Event Recap – Architecture Institute Hosts Imagineering Presentation On Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Last night the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIALA) held a virtual presentation hosted by three talented Walt Disney Imagineers, as they discussed the highly anticipated upcoming immersive resort experience, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

The event featured Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser’s executive producer and creative director Ann Morrow Johnson, principal interior designer Tami Empero, and overall concept architect Gregory Ashton in a powerpoint-style overview of this incredibly innovative new adventure. In the bullet-point list below, I’ve detailed some of the most fascinating tidbits and factoids we learned during the event.

  • Ann Morrow Johnson introduced the presentation with a short montage video covering the basics of what Walt Disney Imagineering actually does, summing it up with “We build stories in physical places.”
  • Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is described as a “deeply immersive multi-day experience” with a two-night structure, unfolding like a “gigantic three-act play.”
  • You’ll meet characters who need your help, and passengers aboard the Halcyon can expect to interact with factions such as the Resistance, the Underworld, the Force, and the First Order. Other story paths mentioned were “Rom Com” and “Pilot,” all of which send the guest along the way to becoming a “Hero.”
  • Since this discussion was for an architecture institute, the Imagineers spent some time talking about how the Halcyon was designed as a civilian ship within the Star Wars universe, as opposed to a military vessel.
  • Guests will start their voyage at Walt Disney World, check in at a terminal (pictured above), and prepare to blast off into space from a stark and monochromatic bunker that is considered the “antidote to Star Wars” before journeying to A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
  • The launch pod then travels through hyperspace and connects to the Halcyon cruise ship. There, guests will come across roaming droids, alien crew members, and full-sized hologram columns, ensuring they now feel deeply immersed within the familiar Star Wars universe.
  • Tami Empero talked about the color choices for the Halcyon’s atrium area and showed some concept art I hadn’t seen before. It’s “an upscale notch above the grays and oranges” we see in the movies. Costumes from the Star Wars prequel trilogy helped inspire the finishes, which are described as lightweight and synthetic.
  • An on-board boutique will allow guests to purchase costumes and apparel with the Halcyon logo.
  • The guest cabins are intimate and “ready for space travel.” Everything is bolted to the ship to prevent furniture from shifting around during “turbulence.” All the doors will slide open horizontally instead of swinging open like in a standard real-world hotel.

  • Part of the story will involve a space battle, allowing guests to operate control panels on the ship’s bridge. The panels were designed with “1970s realism” to reflect the original films, with no touch screens– just blinking buttons and analog switches. There will be English and Aurebesh text alongside vector-line graphics.
  • The group also briefly discussed the high-tech interactive lightsaber training pod and the Crown of Corella dining room, where guests will eat three meals a day. At night this room transforms into a supper club with live music. They touched on the dining room’s  “blue mohair upholstery” and food that “feels out of this world.”
  • In the Sublight Lounge bar, space cocktails will be served as guests play the card game Sabaac on the holographic tables. Here smuggler characters may ask if you want to join them on a heist. Gregory Ashton talked about how the proportions of this room are distorted to make it feel like it’s within a spaceship instead of a building.
  • There will also be “secret spaces” like the engineering room, where guests can “hack in” to the ship’s subsystems and crawl through tunnels into other areas. Later on, active participants may be invited back here for a story scene involving booby-trapping the ship “Home Alone-style.”
  • We were shown a detailed cross-section of the Halcyon’s bridge and were told that the real-world WDW facility is laid out almost one-to-one with the dimensions of the fictional ship.
  • Lastly, the Imagineers discussed the excursion to Batuu on a transport, where Galactic Starcruiser guests will have priority access to attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. There will also be story reasons to go on these rides, as characters may ask for your help as part of missions that will pay off once you’re back on the ship.
  • After concluding the presentation, the team took questions from participants and spilled some additional details like the “climate simulator” (an open-air space on the ship that will allow guests to step outside whenever they want or need to) and the intriguing concept that this may only be the first story told aboard the Halcyon, with the implication being that the experience’s overall narrative may evolve over time.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is set to open in 2022 at Walt Disney World.

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