reiersgaard: Yeah, definitely living your own adventure because even the merchandise experiences are very hands-on very personalized. The attractions are much more personalized than previous Disney experiences. So it’s very much building your own adventure and it’s their goal with this land to have your own Star Wars adventure.
Canaan Reiersgaard: You know what I’m just remembering something about the land that I thought was really profound. The signage is not in English it’s in their local language which I can’t remember what it’s called but it creates that sense of being in a completely new space. And I think it’s kind of a risk to do that but it’s a small thing that elevates the experience and makes it feel really authentic.
Kent Reiersgaard: Yeah totally there’s no attraction marquees, minimal signage in general and that can you know lead to that bit of positive discomfort we were referencing a little while ago.
Canaan Reiersgaard: That’s what travel is a little positive anxiety and then reward.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah I love that. I love the phrase “positive discomfort” because that’s exactly what happens I think when you when you’re having these travel experiences. Actually, in your interview with Scott, he talked a lot about that sort of total level of immersion. And it sounds like you guys completely felt that at all levels.
Let’s actually dive into the food and the merch because I think across Disney parks the food is always something that people really get super excited about it, seems truly out of this world. So what makes it really stand out at Galaxy’s Edge?
Canaan Reiersgaard: You know what’s really cool is over the last couple of years Disney has gotten the memo that people are way into food. Food plays well on social media especially Instagram and they have said: “OK cool we can do this.” So I think for us what stood out at Galaxy’s Edge is milk stand, where you can buy blue milk and green milk and some people might remember blue milk was Luke Skywalker’s drink in one of the movies, but they are these colorful milks and that’s one of the funny things because they’re non-dairy. So that fun, positive discomfort that comes when you realize like oh this is called milk but really you know the blue milk has I think dragon fruit and pineapple and lime and watermelon and green milk is much more flowery like lemongrass or something and they’re both very exotic flavors.
Nisreene Atassi: Well which one was your favorite?
Kent Reiersgaard: Are you ready for a quick tip? A little secret tip? The best flavor is blue and green milk mixed and the residents of Black Spire Outpost will let you know that if if you talk to them. But it’s not something you can order and it’s not even a secret menu item. You’ve got to get a buddy or buy two and then you have to make some because it really is the best flavor. I don’t know what’s blue and green together? They have to rebrand it to brown milk. Yeah. That is not going to work.
Nisreene Atassi: You mentioned that the people in the park sort of gave you this hint. How do you interact with the people at the park in order to get this type of information and do they have other tips and things that they can bestow upon you as you go throughout the park?
Canaan Reiersgaard: It’s pretty fascinating because they are like Kent was saying earlier, they’re in full character. So they’re there to help you, but it’s like visiting a new place and having to talk to actual locals that
Kent Reiersgaard: Imagine that!
Canaan Reiersgaard: It can seem anxiety-inducing. You actually will be encountered at different times This was our experience where you have members of the resistance who will come up to you and try to get you to be on the side of the resistance. It’s like you’re part of the story. You just have to be willing to engage with them and they’re all in.
Kent Reiersgaard: And you can go all-in too. I don’t want to get too much in the weeds here but via the Disney Play App becomes your Star Wars datapad once you activate the app. You can take on jobs to help the outpost. You can choose two sides, first-order resistance. There are all sorts of things you can do to geek out and have those next-level experiences not only in the land but with cast members and the more you speak the language the more they’ll reflect back to you.
Nisreene Atassi: So it sounds like it’s worth it to really sort of get into it and to engage with them.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Oh absolutely. I think it’s a crucial part of the experience. And if you don’t engage with them or step out of your comfort zone and really go there you will have a lesser experience.
Nisreene Atassi: Interesting. So before we move on from food and everything just thinking about our listeners and tips, would you recommend that they sort of come to the park ready to have breakfast lunch and dinner? Any tips along those lines that you would give our listeners?
