By now,Star Wars fans have all read reviews of Galactic Starcruiserthe new immersive (and expensive) attraction at Walt Disney World set aboard the Halcyon, a hotel designed to make guests feel like they’re traveling within the galaxy far, far away. As you might imagine, the “journey” required a hell of a lot of story planning behind-the-scenes to make sure every visitor got their money’s worth out of the experience.
That’s where people like Anisha Deshmane, assistant producer at Walt Disney Engineering, and Sara Thacher, senior R&D Imagineer at Walt Disney Engineering, come into the picture. At this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, which io9 attended, the pair gave an illustrated talk— “Starting With the Ending: Narrative Design of Galactic Starcruiser”—That outlined the frankly exhaustive process that went into building the narrative portion of the attraction. Forget strapping yourself in for a five-minute roller-coaster ride; Galactic Starcruiser lasts two days and has to tailor an entire story (filled with multiple moving parts and helped along by both technology and a full cast of performers) around its dozens and dozens of “passengers.”
No small task, and one Thacher said it took over six years to develop. “It is a really long three-act play,” she explained of the two-day structure that comprises each guest’s visit. “[We take] that basic three act-structure and divide it up over the two days, two nights, 45 hours worth of Star Wars that we have going on here. ” The first act introduces “some of the essential conflicts and [offers] a chance for passengers to decide what role they want to play, what path they want to follow and what choices they want to make. ” In act two, passengers start to see the consequences and results of their choices — a blend of actual choice and some careful nudging by Galactic Starcruiser‘s behind-the-scenes plot mechanics — all leading up to act three’s “several dramatic conclusions” en route to a grand finale.
In that journey, Deshmane said, “You are able to look at different things that are happening throughout the ship. Throughout those different spaces, you may get caught up in the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. You may choose your own path and become a scoundrel who’s just in it for the credits. Or you might even find yourself in the middle of a romantic comedy love triangle situation. ”