Evermore Park vs. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Updated: May 26, 2020
Everyone who knows me, knows that I love Evermore Park. So when I heard that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was attempting to become a more immersive experience, I became a little apprehensive for the future of Evermore Park. Star Wars is one of the most popular franchises throughout the world and it is backed by the incredible money powerhouse that is Disney. If Disney managed to pull off an immersive experience, then would anyone consider seeking out Evermore? Luckily after attending Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland, my fears were put aside as the experience there pointed out the uniqueness that Evermore Park has locked onto.
Before arriving at Galaxy's Edge back in October 2019, I did a ton of research into how to maximize my visit. There were lots of articles and press releases put out that allowed me to get a good grasp on what to expect. Having the money to practically do whatever they want, I was very excited to see all sorts of Star Wars themed things at the new portion of Disneyland: full scale spaceships, A-Wings, B-Wings, TIE Fighters, Imperial Landers, and, of course, the iconic Millennium Falcon.
Stepping beyond those gates and looking around Galaxy's Edge was breathtaking. As one would expect with Disney, there appeared to be no expense spared. A whole terrain of slot canyons and open landing pads, lights, noise, and a vast variety of alien languages dotted the landscape.
There was a lot I wanted to see and experience. How would the food taste? What kind of merchandise do they have to sell? How will the rides be? Are there more interactive character interactions? Exactly how far can I push the immersion here? And the ultimate question is how does it compare to Evermore Park? Suffice it to say, I had a lot of work to do.
How was the food?
When I first entered Galaxy's Edge, also known as the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, I was quite hungry. I set about to find Oga's Cantina. With our reservation checked, my group was led to an open spot at the bar. From outside the door we could hear the loud music and laughter of the cantina and when we stepped inside it was a particularly wonderful sight. The themed decorations really made me feel like I had stepped through space into another world. I know it can be a bit hard to compare two different themed parks, especially when they are on opposite sides of the genre spectrum. Oga's Cantina really blew me out of the water. There was so much packed into the space and all of the food was spectacular. All of the droids, creatures, and fun themed food was so detailed, right down to the menus and their alien feel. I don't drink alcohol so I can't attest to the taste of those, however looking around at how they were served and displayed I didn't hear a single complaint. My group proceeded to order everything else on the menu. We wanted to try everything. The drinks were all delicious.
Of course, the whole Blue Milk vs Green Milk is a question most people have wanted to know. I sit firmly in the camp of Green Milk. The Blue Milk was good but too sweet in my opinion. However, I would gladly drink both again.
There were a couple other places to eat at the Black Spire Outpost but none held up to the kind of decoration or immersion that Oga's Cantina provided. However, if you wanted to feel like a pilot, there is a hanger-themed restaurant, as well as, some assorted vendors to buy from. Everyone had a different theme and all the attendants referred to money as “Credits” which I thought was a fun touch. I'll get into it more further below, but in my opinion eating at Galaxy's Edge is the best thing the place has to offer.
Stepping into Evermore Park always gives me a sense of awe. There is something about the environment that stands up to huge powerhouses like The Walt Disney Company. While comparing these two places I know that it becomes a bit difficult due to them being on quite opposite ends of the genre spectrum. Star Wars being the science fiction end and Evermore Park sitting firmly within the fantasy genre, the feel of the types of food are invariably different.
Stepping up to the variety of foods offered at Evermore Park has always been a treat. They offer a wide array of tastes. If you're wanting something hearty, you can enjoy their variety of soup in bread bowls or gumbo, or if you're in the mood for a snack, there is the delicious Inspector sundae, as well as, a variety of other pastries. Food at Evermore can be found at smaller, walk-up spots and they are very much a delight to eat at. However, Evermore Park does lack a distinct restaurant like at Galaxy's Edge (though rumors say there is an Evermore Restaurant on the way.)
The best option is to buy your food and choose between two locations to sit and eat. One option is Vander's Keep, a large space, which evokes a Harry Potter great hall feeling. Stepping out of the long hallway into a massive vaulted room with giant dragon heads mounted on the wall really gives you the most magical of feelings. It truly feels like you've slipped out of time into another place. The second location is the Crooked Lantern tavern. Walking through the magnificent garden scenery only adds to the splendor of adventure when you step through the tavern doors. As you would expect there is a large roaring fireplace warming the interior. Seating can typically be found, however you may have to step through a crowd of adventurers to a table or the bar.
Evermore Park has only sold alcohol during special events so on a typical day you'll be wanting to pick up an ice cold bottle of soda from the bartender. Live characters fill the space around you, suffusing the atmosphere with a life that just can't be replicated with artificial decoration.
What kind of Merchandise do they sell?
As to be expected of most Disney places, you can't make it more than a few paces before you run into a place to buy some sort of souvenir. Batuu is filled to the brim with things that you can buy, including stuffed animals, clothing, badges of rank, ship models, and, as to be expected, a vast assortment of lightsabers. There was so much merchandise that it left my head spinning. Droid and lightsaber building were two specific items that I'll address later as they fit into the “immersive experience category”. The rest of the items were a lot of things that you would typically expect at any sort of venue. Journals, costume pieces, pins and stickers arrayed in a myriad of wonderful displays. All of these are at premium cost. As with most things at theme parks the items fit well within the extraneous budget range, a budget that i simply did not have. Most of the things were great to look at and I truly wish I could have taken more home. The few things I did buy were just some practical use journals.
The merchandise at Evermore has been a part of some of my favorite things to collect. While they do not have the type of quantity that Galaxy's Edge has, they make up for it in quality. Evermore does have some normal expected things like T-shirts, beanies, stuffed animals, and journals, however they bring an extra level into the quality. The main attractive merch is the Evermore Coins. Themed on the different seasons, they make a very fun memento to buy every time you go to the park. Along with these coins the journals are made by hand with real leather. Adorning the walls are dragon eggs and horned mugs to really immerse you into the experience outside the shop doors. Fun postcards and jewelry are also found inside as well. But all in all, if you're looking for a good momento to keep, that is also within, what I would consider, an affordable price range, then swing by the Kettle Cafe and Mercantile for a souvenir you won't likely forget.
How do the Rides Compare?
When I went to Galaxy's Edge back in October 2019, the only ride open at the time was Smuggler's Run. A high intensity, action-packed ride that really puts you into the seat of the Millennium Falcon. This ride was a bit unique compared to a lot of other theme parks I've been to. Smuggler's Run is also the first part of what I would consider the interactivity of Galaxy's Edge.
While waiting in line, the story of what is about to happen is played through speakers. You can also use Disney's Play Disney Parks app on your smartphone to get ready for the ride, as the story is described there as well. I’ll focus on the ride right
now, as the app is a main point of my immersion section. Walking up the ramp and into the hallways, it was filled with a large majority of great theming, which culminated into the ride's waiting room, the inside of the Millennium Falcon.
It is a wondrous experience to step into a place you have only seen in a movie. It creates a realm of reality that is so entrancing, which made it all the more disappointing when I went to the wall or the holographic chess board to not even have the buttons or switches light up. Most of them were fused into place, so you couldn't even flip the switch. While I know moving parts must be difficult and costly to maintain, if you're looking to move into heightened immersion it should expected that one should flip switches especially on a spaceship.
Moving down the hall into the ship's cockpit quickly had my spirits rising once again. In the waiting room we had been assigned to one of the three different positions. My brother and I praised our good luck because we were assigned to the pilot's seats. My seat controlled the left and right motions of the ship, and also take off procedures; my brother controlled the up and down motion and the lightspeed jump. Strapping into our seats, we began a very intuitive ship preparation launch sequence, and with that, we were off on a fun story that amounted to basically shooting things and don't blow up the Millennium Falcon. It was quite a bit of fun. My brother and I were good at communicating, which meant that we came out of the ride having been mostly unscathed by the enemies. We were rewarded with a “Credit” amount to our phone app.
My brother and I rode the ride quite a few more times and tried out the different positions. Sadly, none were as fun as the pilot position. The gunner position mainly just consists of slamming a button as fast as you can to take out enemies. While the Engineer position also just tapped lit up buttons or switches as fast as they could to “Repair” the ship. All positions received a report on how they did at the end of the mission which contributed to your “reward.” These two positions did not require much effort and could be done practically mindless, or even not at all, which was both disheartening, but also allowed us to see the few alternate story locations of the ride, which were varied but not quite implemented in a way that made them feel real.
