You may have heard that Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the most innovative attraction Disney has ever created. After experiencing Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we can personally confirm that the ride is amazing and is one of the best there is. However, we think there are some unsung heroes who deserve to be recognized – the cast members.
Rise of the Resistance is a showcase of impressive technology including animatronics, large sets, projections and video screens. But it also leans heavily on cast members to create a believable story and an immersive world. These cast members play a huge yet overlooked role that can take a great experience and turn it into an unforgettable one.
Warning – We’re going to be covering some major spoilers for the Rise of the Resistance attraction. Turn back now if you want to go in blind.
It all begins when you’re walking through the initial queue in the underground Resistance base. Several cast members are positioned alone the queue near the emergency exits to ensure everything is moving smoothly. If the line backs up, these first cast members answer all questions and engage in some fun conversations completely in character as a Resistance fighter. You may not speak with any of them if the line is moving along quickly, but it’s a nice distraction if things slow down.
Things really pick up when you hit the first briefing room. Resistance cast members will ask how many are in your team / unit and stage you just outside the doors that take you into the main briefing room. Of course, they do this while in character and create a sense of excitement that you’re about to embark on something meaningful.
Following the main briefing room where you encounter Rey and BB-8, more Resistance cast members usher you along into the transport ship. It’s incredibly tempting to stop and take photos of Poe Dameron’s black X-wing, but these cast members create a sense of urgency and insist you board quickly. We could feel our heart rate rising as we prepared to take off on our adventure.
Coming up is where the cast members really shine. As you may know, your ship will be captured by the First Order and you’ll find yourself on a Star Destroyer. First Order cast members will waste little time belittling your ties to the Resistance and create a sense of dread as they send you off for interrogation. They perform their operational duties (get guests off the ship and down to the next part of the experience) while maintaining a cold and cruel demeanor.
This feeling of foreboding is enhanced when you make your way to the interrogation cells. There you’re lined up in the groups that will eventually be used in the ride vehicle. Here, the First Order cast members can really make or break the show. Admittedly, a couple cast members we encountered were just going through the motions. Thankfully, others shined and completely stole the show. One female cast member had a ruthless demeanor and was poking fun at guests for their loyalties (gesturing to a Marvel hat), mocking them for being captured. It was outstanding and sold the illusion the ride was hoping to create.
One interrogation room later, you’re busted out by fellow members of the Resistance. These cast members were all terrific and again created a sense of urgency (“Come with us! We’re getting you out!”) as you boarded the ride vehicles. They even helped keep the mood lively even when the ride suffered a brief setback. One brief delay saw the Resistance cast members yelling back and forth in the room, asking about droid configurations and whether they’ve received new communications from Finn. The creativity and quick thinking shown here was impressive and made the delay feel like it was part of the story.
Finally, the conclusion of Rise of the Resistance features a crash landing that reunites guests with Resistance cast members on the planet of Batuu. Hearing cast members welcome us back and ask if we were OK after our crash landing was a great ending to an epic ride.
The sheer volume of cast members involved with Rise of the Resistance is incredible. Staffing this attraction is no joke. It takes dozens of cast members to make the entire experience work. When they’re on their A-game, they can elevate the ride to a whole new level. The interactions we witnessed during our rides were some of our favorite elements. It made everything feel so genuine and real.
Our best comparison to another ride and the level of cast member impact would be the former Great Movie Ride that used to reside at Hollywood Studios. While the volume of cast members in the Great Movie Ride was significantly smaller compared to Rise of the Resistance, the interactions and energy (or lack thereof) could greatly alter the experience. The same is true in Rise of the Resistance where an uninterested First Order cast member is way less fun than one that cranks up the intensity.
Rise of the Resistance is a stunning achievement and deserves to be labeled as one of the best attractions ever made. But, like so many things in Disney theme parks, it’s the cast members who make that extra magic.