Canaan Reiersgaard: In general, you want to plan, plan, plan. You want to use the resources on the Disney park websites, Walt Disney World and Disneyland. You just want to use the resources available on Expedia including the Expedia Viewfinder blog to plan out what you want to do. How many times did I tell you we’ve been to Disney? And after those many, many times we’ve been to Disney you know people can still get frustrated because they wish they had a plan and using those tools.
Nisreene Atassi: It sounds like it can be overwhelming.
Canaan Reiersgaard: It can be super overwhelming! You get there and you realize there’s so much that you want to do and experience that the overwhelming feeling can kind of shut you down a bit.
Kent Reiersgaard: So that’s the first thing we tell people is to plan, plan, plan to avoid frustration. And also important with this planning piece is you’re going to realize that there’s going to be times and moments where you want to step away from, in this case, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, where you want to go check out Disney Springs if you’re in Walt Disney World or the food and entertainment corridor or check out Downtown Disney. If you’re at Disneyland Resort these sort of places where you can come up for air, have a different experience and then head back into Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge with renewed energy. In terms of food and drink specifically in addition to the milk stand, I would definitely encourage people to hit Ronto Roasters. Within Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, because they’ve you know again created this completely immersive experience where they have like a jet engine hanging from the ceiling that they’ve turned it into a roasting spit.
Canaan Reiersgaard: It’s made to look like this pod race engine.
Nisreene Atassi: I’m trying to picture this and I literally have no idea what that could even potentially look like. That sounds so wild.
Kent Reiersgaard: And they’ve got this pod racer engine hanging from the ceiling it’s shooting flames down into a roasting spit, you’ve droids roasting Ronto which are these just heinous little creatures. Just so everybody knows it’s actually pork. We’ll go with the theming and say it’s Ronto. Just seeing them cook the meal you’re going to eat is part of the experience it’s really clever.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Yeah, buying into this fantasy. But then what you really end up eating, despite that sort of fantasy is this delicious pita like thing with pork and pork sausage and coleslaw and Peppercorn sauce.
Kent Reiersgaard: It’s a little spicy which I always find that interesting at Disney. You know when they don’t essentially deliver milk toast because they have to appeal to millions of people. It’s got a little edge to it which I appreciated.
Nisreene Atassi: So it’s not like other sorts of parks where people are like oh bring your own sandwiches or things like that because it’s just overpriced chicken fingers. It’s actually worth coming and dining and having beverages and it’s all part of the experience at Disney, right?
Kent Reiersgaard: Absolutely and I would say this park above all other parks you just want to budget to have that fully immersive experience you’re going to want to eat there you’re going to want to have a budget for souvenirs. There’s a place called Droid Depot where you go in and you build your own droid to take home.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah like where are you ever going to do that anywhere else? Literally nowhere.
Canaan Reiersgaard: So you have to do it and people know it. We were just on our way home from Italy a couple of weeks ago and inbound at the airport we saw a huge extended family coming off a plane and everybody in the family had their Droid Depot droid box in hand so they had obviously been to Disneyland at the United States. It’s what every family member was schlepping off the plane. These are the things when you get there you’re gonna see these opportunities and be like, “How can I not build my own droid, how can I not absolute build my own lightsaber?”
Nisreene Atassi: If somebody was coming to the park and they wanted to just do Galaxy’s Edge, how much time would you recommend that they allocate for just that portion?
Kent Reiersgaard: I would say at least two days. The whole land is an Easter egg. You know you could just walk around looking for little Easter eggs for five hours with these big experiences.
Canaan Reiersgaard: Our best advice… I mean two days is probably pretty brisk but with a minimum of two days you’re giving yourself and remember you’re planning ahead of time, but you’re still going to have a sense of overwhelm on day one. So you know you’ve got your recovery day too so it’s like ok, I missed this, this, and this on day one but we’ve got to do these things on day two. Some of the experiences like Savi’s Workshop where you do the handbuilt lightsabers and Oga’s Cantina have limited availability because you know everybody wants to do these things so you want to do what you can to secure space ahead of time. But if not you know if you do the standby lines the more time you spend the more time you’re allowing yourself that opportunity to get in.
