IAAPA Legends: Imagineers Talk Invitation to Play at ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’


Image courtesy of Staff Writer, Jess

IAAPA, the global association for the attraction industry, kicked off its annual expo in Orlando this year on Monday, November 18 with a colorful new logo, a bustling exhibitor show floor, and more than 100 educational opportunities lined up through Friday, November 22. Nerds was present throughout the week.

Following the grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, IAAPA Expo hosted Legends 2019 – Report from The Galaxy’s Edge. The session promised to “share insights and strategies learned by diverging from the known path and inventing new worlds” from the mouths of the Imagineers who brought Star Wars to life: Anisha Deshmane, Margaret Kerrison, Scott Trowbridge, and Chris Beatty.

For Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, that strategy can be summed up in three words: invitation to play. The panel host, Bob Rogers, BRC Imagination Arts Founder, told the panel audience, “Everything about this place is an invitation to play.”

He shared just what that meant with an explanation Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering (and a speaker at this year’s Legends session), told him in preparation for the panel:

“And [Scott Trowbridge] talked about how it’s all got to be real first-person. When you go to the Pirates of the Caribbean, the pirates don’t know you’re there; they don’t acknowledge you, they don’t look at you. You go to some other big attractions, and the characters in it talk to you and say, ‘We’ve got to save the world! Quick, do the so-and-so and such-and-such.’ And they’re going to say that to the next boat that might be empty. They don’t know you’re there. But, there’s something about [Galaxy’s Edge] that truly is an engaging invitation to play where you’re a part of it.”

Anisha Deshmane, an assistant producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, remains vital in creating — and fulfilling — that invitation. She is behind the Datapad, an experience within an app that allows guests to engage in-story with the Galaxy’s Edge land and play as their own Star Wars character. As Deshmane said, “It’s not a character, it’s you. It’s you and the actions that you do and the things that you choose to spend your time doing in the land is what manifests as your Star Wars story.”


Throughout the creative process, Deshmane’s goal was to create something that would allow every guest to “live their own Star Wars story.” With the Datapad, users can hack stations, translate Aurebesh signs, scan crates and even accept jobs. Deshmane said, “There’s a lot of interesting things that you can find that are off the beaten path, that I think people don’t expect.”

Chris Beatty, executive creative director for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, spoke to the process behind deciding on what Star Wars location Disney would bring to life. “It wasn’t where do we want to take our guests — what planet? — but what storyline. We actually started with, ‘Well, what do we want our guests to feel like when they walk in the land? What do we want their experience to be?’ Then, the location came out of that.”

Trowbridge added, “We very quickly decided that the right thing to do in the park was to not do the book report; to not retell someone else’s story, but to create a new expansive Star Wars universe that had lots of stories to tell.”

The choice to build a land that did preexist within the Star Wars lore as a remote outpost but had never before been represented in media gave the team enormous freedom to create a themed land with everything a fan could want.

“All of these different locations, all of these different characters, are unique. They all came from someone’s great passion of the Star Wars lore,” said Margaret Kerrison, the managing story editor of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. “It all started with wish fulfillment. Of like, ‘Well, we all want to be able to taste blue milk. We all want to taste green milk.’ So how does that work in our land?”

To learn more about the IAAPA Expo, visit iaapa.org.

Jess is a 90’s Slytherin who loves cartoons (Go Team Venture!) and 15-minute theme park queue lines. She spends most of her free time reading and writing about the hurry-you'll-miss-it, always exciting themed entertainment/experience industry. You can find her on social @shockscribble

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