Disney Imagineering Executive Scott Trowbridge said at Star Wars Celebration in April that their top-priority while creating Galaxy’s Edge was authenticity. That concept extends even to character interactions, with no dedicated meet-and-greet lines in the land.
“To the extent that we can, we’re avoiding the trope of the meet-and-greet and really leaning towards engaging with characters in a way that makes sense for the story you decided you want to have,” Trowbridge recently told the OC Register.
Rey, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and Stormtroopers, and others are walking around, interacting with guests and each other with
You also have a number of supporting characters who will be living and working within the land and adding to the immersive story, some performers in costume and some animatronic: Dok-Ondar from his Den of Antiquities, the Gatherers at Savi’s Workshop, DJ R-3X the former Star Tours Pilot, and Hondo Ohnaka. Teased before the opening, but not seen since the land opened was the bounty hunter Harkos who was to approach guests in the cantina who wreck the Falcon on the Smuggler’s Run attraction and end up owing Hondo credits.
A surprising, but very welcome, addition to the roster of characters is Resistance Spy Vi Moradi from the media invite teaser video and forthcoming prequel novel about the land. One person who attended previews stated, “While walking through Batuu I encountered Vi Moradi and she was talking with me about a Resistance mission for a while as we walked through the Resistance base. It was so amazing.” This character is often seen sneaking around the Outpost avoiding the First Order.
It’s also worth noting that all of the guest-facing Cast Members working in the shops and restaurants are playing the roles of villagers of Black Spire. They’re encouraged to create their own character, respond to things as if they are in-world, and customize their costumes to make the experience more authentic.
These characters are all being used to help tell this larger immersive story. Even why all the more familiar characters are on Batuu when we arrive is explained by the backstory of the land. The Resistance has built a base on the outskirts of Black Spire after their defeat at the end of The Last Jedi movie. The First Order’s elite 709th Legion (also known as the Red Fury) has landed and taken over part of the Outpost after catching wind of the Resistance base.
As far as the storytelling loops mentioned earlier, Disney filed a patent for a similar process in 2016 entitled “Systems and methods for a procedural system for emergent narrative construction.” It sounds like an advanced form of branching narrative or in the case of the interactive Datapad experience in Galaxy’s Edge, non-linear gameplay. The patent describes a system that tracks different story elements and uses artificial intelligence to refine the recommendations it makes over time for how the narrative should unfold given the particular elements in play. We haven’t seen it confirmed yet, but believe this may be how the dialogue for the Kylo Ren and Stormtroopers patrolling Black Spire is being done, with a nearby cast member selecting on a mobile device items in a scene as the characters approach like “child”, “lightsaber” or “guest using cell phone” to control the dialogue between the different characters.
If this is all starting to sound a lot like the early stages of a Westworld-like immersive storytelling experience, but with only some of the characters as animatronics, you’re not alone. Project Delos, a reference to the company who built and runs Westworld in the HBO show, has been the internal codename for Galaxy’s Edge since permits were first filed back in August 2016. From what we’ve seen so far, Disney will be taking the concept of full-immersion storytelling even further with their multi-day interactive Star Wars hotel experience being built in Walt Disney World.
This is all, of course, a story and authenticity-driven evolution of the roaming walk-around characters that have been common at Disneyland Park since the early days of the park. Even on very crowded peak days in the space-constrained area of Fantasyland, you have Belle, Alice, Peter Pan and many other Disney characters running around and interacting playfully with guests. That, however, is pretty different from character interactions at Walt Disney World in Florida, where many of the characters require waiting in dedicated lines or even a getting a FastPass for.
Disneyland guests who want to queue up for Kylo Ren, Rey, Chewbacca, etc in a more traditional meet-and-greet should still be able to do so at Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland.