Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s more likely than not you haven’t heard of Galaxy’s Edge, or Black Spire Outpost, or the remote Outer Rim planet called Batuu. But you have heard of Star Wars. Billions have seen that fictional space fantasy galaxy via movies, books, and a TV series. But far fewer have made their way to Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyworld in California, and that means a tie-in, real world location event experience is out there that most Star Wars fans haven’t tapped into yet. That’s where Abrams Books’ seventh book in their concept art library documenting the Star Wars universe comes into play. The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will take readers where they’ve never been, a world inspired by the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie just as the movies were so inspired, further springing from 11 movies, three series, and dozens of books. The result is a destination different and new that fans have never seen before.
In many ways reading The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is like reading a behind the scenes book for an animated movie or video game based on your favorite franchise in advance of the release. Writer Amy Ratcliffe doesn’t include the final, as-built views of Galaxy’s Edge, visited by millions since opening at the two Disney theme parks–still far less than the total international fan base. Those who have visited the parks may find the book more valuable than the casual reader, matching their own photographs taken onsite against these concept pieces. How much did the designers retain? How much made it to implementation and how much was discarded? Visitors to the parks will have greater insight into those questions. For the rest of us, the value is learning more about what Lucasfilm art exec Doug Chiang’s vision holds for the ongoing mission to make new creations “look like Star Wars.”
The surprise readers will find is how much this book looks like the previous six books in The Art of Star Wars series. Part of that, as we learn in the book, is because the production design team from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was brought in for six months to visualize Galaxy’s Edge. Fresh off of the film that had a similar charge–re-creating the world of the original Star Wars trilogy–the crew was ready to conquer such a task. Part of this is the presence of a full-size model of the Millennium Falcon, and characters onsite like Chewbacca. One ship looks Imperial in design, something like a TIE-Fighter, and another looks like a Landspeeder. Batuu looks something like Naboo, also like Tatooine’s Mos Eisley spaceport, also a lot like Jedha, where we met Chirrut and Baze in Rogue One.
The attraction takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, as reflected in the nature of the Empire in the form of the First Order stormtroopers. Compared to prior books in the series, this account primarily consists of photographs of concept artwork instead of text–29 of its 256 pages make up the bulk of the interviews and explanatory material. So readers won’t learn about the nuances of building a theme park per se, but all sorts of other nuggets are included in the photo captions.
Through sketches, CGI creations, blueprints, photographs, and labels, accompanied by a few interviews with the creators of the concept of the park through its completion, a new world surfaces that has the feel of something familiar while being new and different. Highlights include development of the theme park store and its “Hammerhead” aka Ithorian character called The Collector, referred to by Qi’ra in dialogue in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Nicely realized signage is translatable via smart phone from the franchise’s fictional language of Aurebesh. And they even created a play on Kenner’s 1970s droid factory toy as a real-world droid shop. Two rides are part of the attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which allows guests to commandeer their favorite ship, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where guests find themselves in the crossfire of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. The final chapter of the book previews a forthcoming Florida park attraction, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which will allow guests to spend the night aboard a high-end, slick, space cruise-type attraction on a vessel called the Halcyon.
A surprising addition to The Art of Star Wars library, and quite interesting, The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be a sought-after souvenir book visitors to the park will find in the shop onsite, and it’s available for pre-order now here at Amazon, with a publication date of April 27, 2021. Don’t miss it, along with the entire Abrams library of The Art of Star Wars books, including The Art of The Force Awakens, The Art of Rogue One, The Art of The Last Jedi, The Art of Solo, The Art of The Rise of Skywalker, and The Art of The Mandalorian.