Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens this summer at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. We take a detailed look at one of its main attractions, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Construction workers hustled to complete Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland as the Millennium Falcon came into view just beyond a curved archway designed to heroically reveal Han Solo’s famed starship.
“What you see before you is obviously the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy,” said Asa Kalama, Walt Disney Imagineering executive creative director. “It would not be Star Wars without the Millennium Falcon and it would not be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge without giving guests the opportunity to finally get to see her in all her glory.”
Kalama recently led an exclusive behind-the-scenes media tour of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run flight simulator under construction in Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland.
All around the Falcon crews were buzzing amid construction lifts and lighting rigs. Workers climbed up scaffolding wrapping petrified trees hand-carved from rock work. Bricklayers installed cobblestones in the walkways leading to the famed ship.
The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run mission will begin at a spaceport in the “Star Wars” village of Black Spire Outpost on the remote planet of Batuu. Spooling up its engines, the Millennium Falcon will vent thrust gases while docked at a spaceship maintenance bay.
The Millennium Falcon
Over the past 40-plus years, the Millennium Falcon has taken many forms: Scale models, CGI renderings and massive movie sets.
“This is the very first time that really anybody is getting the opportunity to see all of the Millennium Falcon in all her glory at full scale,” said Kalama standing in front of the ship.
Docked at a curving maintenance bay built into the spires, the Millennium Falcon stretches 112 feet from the tip of its mandibles to the back of the ship, Kalama said. Visitors will be able to walk up to but likely not under the daunting ship.
Ohnaka transport solutions
Hondo wants to grow his business and has a ton of cargo to move.
“He’s got an amazing fleet of ships, including now the Millennium Falcon,” Kalama said. “He and Chewie came to a little bit of an arrangement where he gets to borrow the ship. Now all he needs is flight crews to help him expand his operation.”
The ride queue for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Visitors will wind through a maintenance bay inside Ohnaka Transport Solutions. Along the way, riders will wander past communication equipment and stormtrooper armor spilling out of cargo containers.
“This is the main maintenance bay here at Ohnaka Transport Solutions,” Kalama said. “This is where the crew do whatever they can to keep his deprecated fleet in working order. It’s also in this space that guests will come to get a sense of some of the types of equipment and cargo that Ohnaka Transport Solutions delivers throughout the galaxy. Some of it more innocuous, some of it potentially a little less savory.”
Constant state of disrepair
Up above, an animated starship engine suspended from the ceiling will glow a pulsating red.
“This is an engine that has come off of one of the ships in Hondo’s fleet,” Kalama said. “Much like pretty much every ship that he’s got, it’s riddled with blaster marks. It is also not working properly at the moment. As guests in this space, we’ll also get to hear some of Hondo’s crew trying diligently to get this engine back online. It is an animated piece, so we’ll get to see it in action.”
The Ohnaka crew can be heard throughout the queue preparing the Millennium Falcon for her next mission.
“As we know from canon, the ship is often in a state of disrepair,” Kalama said. “Today’s no different.”
A View of the Millennium Falcon
After ascending a switchback catwalk, riders will find a Falcon overlook area on the second floor. The top of the ship and the domes of Black Spire Outpost will be visible through a row of windows.
“We’ve designed the entire queue to make sure that guests get as many angles as possible of the Millennium Falcon,” Kalama said. “We know how important she is. We will make sure that whether you ride the ride or don’t ride the ride, everybody gets an opportunity to see the ship and take a photo with the ship.”
Riders will meet an audio-animatronic Hondo in the Command Center. The dreadlocked space pirate with six tusk-like chin protrusions will give riders their smuggling mission. Nearby, Hondo’s trusty droid R5P8 will keep the boss on schedule and fix failing equipment.
“This is where guests will finally have the opportunity to have their audience with Hondo Ohnaka, the boss man himself,” Kalama said. “He gives us the sales pitch about his amazing fleet of ships, his cargo that he’s got to move and how he needs flight crews to help him move it. He’s looking for pilots, he’s looking for gunners and he’s looking for flight engineers.”
On the video screen behind Hondo, the Millennium Falcon will rise up from Black Spire Outpost. It will then dock in a bay inside Ohnaka Transport Solutions.
Onboard the Ship
Reporters on the construction tour put on protective booties before boarding the Millennium Falcon to prevent damaging the finished show floor.
“Now we get to do the thing our fans have been waiting 40 years to do. We finally get to step aboard the Millennium Falcon,” Kalama said.
Riders will pass through an umbilical bridge connecting the spaceport to the Millennium Falcon.
Visitors will wait for their flight crew assignment inside the main hold of the ship. They can explore the hold, play the holographic Dejarik game and snap photos.
“Before boarding the Millennium Falcon, flight crews will be given boarding cards. These will assign them to a flight crew,” Kalama said. “When it’s your flight crew’s turn to pilot the ship, you’re called up by one of the Ohnaka Transport Solutions crew members and make your way towards the cockpit.”
Flight crews will be lead down a tube-shaped “chicklet corridor”. This is lined with white pillow-like panels that resemble the square gum with rounded corners.
Just outside the cockpit, Hondo will appear on a monitor to give pre-flight specifics of the smuggling mission.
“This is where Hondo sets up the particulars of the adventure. It is where you get to find out where we’re going, what we are smuggling, umm, delivering and what we might want to keep an eye out for if there are any potential hazards along the way,” Kalama said.
Inside the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Cockpit
Six riders will take their seats with the pilots up front. Gunners will be in the middle and flight engineers in the rear. During the tour, stacks of 25-pound sandbags lay on the floor beneath each seat. They simulated the weight of riders in the cockpit.
The 200 buttons, switches and knobs in the cockpit will be fully functional. When activated, they will make clicking, chirping and beeping sounds. Their implementation will directly impact each mission.
“This is an experience that’s all about touching buttons, playing with buttons. It is highly, highly encouraged,” Kalama said. “Now, you need to be careful because the button’s already duct into the very systems of the Millennium Falcon. Depending on what you push it might have the desired effect or an unintended consequence.”
Pilots Fly the Ship
The pilot sitting in the front left seat is responsible for steering the ship left and right. The co-pilot sitting in the front right seat makes the ship go up and down.
“We have our pilots up front,” Kalama said. “It is truly up to them to pilot the ship. Depending on how they do, that will determine the overall physical health of the ship.”
Gunners Defend the Ship
In the middle seats, the gunners are responsible for the Millennium Falcon’s weapons systems. An array of buttons fire the weapons.
“Because we are a smuggling operation, chances are we may come up against folks who are not too happy about what we are up to,” Kalama said. “It will be up to the gunners in the middle to provide defense for the Millennium Falcon. If they don’t line up the TIE fighters fast enough, the hull is going to get riddled and the ship is going to shake violently.”
Flight Engineers Fix the Ship
In the rear seats, the flight engineers are responsible for fixing the Millennium Falcon. They get the ship back into a working order after an attack or accident.
“There are a lot of spires in Black Spire Outpost,” Kalama said. “If you run into one and the pilots don’t steer out of the way, the ship’s going to crash into them. Warning alarms are going to go off and it’ll be up to the flight engineers in the back to make sure that they keep the ship in working order.”
The Millennium Falcon ride Experience
The Smugglers Run ride experience begins and ends in the hangar bay of Ohnaka Transport Solutions. During the tour, the hangar bay was projected on a domed screen outside the cockpit windows of the flight simulator.
The flight crew will work as a team throughout the ride to fly the Millennium Falcon and battle First Order TIE fighters. Among the missions: Running blasters to help the Resistance. During the journey, a massive tentacled beast is expected to lash out at the Falcon, according to concept art.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run opens May 31 at Disneyland and August 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida..