CNN Goes Behind the Scenes of Walt Disney World’s Technical Marvel, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

The wait is nearly over, as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is slated to open to guests this week at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Fans have eagerly been anticipating the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction which is unlike anything Disney has ever built before. CNN’s Jason Farkas takes readers behind the scenes for a look at the ride and the technology required to create something of this magnitude.

What’s happening:

  • CNN’s Jason Farkas recently had the privilege of visiting Walt Disney World to preview Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • This highly anticipated second attraction will be part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both Walt Disney World (opening on Thursday, December 5) and Disneyland (opening on January 17, 2020).
  • Farkas is one of the first reporters to be invited to experience the new attraction before it opens to the public. During his tour, he spoke with Imagineer, Scott Trowbridge about the technology developed and used for the attraction.
  • From the promotional material and sneak peeks revealed, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is going to be one epic ride—a completely immersive experience unlike anything fans have ever encountered.
  • In order to build something of this scale and make it feel lifelike, Farkas notes that Disney’s designers had to get creative. The attraction includes:
    • Dozens of audio-animatronics
    • Giant AT-ATs
    • Holograms
    • Lasers
    • A trackless vehicle
  • About that trackless vehicle, Farkas says it, “moves laterally, vertically, and at all times unpredictably.”



Fast Facts:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance “required the largest concrete pour in the history of Disney Parks.”
  • Upon entering the attraction, guests will find themselves surrounded by full-size AT-AT walkers and TIE fighters.
  • More than five million lines of code were written in order for this ride to be as immersive as it is!
  • Some characters appear as holograms or animatronics, and others appear as both.
  • Disney and Panasonic worked together to develop custom-made projectors and lenses to create holograms and digital projections.
  • The attraction features 65 animatronics and 3 A1000 series “humanoids.”
  • Powering an animatronic requires a lot of energy, which in turn emits heat. Disney couldn’t take the traditional approach with the A1000 series, so Imagineering worked with a vendor to innovate “pancake” motors that could power the animatronic from the inside creating life-like movements.



  • In addition to the custom-made projectors and motors, Disney also developed and patented new technology for:
    • Blaster guns (pictured above) that feature "repeatable, daylight-viewable muzzle flashes."
    • Equipment that creates a “moving beam of light in the air.”

What they’re saying:

  • Scott Trowbridge: "Spaceships and aliens and stormtroopers and lightsabers and droids and all in one attraction. [It's] everything that makes Star Wars Star Wars."
    • With two weeks until opening: "We're still very much in the final tweaking and tuning phase. We're not quite ready to open the flood gates to our guests yet."
    • On the technology necessary for Rise of the Resistance: "An attraction like this that has scale and complexity brings challenges that have scale and complexity. There are things we needed to invent."
    • On the look of the humanoids: "A lot of energy is necessary to move these things with the speed and agility of a human being. I often hear people say 'Is it an actor?'"
    • On adapting reality for story and experience: "This idea that laser bolts fly through space … that's not how lasers work on earth. So figuring out a way to make laser blasts travel more slowly through space — like a 'slug' of laser — took some new technology."
    • On the attraction experience: "We don't want our guests thinking 'How does this work?' or 'What's really happening?' We just want you to feel like 'I'm in Star Wars. I'm having a Star Wars experience.'"
  • Bob Iger, Disney CEO on the creation of the ride: "[It’s] the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction that we have ever imagined.”
  • CNN’s Jason Farkas on the attraction and land: “But my expectations were certainly met — and then some. Now you can fly the Millennium Falcon and escape from Kylo Ren. It was worth the wait.”



Going for a ride:

  • Farkas’ article goes on to explain the experience of his first ride through, complete with a few spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens, skip this section.

My fellow riders, including Trowbridge, and I were recruited to join the Resistance and sent on a mission by a holographic Rey and an animatronic BB-8. From there, we boarded the first ride vehicle, a standing-room only ship, piloted by two aliens in animatronic form — a Mon Calamari and a Sullustan, for those keeping score. As we left the planet Batuu, our ship was intercepted by the First Order, and a tractor beam pulled us on to a Star Destroyer, where a phalanx of fifty intimidating, animatronic Stormtroopers awaited our arrival.

Disney guests will traverse the corridors of a Star Destroyer and join an epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance, including a face-off with Kylo Ren.

We were then placed in a holding cell and interrogated by the sinister Kylo Ren and General Hux (presented here as projections). Suddenly, we managed to escape the clutches of the First Order — I refuse to say how; it's a great effect — only to be chased through the ship by Kylo Ren, now in animatronic form, and an army of Stormtroopers. We piled into a First Order Fleet Transport — a seated vehicle, this time — as an astromech droid drove us through the labyrinthine ship, dodging blaster fire, skirting laser cannons, and ducking Kylo Ren's glowing, cackling lightsaber as it (somehow) melted through the ceiling above our heads. Finally, we were jettisoned off the ship in an escape pod that acts as the ride's climactic drop. This was exactly the thrill ride I was looking for.

Trowbridge said "Rise" was designed like it has a "three-act structure to it" — and that holds true. At times, it felt more like immersive theatre than a Disney ride — or even more, like real life. When escorted into that First Order holding cell, I immediately thought, "Wait, this isn't cool," as though I was actually about to be interrogated.

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