REVIEW - Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Aug 16, 2019 in "Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run"

Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens later this month at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and until Rise of the Resistance opens on December 5, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is going to be at the top of everyones must-do list for Walt Disney World.

Representing Walt Disney Imagineering’s latest evolution of the flight simulator ride, Smugglers Run aims to bring a level of interactivity never seen before in a theme-park attraction. Imagineering’s experience with flight simulators in theme parks began with Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and has continued with Mission: SPACE and Soarin’ at Epcot, and most recently with Flight of Passage in Pandora. All of these seem to offer something different, with some using large IMAX dome screens, 3D imagery, a degree of interactivity, and the sensation of real G Forces. So what does this new flight simulator attraction offer? Read on for our overview and review of the attraction. WARNING: This article contains spoilers, so stop reading now if you wish to ride without any previous knowledge.

Arriving at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run you can’t help be struck by the sheer beauty of what lies before you - namely a full size Millennium Falcon parked in-front of some incredibly realistic rocky terrain and wonderfully detailed buildings.

So you might be wondering how the Millennium Falcon ended up on Batuu when everything else in the land is largely being seen for the first time. According to Imagineers who developed the story for the land, following the events of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Chewbacca brought the Falcon to Black Spire Outpost for repairs at this spaceport on the edge of the galaxy. In exchange for some much-needed replacement parts, Chewie is loaning the Falcon to Hondo Ohnaka, a smuggler who is now making good use of the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It is at this point that you enter the story of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.

Like everything in Galaxy’s Edge, there is very little signage to detract from the realism of the environment, and the actual entrance to Smugglers Run is very subtle.

Approaching the entrance there is a line for Single Rider, and a line for Standby. FastPass+ will eventually be available, but to ease operational performance during the early days, the ride will be restricted to Standby only.

The queue initially takes you on a walk around the Millennium Falcon, giving you a look at “the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” from all angles. You then head inside to the complex of buildings that make up the queue experience.

Like Avatar Flight of Passage, the queue moves through various rooms and hallways, making it an enjoyable place to queue. Your time in here is well spent, as there is a lot to look at. With no FastPass+ currently in operation, the line moves quickly just like in the good old days.

One of the most interesting parts of the queue is the view out onto the Falcon from an upper level.

After moving through several areas, you reach the main pre-show area. This is a large room where the story is laid out by a very impressive audio-animatronic Hondo Ohnaka, one of the first of a new generation of A-1000 class of animatronic.

Originally seen in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” animated television series, Hondo is a Weequay pirate always on the look out for an opportunity.

According to Hondo, he is running a “legitimate business” out of the spaceport, called Ohnaka Transport Solutions. He tells us he has more cargo than he can handle and needs extra flight crews to make some runs for him – especially crews that won’t ask too many questions about the cargo or how he acquired it!

Following the pre-show, it is time to enter the falcon via an access hatch on the ship’s starboard airlock. Each guest is given a color-coded card to determine which role they will play aboard the Falcon.

Groups are split into 6, and assigned as:

Pilots (2) – Work together to steer the ship – the left pilot controls horizontal motion, the right pilot controls vertical motion – avoiding obstacles that could cause damage.

Gunners (2) – Use blasters and missiles to defend the Falcon and its precious cargo

Flight Engineers (2) – Keep the Falcon from falling apart on its mission by managing the ship’s systems, repairing any damage the ship encounters and take control of the “special modifications” Hondo installed for these unusual missions.

Once aboard, you have the opportunity to spend some time in the ship’s main hold and lounge, where you can sit at the famous Dejarik (chess) table or poke around at other equipment in the room. This is also a time where you can swap roles with other members of your group if you want to try a different position on the flight deck.

The area is wonderfully detailed and will no doubt be a standout experience from the ride for many fans. It looks exactly like the movie, and you have a few minutes to explore and grab photos.

Once its your time to fly, your group is taken through more corridors and into a final briefing room. Here Hondo tells you exactly what you are doing and about the coaxium that you are transporting.

Next it is into the cockpit and time to take positions according to those assigned. The seats are arranged in 3 rows of two, with a central aisle running along the center of the cockpit. It means you wont really be sitting directly next to anyone, a consideration if young children are flying with you. Restraints are a lap belt, and the experience is very much like sitting in a car. Bags can be stored on the floor airliner style in-front of you. The height requirement is 38”.

