Happy May the 4th, everyone! In honor of this day celebrating all things Star Wars, I thought you’d like to learn more about Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, the critically-acclaimed virtual reality experience from ILMxLAB that takes you inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in a whole new way.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge originally launched in 2020, inviting you into a virtual reality action-adventure experience where you travel to the planet Batuu and its Black Spire Outpost – the setting for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here you go beyond the boundaries of the theme park experience, exploring new, never-before-seen areas of the planet and discover all new adventures.
The new Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – Enhanced Edition released this past February, exclusively for PlayStation VR2, updated the experience to take advantage of PS VR2’s powerful hardware capabilities.
I recently had the chance to chat with the game’s director, Jose Perez III, and Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive with Walt Disney Imagineering, about how Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge came to be, where it takes us, and more. Enjoy!
What was it like to build a VR experience that lives up to expectations of both Star Wars and Disney fans?
JP: When I first saw what Imagineers were doing with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and just how immersive it would be, I immediately knew that ILMxLAB had to make an experience that would expand on the storytelling that had already been established and tell additional stories about the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost. But we also knew how important it was that we did it right and that we stayed true to the vision of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in order to live up to the expectations of fans.
ST: While this was a new medium for us to tell a Star Wars story, we still felt right at home. We had already created other VR experiences and with Star Wars, had done lots of pre-visualization and design work in VR, so we were already comfortable there. And in designing attractions, lands and other Disney experiences, we have to think about every possible location a guest might be and how it is purposefully supporting the story. Working in VR – with its 360-degree viewing angle – is much the same way. It was a natural fit for us as collaborators.
What’s the most exciting thing for you about being able to visit Batuu in VR?
JP: For me personally, I’m always excited when I get to put my headset on and virtually step into the Star Wars galaxy. There’s just something about it that really lets me feel like my inner kid is able to come out and play, and my imagination just goes wild. It’s also a lot of fun to be able to look out of the windows in Seezelslak’s Cantina and see the same lands that you’d find in person at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I think that having the connection between what you can see physically at the parks and what you can see in VR really furthers storytelling in an exciting way.
ST: We put a lot of heart and soul into developing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, so it’s great for Imagineers to see the work put into this place come to life in this cool new way. Batuu and Black Spire Outpost are populated by many more characters than we can see during a visit to the theme park, so getting to meet more of those characters, visit locations beyond what we physically built and bring those new stories to life is fantastic!
What was the relationship like between the game designers and Walt Disney Imagineering?
JP: In the development of Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, it was a really welcome surprise to see just how easy it was to work with the team at Walt Disney Imagineering. I also think that the care they took in helping us understand Black Spire Outpost and the inhabitants of Batuu was a major ingredient to the game’s success. Both of our teams are also always looking for new ways in which we can push the storytelling medium, so it was a great fit.
ST: I think that ILMxLAB and Walt Disney Imagineering have always been natural partners as we are both constantly looking to tell stories using new technology in innovative ways. It was especially great working with Jose and the whole ILMxLAB team, because it was clear right from the outset how passionate they were about the project. In the end, we are all storytellers, and Jose’s team wanted to create these new stories with the same care and attention to detail we applied when creating the physical land.
What’s one of your favorite parts of Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge?
JP: One of my favorite characters from Batuu is easily Dok-Ondar, so being able to bring him into our experience was like a dream come true. The Walt Disney Imagineering team helped us make sure that the Dok in Tales was an authentic representation of Dok from the parks.
My other favorite moment was creating an entirely new cantina just for Tales. Seezelslak’s Cantina sure fits in with the inhabitants of Black Spire Outpost, and as the proprietor, Seezelslak is boisterous, tells great stories, and is voiced by the incomparable Bobby Moynihan.
ST: I agree, Seezelslak is a really fun character and Bobby Moynihan’s performance really brings him to life. Knowing that Bobby is a huge Star Wars fan, we actually invited him to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for a sneak peek before it opened, and his enthusiasm was priceless. I love having him, as Seezelslak, be an ongoing part of the Black Spire Outpost storyline.
What are some ways the Enhanced Edition of the game took this experience to a new level?
JP: There are so many ways in which the Enhanced Edition really makes you feel as though you’re on Batuu. Visually alone, when you put on the PS VR2 headset you immediately notice just how detailed the graphics are. The team brought so many details to each character and environment by pushing what is capable on the headset. There are also advanced haptics and adaptive triggers, so the team got to play with what the planet around them and the tools they use actually feel like. This means that fans really get to feel the hum of a lightsaber or the clicks of their handy All-Kit tool.
I also have to give a lot of credit to Kevin Bolen and the amazing team at Skywalker Sound. It wouldn’t be Star Wars without the classic sounds that we’ve grown to love, and they poured a lot of love into this project to completely overhaul the audio experience. It really just brings everything to life in a way that only Star Wars can.
What did it mean to you both to be able to extend storytelling from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge this way?
JP: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has always held a special place in my heart, so I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to bring new fans to Batuu in VR with the Enhanced Edition of Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. The team really put a lot of heart into making the virtual experience feel new again.
ST: There are so many great stories still to tell on Batuu, and we’re constantly exploring new ways to tell them. What I love most about Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge is how it allows all our fans to visit Batuu as often as they want, extending the stories that began when they visited our parks. It’s a fantastic way for our guests to keep living their Star Wars stories when they return to their home planet.