• Joel Ryan

"Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance" and the Story of a Great Disneyland Attraction

Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

As a lifelong Star Wars fan and former Disneyland Cast Member, you can imagine my excitement when it was first announced that Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm would be working to together on a new land expansion at Disneyland and Disney World that would allow guests to enter the world of Star Wars like never before.

That land, officially known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, premiered in 2019. However, when Galaxy’s Edge first opened, something was missing. Though fans enjoyed getting to explore all the planet Batuu and Black Spires Outpost had to offer, many were disappointed to discover that the big E-ticket attraction, Rise of the Resistance, wouldn’t be accepting new recruits until sometime the following year.

Leading up to its opening, the rumors surrounding Rise of the Resistance were that it was going to be ride to end all rides, featuring one of the most immersive stories and innovative rise systems ever created.

Now that Rise of the Resistance has finally opened, it’s safe to ask: has Rise of the Resistance really changed the game? How does the most expansive E-ticket attraction to arrive at Disneyland in decades measure up to some of the greats that have come before it?

What are the mechanics of a great Disneyland attraction?

To answer that question, let’s compare Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to the last major attraction to premier at Disneyland, and still one of the best, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. How do they stack up and why are they always at the top of every guests’ must-ride list.

Here are a few key elements to consider.

1. Story

Story is at the heart of everything that happens at the Happiest Place on Earth. From scenic design and character interactions, to shows and attractions, you the guest are immersed in the world of Disney’s most beloved stories and are invited to share in the adventures of some of your favorite characters.

So how do Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance compare in terms of their overall story? It all has to do with the role you play.

With Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, you are transported back to 1935, where you are invited (as a tourist) to enter the Temple of Mara in India’s lost River Delta to find the renowned archeologist, who’s gone missing. Though beloved characters, musical motifs, and familiar booby traps are present throughout the queue and attraction itself, this is an entirely new adventure.

Here, you don’t become Indiana Jones, you follow in his footsteps, careening through the perils of the Temple of Mara on a rugged jeep with the help of Indy, who you encounter along the way.

Set in the period of the new Star Wars trilogy, in Rise of Resistance, you and fellow citizens of Batuu are treated as new recruits to the Resistance in their fight against the First Order.

Upon entering the queue, you receive your orders followed by a Welcome-to-the-Resistance message from Rey and BB-8.

You are then loaded onto a transport shuttle, which is set to take you to the secret Resistance base. There you will be given further instructions. Poe Dameron and his squadron of X-Wings will fly escort.

And then your adventure takes a unfortunate detour…

On route to the Resistance base, your shuttle is caught in the tractor beam of a the First Order Star Destroyer. In the bowels of their massive (and visually spectacular) Star Destroyer, you are processed, interrogated, then escorted to the detention block by a group of First Order officers and their cohort of stormtroopers.

But wait, there’s more…

Before you’ve even had the chance to get comfortable in your cold and sterile cell, Finn and his Resistance fighters arrive to stage a daring rescue.

From new recruit, to prisoner, to escapee… your role in the story changes three times, as has your ride vehicle.

Reprogramming the First Order prisoner transports, Finn and his team help you navigate the bowels of the Star Destroyer, dodging, First Order AT-ATs, blaster cannons, and Kylo Ren himself, on route to the escape pods, that will take you “safely” back to the planet Batuu.

Welcome to the Resistance!

So in terms of story, both Indy and Rise do a remarkable job of pulling you into their respective worlds. They include numerous character interactions, daring escapes, sensory elements, and plenty of memorable shocks and surprises that are really second to none.

However, when it comes to the sheer number of characters moments, the massive set pieces, and the number of story twists and turns that happen along the way, Rise of the Resistance takes immersive Disneyland storytelling to another galaxy.

Advantage: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

2. The Queue

No one enjoys having to wait in line. Few are eager to see a three-hour wait culminate in a three-minute ride either. It’s a pretty miserable price to pay for any attraction, even a good one.

