The final Thea Award Digital Case Study discusses Disney’s initial plans for its Star Wars land, which included a meet and greet with Darth Vader from which guests would be rescued by Princess Leia, but this idea changed and became Rise of the Resistance.
Today’s episode featured Thea Award winners Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with creators from Walt Disney Imagineering sharing details about the development of the attraction. Executive Producer Jon Georges started at the beginning, when Imagineers had some very different ideas about what their Star Wars land would be.
“All of the attraction ideas, and the land itself, had one thing in common,” he said. “They were all based on events from episodes one through six. At the end of our blue sky phase, we presented our ideas to Bob Iger. It was at that meeting we were told not to look back at old Star Wars movies, but to the next episode of the Skywalker saga, being directed by JJ Abrams. Since the script wasn’t complete yet, our teams took a break while the new one was ready. Six months later, we reformed our team under Scott Trowbridge to develop a single design for both coasts.”
“We knew that we wanted to not just create a place that was about remembering the past of Star Wars, but a place where you could live your Star Wars story – you can live your present and even the future of Star Wars as the new stories, characters and worlds who we’re going to explore became shared with the public,” Trowbridge said.
Creative Director John Larena detailed some of those older plans and how they influenced what Disney’s guests see today in Rise of the Resistance and elsewhere in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land.
“Many of the seeds for Rise of the Resistance were planted in the initial effort,” he said. “For example, we developed an exciting idea for a Darth Vader meet and greet. To keep our guests’ encounter with Vader in story, we’d have you detained by stormtroopers and then taken on to the Death Star. There you would be taken into a prison cell just like Princess Leia was, and your photos of Vader would actually be part of his interrogation of whether or not you were rebel spy. When you left the cell, Princess Leia would then break you out, giving our guests a surprise second meet and greet before exiting the attraction.
“While the idea was discarded for complexity and throughput challenges, it was the kernel of an idea that is the basis for the second act of Rise of Resistance [the interrogation room with Kylo Ren]. Other ideas included an escape pod ride or possibly a Death Star hallway chase ride. And while none of these ideas progress past conversations or a rough animatic, they all gestated in our minds until one conversation over coffee in 2014. The idea was simple – as rebels, your ship gets tractor-beamed on to a Star Destroyer, and you’ll have to break out of your detention cell can commandeer a trackless vehicle piloted by an onboard droid and then eject off that Star Destroyer on an escape pod.”
With the concept in place, then Imagineers faced the challenge of bringing that concept to life.
“The number one goal with Rise of the Resistance was to take storytelling to a level with zero suspension of disbelief – to make an experience that was indistinguishable from reality,” Principal Production Designer Ric Turner said. “Like the scene where guests are stepping off the captured transport ship and need to feel like they’re now in space. We created this space window with hyper-rich blacks and super-smooth motion, using Disney’s patented moving mirror system. [Follow the link to read the patent.]
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