Publisher Abrams continues its history of producing excellent Star Wars art books with The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a new volume that uses firsthand interviews and never-before-seen concept art to detail the creative process behind Disney’s most ambitious theme park land. The result is a surprisingly thorough examination of what went into creating the planet Batuu — and details on some concepts that got left on the cutting room floor.
Among author Amy Ratcliffe’s most quoted source is Erik Tiemens, the Lucasfilm concept design supervisor assigned to the project. He says that one of the biggest challenges early on was placing the Millennium Falcon in just the right spot.
“Bob Iger came by to review our model,” Tiemens says in the book. The then-CEO of Disney had stopped by to review the team’s plan for the Disneyland version of the park. “He looked at the model of the land in progress and said, ‘Do me a favor. Just don’t bury the bird.’”
Disney didn’t want the fastest ship in the Star Wars galaxy just hanging out front like it was on a used car lot. The company also didn’t want it so buried inside the land that folks couldn’t find it. Multiple pieces of concept art show the Falcon was situated in several different settings, including one that’s a dead ringer for Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine.
Eventually, Disney Imagineers elected to place it in a highly vertical space where Batuu’s faux petrified trees would draw the eye upward, making the long, flat ship seem just a bit more grand than it otherwise would have. While it’s obscured from both entrances, Iger still got the centerpiece he was looking for.
“There aren’t giant signs that say ‘Millennium Falcon ride this way,’” says Scott Trowbridge, Disney Imagineering portfolio creative executive. “It is intended to be a place that is explored. It is intended to be a place where you can make discoveries, and where you can feel that there is still yet more to be discovered.”
With the general idea of where the Falcon needed to be placed settled, the team was able fill in the rest of the design. Elements of the land’s winding streets and its lively marketplace, conceived during research trips to Marrakech, Morocco, and the Greek island of Delos, came next. According to Disney Imagineering creative director Chris Beatty, the park map was actually locked in during a meeting in Istanbul. The shape of Galaxy’s Edge was cast in stone while the team was staying in the same hotel as Agatha Christie did when she wrote Murder on the Orient Express.
Of course, it took a lot of “blue-sky Imagineering” to get to that point. That means that a ton of great ideas were left behind. For instance, the portion of Galaxy’s Edge that serves as the Resistance outpost could have been much, much larger than it is today. Concept art shows jungle settings and huge trees reminiscent of the colossal baobab at the center of Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. Other images show visitors walking through chunks of the Black Spire’s petrified trees that have fallen across the path.
The book also details multiple shops and attractions that never made it into the final design. At one point, Galaxy’s Edge included a dark and seedy spice den populated by aliens and Twi’lek dancers. There’s a design for an upscale clothier, complete with elegant jewelry kept under glass. There are drafts for at least a dozen animatronic bartenders destined for Oga’s Cantina, including a few that would have floated inside a massive fish tank behind the bar. There’s even an alternate design for Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, which would have been lit by a massive chunk of kyber crystal embedded in the floor.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the book is that Galaxy’s Edge designers originally considered having many different types of characters roaming the park and interacting with guests. Concept art shows ground crew servicing the Falcon, and fully costumed aliens in multiple different settings. Several pieces even make mention of an elephant-sized animatronic named Elee that would circle the park on a loop offering rides.
Finally, the last chapter in the book looks forward to the next stage of development at Disney World, specifically the Galactic Starcruiser hotel. Fans still don’t know how much a weekend stay at the high-concept, in-fiction hotel will cost, but the book does give us a first look at its main character. The book includes early images of the unnamed captain of the Halcyon: a blue-skinned female Pantoran whose dress and demeanor are vaguely reminiscent of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Of all the Abrams books that we’ve had the chance to preview here over the last few years, The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge contains some of the most new and unexplored material to date. That makes it a treasure for all Star Wars fans, and especially those who have been lucky enough to visit Galaxy’s Edge — or those who plan to in the future. The 256-page hardcover book has a retail price of $50 and goes on sale April 27.