Stepping into the cockpit is another key moment - and Disney has done an incredible job of reproducing what we have seen in the movies. Everything appears alive, with sound effects, flashing lights and movable controls everywhere. For some it may even be a bit intimidating that they are expected to interact with it!

Once buckled in, the action begins quickly. There is no 3D display, but instead, a high resolution display that wraps up and around you through the Falcon’s windows. While the display is very good, it does not offer the depth that the Star Tours 3D system offers, or the sheer scale of the Flight of Passage display. It has to be remembered though, that here it is a much more intimate flight experience seen from within a tight cockpit, so in that regard it does work. The cockpit itself is also full of physical and audio effects. There are lights everywhere, the lighting in the cockpit changes according to what is happening on-screen, and the audio is very well put together.

Hondo Ohnaka (with occasional input from Chewbacca) helps guide you along the mission - indicating to each role what they should do and at what time. Visual cues appear on the controls making it easy to push the right button or pull the right lever at the right time.

The key element here is that although the mission is largely the same each time, what is happening on screen is of a direct result of what is happening in the cockpit. So for example, when the gunner fires, the shot is seen streaking across the screen. It is infact a large scale video game. The gameplay even takes into account things like if the Falcon sustains damage – such as smashing into obstacles or taking enemy fire – and is not properly repaired, its handling is affected.

Industrial Light & Magic (the visual effects division of Lucasfilm) collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering and Epic Games to create the gaming platform using newly developed high-powered hardware from NVIDIA. For those of you interested in the hardware running the visuals, it is all powered by a single NVIDIA BOXX chassis packed with eight high-end NVIDIA Quadro P6000 GPUs, connected via Quadro SLI synchronizing five projectors.

Check out the video for a video walkthrough of some of the queue, a look at the pre-show and a full ride through of the flight aboard the Falcon.

The Pilot roles are likely to be the most in-demand, but each position offers something different and helps with bringing something new to future rides.

The physical motion of the flight simulator is very well synced to the video and is likely not going to be an issue with motion sickness. The range of motion is perhaps not as large as felt on Star Tours, and the physical sensation of flight isn’t really there. Combined with the limited range of motion and small non-3D video display, the overall flight experience is perhaps a little lacking.

At the end of the almost 5 minute long mission, Hondo informs guests how well they accomplished their objective. If the mission aboard the Falcon doesn’t go quite as well as planned, the ship’s hallways even show damage as you leave the attraction

The exit from the Falcon takes you through a series of very intricate hallways - similar to the exit of Flight of Passage. You ultimately return outside beside the parked Falcon.

By any-measure, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, is a very solid addition to the park. But it falls slightly short of being that headliner attraction that will bring people back over and over. That is expected to be the role of the Rise of the Resistance attraction that is planned to open on December 5 2019 at Walt Disney World.

With only the one attraction currently open, it is hard to accurately judge Smugglers Run when its role in the land isn’t fully clear. If this is the equivalent of Na’vi River Journey in Pandora, then it can be argued this is a very strong second ride to Rise of the Resistance.

The biggest criticisms will perhaps be a slightly unclear story-line, and a lack of familiar environments and foes. Many people probably imagine themselves flying the Falcon through scenes from the movies, but like everything on Batuu, it is all about new places in environments not previously seen. Although Chewie makes an appearance in the ride, there are none of the familiar characters to be seen. Despite composer John Williams being involved in the land, even the music steers clear of some of the most recognizable classic orchestration - which will likely disappoint some fans.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been in desperate need of new attractions, and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the first of three new major rides to open in the space of a year. Anyone visiting the park in the next few months is likely to head right to this ride, and the majority of guests are going to have a blast taking control of the Falcon in such an interactive way. Perhaps nothing could ever live up to the hype and expectation of a billion dollar Star Wars themed land, but this first ride adds even more anticipation for the upcoming of Rise of the Resistance, which is expected by many to be the ultimate theme-park ride on the planet. We can’t wait!

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder previews for Star Wars Galaxy's Edge begin this weekend, with the land officially opening to all guests on August 29 2019.

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Article Posted: Aug 16, 2019 / 9:27am ET