There are a few things you should know before reading this review:
- I love Disney Parks.
- I love the Star Wars movies (well, half of them).
- I hate big drops.
Ironically, this fear of falling started in Disneyland. When I was six years old, I rode Splash Mountain with my family and sat in the very front of the log-shaped boat. There were no seat belts, so when we plummeted down the 49-foot decline, I lifted completely off the seat and was convinced I’d fall out if I didn’t bear-hug the metal handle on my left.
Ever since then, I’ve confronted this phobia with mixed results. Space Mountain: yes. Hollywood Tower of Terror: not so much. The on-ride photo for the latter, a ride that replicates a cursed night of deadly elevator malfunction with classic Twilight Zone flourish, only showed the top of my head. I spent the entire ride hunched over with my eyes squeezed shut in hopes that, when the elevator doors opened to reveal a view of the park from 13 stories up, the lack of visual would allay some of my unease.
It did not.
So, when I found out that the new Rise of the Resistance ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge features an escape pod scene and some of the same technology as Tower of Terror, I connected the dots and wilted. All signs pointed to the new ride having an epic drop. Everything I read gushed about the attraction transcending the concept of mere ride and giving guests a seriously immersive experience—one that took five years to develop. For 10 months, fans and marketing reps alike speculated that Rise of the Resistance was the missing piece that would round out Galaxy’s Edge, capturing a moment in Star Wars history and putting riders splat in the middle of it. I so badly wanted to see this ride, but I also wanted to avoid a panic attack.
I went down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos on Tower of Terror’s engineering, trying to logic my way out of anxiety. The redundant safety systems make the perilous elevator adventure one of the most secure rides in Walt Disney World. There’s no actual free fall but a line yanking the elevator cart down . . . so it can descend faster than gravity would normally allow. This did not help my trepidation. In the end, FOMO got the better of me, so I set course for Walt Disney World a few days before the ride opened to the public.
As I waited for my turn to preview the attraction, surrounded by the “ancient ruins” of X-Wing fighter ships, seemingly abandoned caves, and a rusted turret, dozens of journalists exited with huge grins. The few who didn’t smile were bewildered, trying to figure out how imagineers were able to execute the feat they had just witnessed.
Picking up on the excitement of passersby, I texted my boyfriend: “I’m like 93 percent stoked and 7 percent nervous about the drop lol.” By the time I was settled into the ride vehicle—a black cart with two rows of four seats each—and we started moving, that ratio had flipped.
My drop anxiety amplified the already intense scene: sneaking through a First Order star destroyer while posing as a prisoner in transit, dodging shots from storm troopers and massive AT-ATs, confronting Kylo Ren face to face. The smooth-gliding ride vehicle darted in and out of corridors with speed and ease, aligning with narrative highlights to sustain suspense throughout the 15-minute ride.
I felt like I was part of the action in a Star Wars film, hoping the enemy droids and storm troopers didn’t notice our party slinking to the escape pods. The mix of practical effects (physical props such as animatronics and models) and visual effects (projections and electronic screens) complemented each other seamlessly. The animatronics were the most fluid I’ve ever seen, really selling the threat of Kylo Ren and his fiery red lightsaber. Blaster holes appeared on walls during fire fights, and from a distance, it was nearly impossible to distinguish what was on a screen from what was physically there.
Finally, after a face-to-face confrontation with Kylo Ren, our vehicle entered an escape pod with a “window” to the outside. This was it. I didn’t whimper so much as I sank in resignation. Sure enough, the room shot downward, and I let out a scream worthy of a Six Flags commercial.
Then it was over. The drop wasn’t that bad after all. I was embarrassed but also enthralled that I could ride the attraction over and over and over again without worry. The next time around, I was able to appreciate even more details because I was no longer preoccupied with the eventual outcome. I felt zero apprehension entering the escape pod a second time, in spite of an involuntary (but notably less dramatic) shriek.