Thankfully, the Disney Imagineers have always found creative ways to make your time in line is as interesting and enjoyable as possible. Yes, the attraction is always the star, but the queue should be part of the show as much as possible. Disney queues do this in several ways.

  1. They always contain important bits of story information that prepare you for what’s to come.

  2. There is an incredible amount detail and Easter eggs that keep you looking for story details (and Hidden Mickey’s) while you wait.

  3. Most extended queues for attractions like Indiana Jones and Rise of the Resistance change, meaning, they don’t keep you in one location the entire time. Scenes change, and with each new turn, you are given a new feast for the eyes.

So as far as ride queues go, I’m going to give the edge to Indy, if only because it’s hard to know where Rise of the Resistance’s queue ends and the ride actually begins. Not only that, but Rise of the Resistance has created a new virtual queue that cuts down on your actual physical wait time.

Using the Disneyland app, you and your party sign up for a boarding group and receive a notification on your phone when it’s your turn to return the attraction.

Of course, if you don’t have a smart phone, you’re in trouble. In fact, if you’re not on the app the minute the virtual queue reservations open, you may be out of luck entirely. Reservations fill up quickly. And currently, there’s no standby line for Rise of the Resistance, which means if you don’t secure a reservation, your ability to experience Rise of the Resistance becomes, well, non-existent.

The lack of opportunity, even for those willing to wait in a three-hour line, is simply not there. This is a new first for Disneyland that’s really moving towards an entirely app-based experience, with ticketing, food services, and now virtual queues all accessed through the app.

Convenient for some, overwhelming, restrictive, and exclusive for others.

But as far as the actual queue is concerned, Rise of the Resistance uses so many pre-show elements, the actual physical queue is not as extensive as most.

With Rise, you spend most of your wait time in the cave systems of Batuu, which include recognizable Star Wars props and details you’d expect to find in a makeshift Resistance base: blasters, helmets, generators, display monitors, etc. However, once you make it into the chamber with Rey’s welcome video, you quickly emerge from the caves, get a great look at Poe Dameron’s X-Wing, and are then transported into space. At this point, you’ve stepped onto the first ride vehicle.

Once captured, you enter a spectacular secondary queue aboard the First Order Star Destroyer before being put into a detention cell. After being “interrogated” by Kylo Ren, you are broken out and then loaded onto the real star of the attraction, the prisoner transports, that lead you to another ride vehicle in the escape pods.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that Rise of the Resistance doesn’t have a traditional queue. It’s really one extended show experience that allows you to experience multiple story sequences, queues, and ride systems, one after the other.

In comparison, Indy’s half-mile worth of queue takes you through the Bengalese jungles outside of the Temple of Mara, through an extensive system of caves covered in bat poo, and into the ruins of the Temple, booby traps and all. You also get to experience a wonderful, Around the Globe-style pre-show video featuring Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) himself.

So if you’re looking for an attraction with more scenic design, attention to detail, and Easter eggs in its queue, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more spectacular than Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Waiting in line for Indy is part of the experience, and it is still one of the most entertaining and even enjoyable waits of any theme park attraction.

Advantage: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (partly because it has a traditional queue)

3. The Ride System and Show Moments

I’ll get to the point with this one since I’m no Imagineer and far out of my depth when it comes to describing the actual physics and ride mechanics of theme park attractions.

When Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened, it introduced one of the most groundbreaking (and expensive) ride systems ever conceived. The best way I can describe Indy’s Enhanced Motion Vehicle (or EMV) would be to imagine a full-range Star Tours flight simulator on wheels, creating the movement and motion of a worn-down, military-style jeep.

With its hydraulic rotors and advanced suspension system, this vehicle is able to do more than just drive through the temple. It’s able to simulate the up and down, side to side motion of a 1930s jeep barreling over rough terrain. If you’ve been on it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It really feels like you’re on a jeep, bouncing and barreling over uncharted terrain.

Indy also boasted some of the coolest (or hottest) show moments and effects created by the Imagineers to date. From the shifting doors of the Chamber of Destiny to the triggered poison darts and giant boulder roll/drop, Indy has it all. And certain effects have only gotten better with refurbishments and new projections added over the years.

Rise of the Resistance, however, really brings Disney attractions into the 21st Century with its trackless ride system and cutting-edge animatronics, the likes of which have never been seen in a Disneyland attraction.

The sheer scope of Rise of the Resistance is MASSIVE, which you experience firsthand when you step inside the arena-sized hangar and later drive through the legs of the full-size AT-ATs.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye was groundbreaking for its time and is still an impressive achievement and thrilling experience.

Rise of the Resistance, however, pushes the envelope in terms of what can be done with ride technology and show effects, and I’m really excited to see where trackless technology takes us in the future. Rise of the Resistance might only be the tip of the iceberg.

The only caveat is, because Rise of the Resistance features so many moving pieces, it’s prone to daily, prolonged downtimes. Let’s just hope that time and new technology gives the Imagineers the opportunity to improve upon their work, fix some of the bugs and kinks, and keep the Resistance in operation for more than just a few hours at a time.

Slight Advantage: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

4. Thrill Factor

I can’t say too many negative things about Rise of the Resistance. However, if you’re looking for an attraction where you feel the physical sensation of a vehicle bouncing up-and-down and side-to-side as it whips around corners and sharp turns, Indiana Jones beats Rise hands down!

Again, this isn’t a knock on Rise of the Resistance. Its trackless technology is mesmerizing. However, the motion of its prisoner transports is much slower and smoother than Indy’s jeeps, and the physical motion of Rise of the Resistance’s vehicles is limited to a relatively flat plane, where Indy’s EMV can handle a lot more movement and jerky motion, which you’ll definitely feel in the pit of your stomach.

Rise of the Resistance isn’t a physical sensation so much as a visual, technical marvel. So just in terms of physical thrills, Indy is still king!

Advantage: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

5. Re-Rideability

This may not be a fair comparison since it would probably be impossible to ride Rise of the Resistance multiple times in a single day, given the recent demand and scarcity of boarding groups available. Some of this may improve over time, but I would expect Rise of the Resistance to be a very popular and “exclusive” experience for years to come.

Also, Rise of the Resistance has so much going on during the ride, it’s a little tough to take it all in on your first ride-through. Yes, you’ll definitely want to ride again, but you may also need to stop for a moment and process everything when you’re done.

Would I love to ride Rise of the Resistance twice in a single day? Absolutely! Would I be willing to skip other rides, shows, or experiences in my limited time in the park to do it? Probably not! But right now, it doesn’t matter.

Ride it. Catch your breath. Then try and process what you just experienced. Because there’s a really good chance you’re going to have your mind blown.

Thankfully, Indiana Jones is an attraction you could experience several times in the same day… if you so choose.

Advantage: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

6. Overall Experience

In summary, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance are both unforgettable experiences that’ll make any guest marvel.

I will always put Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye at the top of my list and make sure I ride it at least once on every visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. However, I can also say that Rise of the Resistance has raised the bar in terms of what can be done when story and technology meet to create something truly magical.

Is Rise of the Resistance the next Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, or Star Tours? No. It’s its own thing, and there’s nothing quite like it. But will it have the same cultural impact that Indy had on guests and the park at large? Time will tell, but I’m willing to bet that kids growing up today will be talking about Rise of the Resistance in thirty years with as much admiration and enthusiasm as I do when I mention Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

Walt Disney was famous for saying, “Disneyland will never be complete; it will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Attractions like Rise of the Resistance and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye prove that imagination has not left the world. It continues to grow, and before long, guests of all ages will once again get to experience magic in a place that rewards imagination and creates happiness like nowhere else.

Here’s to you Disneyland.

“Storytellers, we’re just getting started.”