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Military Discount to Check Out Star Wars, Disney-style

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It’s finally open, so if you haven’t made the plans, you’ll probably be asked soon: When are you going to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge?

You can’t farm on Tatooine forever. You might as well start deciding which coast you’ll hit to check it out. Whether you’re a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, the prequels, or the latter interpretations, Disney’s inviting tourists from around the world to visit the happiest Death Star on Earth.

Yeah, we know: some of you are busy, tired and don’t particularly give a Sith. If you have “younglings,” however, the clock is ticking. That’s why we’ve put together a look at what you can expect and your best options in planning for it. You don’t have to wear your hair in donut buns or breathe through scuba gear. They’ll be just as excited if you’re in flip flops—and you’ll get groped less by tourists.

Those of us whose Mousketeers have outgrown their eared caps can tell you: it happens in a blink, so make those memories happen while you can! One minute they’re in a stroller, the next you’re making room checks during school hours for contraband. That’s not to say that you have to spend Disney-vacation-level funds to make lifelong grins (at all)—we just suggest doing so if you can, while they’re young.

To lessen the pain of hyperspace travel in your bank account, el reino del ratón does offer military discounts. To their credit, it’s an annual thing that they do (and at least one thing of which Walt would certainly be proud). It’s probably worth looking into their park hopper package deals that offer passes to the other parks like the Magic Kingdom, as well, but we’ll get more into specifics later. Our bigger point is that there’s more to Galaxy’s Edge, in California or Florida than plastic lightsabers and ride ques snaking in and out of the sun.

Granted, it’s Disney: you’re going to be surrounded by toy vendors, cosplay shops, Star-Wars-themed restaurants and more—all at the absolute top of their shrewdly-crafted marketing game. It is very possible to get through it all (and even have fun) without selling a truck or mortgaging a house, though. Planning, preparation, and patience—the three Ps—can help keep you sane, even when everybody’s hollering and you’re tempted to go full-on Anakin.

It’s all supposed to “interactive storytelling;” a big live-action game in a sense, so at the very worst, it’s a chance to get off-base for a little while and relax. The same inner child that once led some to join the military probably hasn’t entirely forgotten what it was like to wonder at Star Wars’ cinematic world in theaters and on screens at home. Think of this as a chance to let him or her out for some fresh air while wandering a lavish real-life recreation of our beloved mental playground.

C’mon, whaddaya’ say—humor us, and give it a shot? We swear (Mandalorian’s honor): we just want to help you make the best of all these deals in order to provide maximum fun for you, whoever copilots your Falcon and any Jawas that you’d bring along.

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A Long Time Ago

The parks opened in 2019: Disneyland’s version came first, in May followed by its Orlando counterpart that August.

Nope: there haven’t been any Florida-man-dressed-as-Ahsoka headlines yet. Give it time.

Unless you’ve grown up in a cave somewhere off the grid, you’re probably aware that George Lucas’ initial outing into the series premiered in 1977. We’re fans here, too—so we’re not knocking it—but it’s been increasingly more difficult to escape the Star Wars movie phenomenon throughout the West since then. Nobody outside the film crew had a clue what was going in Tunisia when Episode IV, the first film of the soon-to-be blockbuster sci-fi series was being filmed. Now, a few decades later, you almost can’t buy a camel on the outskirts of a remote dune without running into a kid in a B-88 t-shirt.

It’s multiple clothing lines, it’s periodically a breakfast cereal, it’s a universe of toys, it’s the basis of a “religion,” it’s become a sort of sport, it’s a universe of video games, it’s a dimension of Lego toys… It’s one of the most successfully mass-marketed franchises in the history of Western civilization. Sound clips from the original trilogy were omnipresent among Web pages in the 1990’s, as the Internet first rose to popularity—and now YouTube is stuffed with video clips from every one of the films that should’ve been released.

And then there are the parodies: from Spaceballs to Sesame Street to Net celebrities to stop motion Lego animators, riffing on the saga is almost endless nerd comedy gold. On its own, Star Wars has spawned an infamously craptacular holiday special, various documentaries (including an adequate one on “The Science of Star Wars” sponsored by IBM), cartoons, 3D-animated cartoons, a movie based on the 3D-animated cartoons, and a perpetual series of show-length Lego Star Wars commercials.

By the middle of November, TV channels will start advertising Star Wars marathons to air throughout the holidays. Only Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series seems capable of rivaling it as a popular entertainment staple for family gatherings. We’re hoping that Anakin’s chestnuts roasting over Mustafar-themed grills won’t be a revered Christmas tradition by 2040, but here are definitely days when it seems plausible.

Don’t get us wrong: we’re definitely capitalism fans around here (even if it does go troubling places at times). We don’t begrudge people who’ve worked hard to become a success the fruits of their labors at all. It’s just strange, if you’re old enough, to look back on the massive social/cultural/emotional tsunami that has risen from what began as a single movie when bell bottoms were trendy. If your first step into the launching bay was Episode I “The Phantom Menace,” you may get what we’re describing, too: Star Wars has become as intrinsic to our culture as tales of Hercules were to ancient residents of the Mediterranean.

In-kind of the same way that Disneyworld began as an investment in backwoods swampland, Star Wars began as a $3.5 million movie that some of those involved with its making believed would never do well enough to merit a single sequel. Now Mickey stands with one gigantic, iconic yellow shoe on the East Coast (in Orlando) and one on the West Coast (in Anaheim). Skywalker, meanwhile, is a household surname that most children know before they’re out of grade school—and it’s been that way for a couple of generations. That’s why Galaxy’s Edge is an idea that on one hand seems like something whose time has come. On the other hand, it’s also a notion that may inspire concerns of disappointment among elder fans, considering how high of a bar we all have set in our hearts and minds. If anybody is able to get closest to making our daydreams tangibly real though, maybe Disney, at their best, is the ideal candidate.

In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Both Disneyland and Disneyworld’s versions of Galaxy’s Edge involve some driving, plane tickets or both to get to for a majority of visitors. They may not be “a galaxy far, far away,” but they can take a little patience to get to. Once you arrive, though, a unique Star-Wars-themed experience awaits. Straying off course from the route to the parks—especially into Los Angeles or Miami—can add to the feeling that a tourist has left Earth, too at times. That’s another day’s discussion entirely, though.

For some of us, Empire (Episode V) is the untouchable best of the movies. For others, it’s “The Force Awakens” (Episode VII). Some—might not admit it publically (for understandable reasons), but they—may favor “Attack of the Clones” (Episode II). With “The Clone Wars” still stream-able on Netflix, there’s probably more than a few who’d contend that the 3D-animated shows are the absolute best of the watchable franchise. We’re not here to judge you. Our point’s simply that there’s pretty much something for everybody who’s even halfway interested in the fictional galaxy’s goings-on.

To further immerse you in the story, Galaxy’s Edge even has a phone app that can enhance your experience by turning the park into a giant video game. Okay: technically it’s kind of a sub-app called “Star Wars Datapad” nestled within Disney’s Play Disney Parks app, but it’s free. It ties into the story behind Galaxy’s Edge by providing background, but it also includes Outpost Control, an immersive-themed game that essentially treats the entire area as its massive board.

Datapad even invites guests to adopt the role of his or her own character within the world. It’s a newer kind of interactive storytelling than some may be used to, but it’s nowhere near as deep-commitment-dependent as a role-playing video game. In fact, you’re free to drop a given puzzle if/when you get tired of it. You can ally with the First Order or the Resistance, developing your profile as you go through by completing missions for your chosen faction.

Outpost Control players/guests are (voluntarily) tasked with small, simple quests like reconnecting virtual wires or tuning in radio waves. These goals are native to specific physical locations and time-limited in order to give you an added sense of realism. Successfully tapping into a data panel and installing either First Order or Resistance surveillance will cause the panel to display your team’s corresponding color (red or blue). The winning team of a match is then displayed, showing its allies. The whole thing lacks a start or an end, but that’s deliberate: the intent is for you to jump in where ever you like and to play for as long as a little as you choose.

In theory, you could team up as a family or couple or, if everybody has their own phone, have a free-for-all. Costumed staff roleplay along, encouraging the fun, so at worst, it could make for a nice change of pace from the same old, same old. At the end of the day, regardless of who wins, dads can still say, “I am your father… so hush or you ain’t getting that Hanana Carbonite shake.”