Nisreene Atassi: I love how when one of you brings something up it triggers a memory in the other and you have that moment all over again. And it actually it’s such authentic excitement about the park that it’s just so genuine. I love that I’m feeling very excited about Galaxy’s Edge. I’m wondering does it make sense to try and go for like a week and cram everything in?
Kent Reiersgaard: The days of trying to book through and do everything in one visit are probably long gone now with Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge so plan on three or four days in this case if you’re into Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and then one day to maybe hit the rest of Disneyland in one of your other days and head over to California Adventure for the other day. See a lot knowing that you’ll come back again when you’re able to.
Canaan Reiersgaard: I’m sure many of your listeners know you Disneyland changes dramatically based on the season instead of spending a big chunk of time that once I would space it out so that you can experience some of the seasonal offerings. You know Halloween or the Fourth of July.
Nisreene Atassi: That’s a really good tip. If you had to give people absolutely one tip only, I’ll let each of you give one tip what would it be for Galaxy’s Edge?
Canaan Reiersgaard: Practice your navigation skills because they’re going to matter when you do. Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run. Your skills actually change the ride and change the experience. So whatever you can do to practice navigating the Millennium Falcon do that.
Kent Reiersgaard: Sounding like a total dad I would say stay hydrated, it’s hot out there would be my number one. But my real number one tip is to plan and dig into the resources available online with both Disney and Expedia.
Nisreene Atassi: You mentioned the Disney app as well.
Kent Reiersgaard: Yeah you can learn a lot. There you can even get an idea on the app of wait times. For example, right now the wait time for this attraction is this long and kind of get an idea of what it might be like on your visit as Canaan mentioned with Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run which is the attraction that’s currently open at both versions of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. You definitely want to be able to hit that attraction and you know there’s only six of you on the attraction at that time. And then coming up the second attraction is going to be Star Wars Rise of the Resistance. That’ll be in Florida in December and in California in January. That is set to be approximately a 30-minute attraction.
Canaan Reiersgaard: That was a heck of a tip Dad.
Nisreene Atassi: Nice, well Kent and Canaan thank you so much for taking us to Galaxy’s Edge. I hope you enjoyed sharing these tips as much as I enjoyed listening to them and I hope our listeners enjoy it as well. So really appreciate you both coming on the show.
Kent Reiersgaard: Well may the spires keep you.
Canaan Reiersgaard: That’s a formal goodbye.
Kent Reiersgaard: Till the spire. May the spires keep you is the formal goodbye, till the spire is sort of like farewell or you can also say… I can’t believe we know this, good journey which is just an informal goodbye.
Nisreene Atassi: Sounds like you guys have really nerded out on all the Star Wars and Disney stuff. There’s no way around it, you’re fanatics.
Canaan Reiersgaard: You’re right we’re deep in.
Nisreene Atassi: To learn more about Kent and Canaan’s sneak peek or to see photos from their trip you can check us out on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram we are @Expedia. We’re also going to share a link to Kent and Canaan’s blog ‘No Vacation Required’ as well as the blog post that they did for us on our Expedia Viewfinder Blog about Galaxy’s Edge. If you have any questions or want to learn more about Kent and Canaan’s Disney adventures we would absolutely love to hear from you. So don’t be afraid to leave us a comment or drop us a line and we’ll try and answer all of your questions. And if you thought this was cool, just wait until the next time we speak with these two. Kent and Canaan have actually snagged an invite to be one of the first to try out the Star Wars Rise of the Resistance ride, the one that they mentioned that’s 30 minutes long. That’s going to open up this December which is very exciting. We’ll be chatting with them live from Disneyland Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge so it’s definitely going to be something that you’re not going to want to miss.
Thanks for listening to Out Travel The System brought to you by Expedia. Just wait until you hear what travel adventures and insider tips we’ve packed into our next few episodes. To help you out travel the system hit subscribe now so you don’t miss a thing. I’m Nisreene Atassi, happy travels!
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