Entertainment

This is what it's like to ride Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Key Points
  • Rise of the Resistance opens in Orlando, Florida on Dec. 5. It opens in Anaheim, California in Jan. 17.
  • The ride is Disney’s most ambitious Imagineering project yet, the company said.
  • Media were given a sneak peak of the attraction ahead of its opening.
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Disney opens Rise of the Resistance ride at Star Wars theme park

The resistance is recruiting. Will you answer the call?

Tucked away in an old outpost on Batuu is a winding path that leads to a secret base, the home of resistance fighters who have pledged to thwart the First Order. It is there that prospective recruits are tasked by Rey to meet with General Organa on a nearby planet to assist the Resistance.

Of course, in true Star Wars fashion, things don't quite go as planned.

Rey and BB-8 task new Resistance recruits with a very important mission at the Rise of the Resistance ride at Galaxy's Edge in Orlando, Florida.
Sarah Whitten

The Rise of the Resistance Ride has long been billed as Walt Disney's "most ambitious project yet." 

After testing out the 18-minute adventure on Wednesday, it's clear that Disney has spared no expense in creating this truly immersive experience.

"It's a great addition to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge," Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive and studio leader at Walt Disney Imagineering, said. "Rise of the Resistance is the great way to put you right in the middle of this epic Star Wars action adventure with the First Order and the Resistance and TIE fighters and X-wings and lightsabers and blasters and droids and all the kind of stuff that makes Star Wars, Star Wars."

Once riders slip through the queue, they are guided onto a rebel transport ship. The intention is that they will arrive at General Organa's base, but before they can fire up the hyperdrive, they are captured by the First Order.

When the doors open again, riders are greeted by a stern-looking member of the First Order. And that officer isn't the only one waiting for them. Stepping off the transport ship, Wednesday, there was an audible gasp from the tour group. Waiting in a massive hanger was more than 30 stormtroopers, all at attention.

Stormtroopers await instruction from First Order leaders in a hanger in the Rise of the Resistance Ride at Galaxy's Edge in Orlando, Florida.
Sarah Whitten

If you feel like defying the First Order, now's a good time to sneak a few photos with the armored troopers because shortly after arriving in the hanger, the officers will escort you to the detention center.

It is here that the bold may attempt to antagonize their captors. The cast members that make up the squad of First Order officers eagerly look for the chance to interact with guests, or as they call them "resistance sympathizers."

During one ride-through, a First Order officer asked why people in our group were smiling. One answered, "Because it's such an honor to be detained by the First Order."

The officer quickly retorted, "You won't be so honored when you meet Kylo Ren."

The cast members' commitment to character is on showcase in this part of the ride, as you don't really get to interact with them once you are placed in the holding cell. All of the costumed First Order members pace the halls like drill sergeants, looking for any excuse to bark out an order or turn their nose at the guests. It's clear how much fun they are having in these roles.

"Our cast is our secret sauce," Trowbridge said. "We build these great places, but it is our cast that brings it to life for our guests each day."

First Order Officer watches over detained guests during Rise of the Resistance ride at Galaxy's Edge in Orlando, Florida.
Sarah Whitten

Once you are directed to a holding cell, the door closes and you have a few brief moments to mull over the situation. Kylo Ren threatens to extract the location of General Organa's base from you, but is whisked off to deal with other problems on the ship.

Within moments, a small group of Resistance fighters spring you from the cell and direct you into your ride cars. The vehicles are trackless, hold eight riders and are driven by an R5 droid. Although, as Trowbridge is quick to point out, they aren't the best pilots.

Now the adventure really begins. The vehicles zip through several hallways on the Star Destroyer, avoiding probe droids and stormtroopers, but your escape is quickly discovered. As the blaster bolts start flying, the trackless cars shine. Without a clearly charted track in front of you, it's hard to figure out which way the R5 droid is going to go and as new obstacles arise — like two massive AT-ATs or a very angry Kylo Ren, the droids must improvise.

Kylo Ren attempts to stop the Resistance recruits from fleeing the First Order Star Destroyer during the Rise of the Resistance Ride at Galaxy's Edge in Orlando, Florida.
Whitten

Trackless rides are a new innovation for Disney and will feature prominently in the upcoming Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway ride, opening at Hollywood Studios in March 2020, and at Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, coming to the Paris land at Epcot in 2020.

Trowbridge said these kinds of rides service certain kinds of stories that Disney's Imagineers want to tell. Trackless ride systems won't be used for all future rides, but are "a new tool we can use" when developing future rides, he said.

"There's a lot of technology in Rise of the Resistance, some of the special effects technology, the projection, the ride systems, but at the end of the day, we want all that to disappear. That's ours to worry about, we don't want our guests to worry about it."

The Imagineers, or creative engineers and designers, worked with Industrial Light and Magic, a Disney-owned special effects company, as well as Panasonic to create a sophisticated projection system that makes the blaster bolts, lightsaber swings and explosions incredibly realistic.

Once the cat-and-mouse game between captured resistance members and the First Order is over, the vehicle pulls into an escape pod and drops into space. The brief drop is exhilarating, but not too intense. From there, riders are guided back to Batuu and reunited with the locals.

Like other theme park attractions, Rise of the Resistance did not last the day without a few hiccups. The project, five years in the making, has more than 5 million lines of code. A group this reporter was with was stranded for around 45 minutes during one run-through. However, the next two rides were smooth and uninterrupted.

While the Orlando version of the ride opens Dec. 5, its California counterpart won't open until Jan. 17. Disney had initially projected that both rides would be open by the end of this year.

"In some ways, we've just created the best Star Wars playset," Trowbridge said of Galaxy's Edge. "You are able to step inside and play to the extent that you want to. It's always an invitation, never an obligation to play."