Rise of the Resistance: Disney’s Newest Immersive Attraction Lights a Spark and Makes a Galaxy Far, Far Away Feel Like Home

Rise of the Resistance promo image with AT-ATs

“This is Black Leader- I hear you’re a fine looking group of recruits.”-Poe Dameron.

This is just one of the opening lines from Disney’s newest attractions, Rise of the Resistance. One of the most innovative, immersive and fun Star Wars experiences to date, the attraction recruits you to the side of the Resistance to help against the First Order. Entering a secret base hidden in the caves of Blackspire’s old outpost section (located in Galaxy’s Edge), riders enter a small room where they are greeted by BB-8, and a hologram message from Rey. Batuu is no longer safe for the Resistance. Finn and a team of Resistance troops have snuck on board a First Order Star Destroyer to find a way to give the Resistance more time to escape and cover their exit. A transport is waiting to take guests off planet to General Leia’s new base on Bacara. Guests are urged to keep the location of the new base secret, as it is vital to the survival of the Resistance. Mon Cal Lieutenant Beck then welcomes everyone before giving the floor to Poe Dameron, who greets the new recruits. Guests are then walked outside to see an X-wing with BB-8 moving around on top of it as they are walked into a transport shuttle.

The transport shuttle lifts off, and guests can view out from the viewport with Lieutenant Beck in front. However, the trip is interrupted by an attack from TIE Fighters, and riders find themselves being taken aboard the same Star Destroyer Finn has infiltrated. As the transport doors open, First Order officers taken everyone into custody, leading them past a hangar filled with dozens of stormtroopers. This is by far one of the most breathtaking moments and it isn’t even part of the main attraction, just a small cog in the entire experience. After being led by smaller groups into a holding cell, General Hux and Kylo Ren appear threatening to interrogate guests for the location of the new base. At the moment when all hope seems lost, the outline of a doorway starts being burned into the wall, and way out is revealed.   A Resistance fighter greeting everyone and explaining that there is no time to waste. Loading up into the ride vehicles, guests are then greeted by Finn on video screens. He details a way out by heading to the escape pods. There is an Imperial astromech droid on the ride vehicle that has been reprogrammed to take guests to that location. The main attraction finally begins as riders have find their way safely to the escape pods while avoiding Kylo Ren and hordes of stormtroopers blasting their way forward.

There are many elements that this attraction implements that make it such a success. The first is how it involves guests in the story and makes them part of the overall narrative. By entering the “secret base” riders are recruited into the Resistance, and given very vital information that the First Order wants and spend the next fifteen-minute ride time trying to get. All of this is made to feel even more real by the immersive sets, effects, and cast members. They play their roles so well, it’s difficult not to get anxiously excited as a Resistance fighter urges you to climb on board and says “May the Force be with you.”
There’s a lot to be said about which characters take the lead on this attraction as well. While Poe Dameron’s appearance could almost be classified as a cameo, it’s made to feel monumental. Even after a message from Rey, and being flown in a transport by Lieutenant Beck, Poe has a high enough rank of respect that it felt necessary and an honor to be greeted by him as “new recruits.” This feeling follows when Finn appears on the Star Destroyer. Not only is he leading that mission, he is now taking over helping us escape. It’s also important to note that there are Finn animatronics on the actual attraction, blasting at stormtroopers to cover the escape pods.

BB-8 in Rise of the Resistance

This is a big deal for a few reasons. There are few attractions that include human animatronics who are not based on animated characters. In fact, some of the only ones at Disney World and Disneyland are Spaceship Earth, It’s a Small World, the late Great Movie Ride, the Carousel of Progress, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Hall of Presidents. Out of that list of attractions, only a few feature animatronic people of color. Jungle Cruise features natives, the Hall of Presidents features President Barack Obama, Spaceship Earth has a few scenes with unnamed characters, and It’s a Small World has doll-like children from around the world. For Rise of the Resistance to feature a black man, who has a name and featured role in the narrative is not only huge, it feels incredible. John Boyega is immortalized on this attraction as a leader and a hero. There is a element about the Star Wars sequel trilogy that isn’t talked about enough. The Resistance is shown to be a diverse group of people- different races, species and gender. Whenever the First Order is depicted on screen, it is mostly white human men with few exceptions sprinkled throughout. This was truly felt throughout the experience of the attraction from start to finish. When you begin your journey, you’re greeted by a woman, an alien, and a Latinx pilot. When you are captured and in danger, the hero of the Resistance that is going to help rescue you is a black man. This may not hit everyone in the same way, but it very much makes a difference.

No matter what may be felt about plotlines and missed opportunities for character’s stories playing out on screen, it needs to be said that this sequel trilogy has been a gift. It has created new heroes that look like us, that have taken the lead, and are on lunchboxes, t-shirts, action figures and now- an attraction at a theme park that services 52 million guests per year. This is the spark that will light the fire of change that is well overdue- and it is just getting started. The base has been laid for a more diverse galaxy that needs to be celebrated and built upon, and is up to creators and fans to reinforce. As General Leia said “We have all we need.”