The lands were announced on August 15, 2015 and construction at both parks began on April 14, 2016. The Disneyland version opened on May 31, 2019, and Disney's Hollywood Studios' version opened on August 29, 2019.Walt Disney Imagineering executive Scott Trowbridge supervised the development and construction of the new land at both parks.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was first publicly announced by The Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger at the D23 Expo on August 15, 2015, though it did not have an official name at the time. According to Iger, it would be "occupied by many inhabitants; humanoids, aliens and droids … the attractions, the entertainment, everything we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the mythology." Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, stated that the land "will introduce you to a Star Wars planet you've never seen before — a gateway planet located on the outer rim, full of places and characters familiar and not so familiar."
In an interview for the winter 2015 issue of the official Disney fan club publication Disney twenty-three, Trowbridge stated: "[O]ur intent is to make it feel as if you just walked into one of the movies... Bringing Star Wars to life in the physical world gives us the opportunity to play with a whole bunch of things we've never done before... to really engage all of the senses. What does that street feel like? What does that animal smell like? What does blue milk taste like?"
Iger announced in March 2016 that construction on both versions of the land would begin in April 2016. Construction began at both locations on April 14, 2016. In February 2017, Iger stated that the lands are scheduled to open in 2019 at both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios. In July 2017 at the D23 Expo, Chapek revealed that the themed lands would be called Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Chapek also announced that the Disneyland version would open first.
In May 2018, Trowbridge revealed that the name of the planet's village is Black Spire Outpost, an organization briefly mentioned in the 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story. It was also announced that the Disneyland version of the land would open in summer 2019, followed by the Disney's Hollywood Studios version in late fall 2019. The names of the two new attractions at each location were announced in November 2018 during the D23 Destination D event held at Walt Disney World. A five issue comic miniseries that introduced people to the area's location was published by Marvel Comics in April 2019. Iger announced the opening dates for both locations on March 7, 2019.
The Disneyland version of the land was dedicated on May 29, 2019. In attendance at the dedication ceremony, were Iger, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and series actors Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Billy Dee Williams. The land opened to the public on May 31. Beginning June 24, a virtual queuing system was implemented.
Construction of the landscape at Disney's Hollywood Studios in December 2017
Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) designed the project in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, with Imagineer Scott Trowbridge supervising the project, Asa Kalama and Chris Beatty serving as executive creative directors, and Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo and designer Doug Chiang of Industrial Light & Magic involved as consultants. Together, the team decided to set the lands on a new planet, located within the Outer Rim of the Unknown Regions. Described as a "remote frontier outpost", the planet Batuu has not previously appeared in other media, although it has existed within canon "for thousands and thousands of years." The team chose to create a newly designed world instead of using an existing planet from the films such as Tatooine or Hoth, because those locations evoked a pre-existing familiarity with guests, with Trowbridge explaining, "We wanted to build new Star Wars stories, new Star Wars destinations, but this time you could be in that story that required us to go to a new place."
This used to be a vibrant trading port back in the old sub-lightspeed days, but now with advent of hyperspace, its prominence has kind of fallen and faded a little bit which has made it a great spot for those who didn't want to be on that kind of mainstream path. The smugglers, the bounty hunters, the rogue adventurers looking to crew up, the people who don't want to be found — basically all the interesting people.
— Supervising Imagineer Scott Trowbridge describing the featured planet
The namesake rock spire found within Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The development team drew inspiration from real-world locations, including Istanbul, Morocco, and Jerusalem, and traveled there to study the architecture, culture, and weather. The team also cited Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy as a basis for the architecture and aesthetic look of the land. The landscape of Galaxy's Edge features 135 foot (41 m)-tall spires standing amongst the rockwork that are intended to be the petrified remains of massive trees of an ancient forest; Imagineers based this landscape from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. WDI used in-house virtual reality programs to realize where to use forced perspective and place thematic details in relation to sightlines to hide the park's show buildings from guest view. Disney consciously modified traditional theme park attributes throughout the lands—such as having signs written in the fictional Aurebesh language rather than English, and omitting attraction marquees and Star Wars-branded merchandise—as a way of maintaining the natural theming of the land. Being located in California and Florida, both iterations of Galaxy's Edge are situated at different latitudes and also face in separate cardinal directions; Disneyland has an east-west orientation and Disney's Hollywood Studios has a north-south orientation. This contrast in layout means both locations receive different amounts of sunlight at various angles throughout the seasonal year. As a result, both locations were designed with distinct shades of paint and color palettes in mind.