A Galactic Empire

As sole owners of Star Wars’ intellectual properties and franchise, the Walt Disney Company has the series’ direction in a tractor beam for the foreseeable future. For better (than “The Last Jedi”) or worse (than “Solo”), that means that the house o’ mouse will be setting the tone and calling the shots. They own the rights to decades’ worth of licensed novels set in that galaxy, which they’ve both publicly announced abandoning—and then adapted, in parts, into the plots of Rey’s movies.

In the long turn, this means that we could see some interesting things happen. How much further “woke” the new overtly political themes get, how many more liberties will be taken with the canon established by George Lucas (like the nature of the Force), and who’s going to be walking onscreen from the “Expanded Universe” of novels is anybody’s guess. The Disney behemoth is like a hive under the surface of Genosis, always bustling behind the scenes. Everything’s planned ahead to the point that just as one event’s lights are brought low, another is being mass-prepped to premiere.

“The Mandalorian,” Star Wars first-ever live-action; nonanimated TV series premiered in November of 2019. The jury may still be out on its quality or longevity, but if it draws in enough subscribers to Disney+ (the Mickster’s Netflix-competing streaming service), it seems likely that another show(s) will be developed. Set between events following the end of Episode VI, “Return of the Jedi” and the beginning of Episode VII “The Force Awakens,” “The Mandalorian” follows the adventures of a member of bounty hunters Jango and Boba Fett’s race.

This show looks good, but if they should decide to start a Star-Wars-only streaming service in time, the well could theoretically run dry eventually. We’re not saying that we expect to see tales of Glunu, Jar Jar’s retro-created Toydarian dry cleaner, but you never know. The only other alternative may be reboots of the nine movies… and then reboots of the reboots… and then a reboot of the holiday special reboot… and then reboots of rebooted reboots…

We’ve read suggestions that—considering how dog and cat owners have to clean unpleasant messes out of south-of-the-tail fur they’re stuck in at times—Chewbacca’s chair aboard the Millennium Falcon would seriously reek in real life. Hopefully, between the movies and TV, Disney won’t empty their Star Wars creative storehouses to the point of having to build a show around this fact. Nevertheless, we did say that there are interesting times ahead.

A New Hope

All kidding aside, we know that Walt’s park planning/production/staffing folk are the hard-working cream of the crop—and that our best shot at enjoying the coolest physical rendition of a galaxy far, far away possible has to be their handiwork. Galaxy’s Edge looks pretty good, right out of the gate. With time, there’s probably even better stuff to look forward to.

In the meantime, let’s talk travel tips: Disney hotels rival their off-premises counterparts with proximity to their parks that are deliberately exclusive, but you can wind up paying a premium price for it. Members of our military can get 30-40% off discounts, but if your funds are still too tight for that, (we’ve been there and) there are alternatives. Staying at a Mickey-less motel can mean driving/parking yourself and longer walks, but it’s always an option.

Thankfully there’s a third option, if you’re headed east, that may be the better of both: Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) in Orlando (within Walt Disney World) that offers affordable room rates and discounted tickets for all Mickey-related venues. They also have complimentary bus transportation to the parks and ticket center—as well as the Extra Magic Hours perk. Off-season stays during nontraditional vacation months like January can sometimes be a way to catch further bargains, too.

Non-Star Wars fans, we’re not ignoring you: we may not be there personally, but everybody’s different in one way or another. Even die-hard Jedi/Sith may need a break after a while. That’s why we’ve suggested the 3- and 4-day park hopper deals: they’re a buffet approach to the Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, the Magic Kingdom, and more. When you get tired of one area, you can visit another—and then crisscross back and forth, if you want, to your heart’s content.

Park hopper tickets can be purchased on-base at your military installation’s ticket office. Shades of Green sells them, too. Unfortunately, you can’t use these tickets in combination with another promotion or discount. You’re also limited to six tickets and they’re not valid on certain blackout dates, so you’ll want to check your desired destination’s schedule before making your purchase.

Galaxy’s Edge was adding Rise of the Resistance, a new attraction to Disney World in December of 2019 and Disneyland in January of 2020. Rumor had it that the 8-seat ride would take guests into the middle of a battle between the First Order (Stormtroopers included) and their opposition.

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