In addition, the area features Oga's Cantina, which is the first location in Disneyland Park to sell alcoholic drinks to the public. Riders' performances on the Millennium Falcon influence how they are treated at the cantina, adding to the immersive experience. According to the Disney Parks Blog, "perform with skill and you may earn extra galactic credits, while bringing the ship back banged up could put you on the list of a bounty hunter. End up on Harkos' list and you may face a problem if you show up at the local cantina." The cantina's music is provided by R-3X, a droid that was first seen as RX-24 (a.k.a. Captain Rex) in Star Tours, and is now the cantina's DJ.Paul Reubens returned to voice the character.
The Black Spire Outpost marketplace contains a toy stall run by a Toydarian, an alien species that was seen on Tatooine in Episode I – The Phantom Menace. There is also a creature stall. A TIE Echelon, where Kylo Ren makes his daily appearance, was developed by Colin Trevorrow during his work on Episode IX before being replaced as the film's director.
Longtime Star Wars composer John Williams returned to compose the main musical theme for Galaxy's Edge. Williams' theme is interpolated and arranged diversely throughout the land as ambient music, instead of in its traditional symphonic format.William Ross, who conducted the symphonic recording of the theme with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) on Williams' behalf, was also responsible for arranging Williams' original composition in different musical contexts for use. Ross and the LSO recorded nearly an hour of musical material at Abbey Road Studios in November 2018. The musical score for Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance attractions feature reprisals of previous Star Wars themes written by Williams, adapted and conducted by Ross. A five-minute symphonic suite was released digitally by Walt Disney Records on May 3, 2019. In addition to Williams's score, 29 original songs were commissioned to the music team for use as ambience as well. On September 6, 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Oga's Cantina: R-3X's Playlist #1 was released by Walt Disney Records, featuring eighteen tracks heard at Oga's Cantina inside Galaxy's Edge.
The construction of Galaxy's Edge required a reconfigured route for the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America. A first look at how these changes would impact the park were revealed in January 2016, when concept art was released depicting the northern bank of the river after construction was completed. On January 11, 2016, several attractions in Frontierland and Critter Country were closed. Big Thunder Ranch closed permanently, including the multifunction event space, barbecue restaurant and petting zoo. Other attractions closed temporarily, including the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America. Tom Sawyer Island reopened on June 16, 2017, and Fantasmic! reopened on July 17, 2017. The Disneyland Railroad, Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, and Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes reopened on July 29. The land opened on May 31, 2019.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Black Spire Outpost at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Mubo’s Droid Depot - a shop where guests can create and purchase their own custom droid.
Bina’s Creature Stall
First Order Cargo
The Milk Stand - a stand where guests can purchase blue or green milk.
The Disneyland version was named one of Time magazine's "World's Greatest Places 2019". While the themed area initially drew crowds to the point of leaving the rest of Disneyland relatively empty, a drop in attendance after the first few months led to the resignation of Catherine Powell, who oversaw the U.S. and Paris themed areas. However, in October 2019, some visitors have reported that the Disney's Hollywood Studios area was crowded during their visit.
Comic books: Galaxy's Edge received its own five issue mini-series from Marvel starting in April 2019. The Star Wars galaxy location featured in the themed land, Black Spire Outpost on Batuu, is the focus of the series written by Ethan Sacks with art by Will Sliney.