I must admit that this comparison is a bit unfair. As Evermore Park doesn't really cater to the big thrill rides that Disneyland has to give. However, Evermore Park does have a lovely train that takes you around the park. While aboard, you get to see the truly magical landscape, and hear the often humorous dialog from a train conductor. The different characters of Evermore Park take turns being the train conductor, and each has a different style for doing it. If you ever go to any of Evermore Park's events, they often have carriage rides as well, which, in a fantasy environment, really adds to a wonderful magic that is difficult to find in any other setting.
In Galaxy's Edge, there were two kinds of character interactions. Those who ran merchandise and cashier stands and the Star Wars iconic characters, including characters such as Rey, Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers and Chewbacca.
First, concerning the first of the character interactions. There were a lot of merchandise sellers. As I've mentioned before, they often mentioned money in terms of “Credits” (Not the same kind of credits that I earned on the ride Smuggler's Run). I thought this credit reference was something little that did quite a bit to add to the experience. Other than that, I couldn't get these cast members to act like they were actually from the world of Batuu. Some did talk about the new types of speeders coming out next month as well as a “Hologram program” that they saw last night. They sprinkled in a fun bit of flavor but were still separated enough that if a guest was having a problem they could talk about it like an employee of the park rather than someone from this world.
The second type of interaction was with those iconic Star Wars characters. Basically these interactions amounted to photo interactions that were difficult to find. In the 7 hours I spent in Galaxy's Edge, I saw a grand total of 2 of these types of characters. The first characters I saw were the Stormtroopers. Watching them interact with other guests was somewhat funny. In my mind, they didn't even do as much as a baseball mascot. They would walk around and heckle people. They did speak but it was just pre-recorded responses. If you're trying to sell immersion, I need people to be able to talk to me as a starting point. I didn't pester them too much, but any time I tried to take the conversation to something beyond a "yes" or "no", all I got in response was “move along” or “we’re on patrol.”
The next interaction I had was with the character Rey. Talking to her was a bit more productive. I was able to ask her a little bit about her home and what was going on here in Black Spire Outpost. She responded with, “we’re with the resistance and we're here to take out the first order.” This was exciting to me so naturally I responded with “What can I do to help?”
She then directed me to use my datapad (My phone using the Play Disney Parks app) to help hack and take control. When I responded with, “I've done that already, is there anything else i can do to help?” the response was no. As I tried a few times to continue speaking, there was no extra response. Just a continuous push to use my datapad. There wasn't anything in real life that I could do to help on her adventure. This was a shallow interaction that did not extend beyond small talk and was used as promotion to try and get me to use the Play Disney Parks app.
Personal interactivity is where Evermore Park shines above and beyond its competition. Even before you walk through the door, characters of the town address you and talk to you as a real human. They have a massive amount of depth to dive into. You could spend hours talking to a single character and never reach the limit of what there is to discover. The mythology and adventures in Evermore are everywhere. Every character has something for you to do or help in some way. You are not relegated to a section of obscurity. In Evermore, the townsfolk make you the hero! With many tasks to do and challenges to accomplish from the moment you are inside the gates, you are beset with so much to do. Will you cause relationships to further divide? Or will you seek to bring everyone together in harmony?
Regardless of what you do, the actors do such an incredible job that I often find myself forgetting that where I am is a fictional place. If you want the height of character interaction, Evermore Park is the place to be.
As a whole, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge lacks immersive experience. To start off, you are forbidden from wearing any clothing that would fit within the theme. There were two things that were touted as their main immersive events--only two of which I would personally consider immersive. The first one is the Play Disney Parks app. This app was actually quite a bit of fun. All around Black Spire Outpost were alien languages, both in written and spoken form. Using the app, you could translate these languages to see what they said. A lot of them were in the restaurants and sign posts to lead you around. Some signs were quite hilarious, such as a sign near a drinking fountain that warned it was dangerous to consume the water-- which was funny, because, just to the right of the fountain, the water tank that supposedly supplied the water had a creature pop up out of the water intermittently.
The next two activities on the app were scanning and hacking. They did similar things. You would scan or hack and then you would get a little snippet of conversation. They tried to piece the snippets into a little story. It was shoehorned at best and too open-ended to actually do anything. What was fun though is when you would hack something it would cause you to set something off in the scenery around you; a droid would make a funny noise or a space ship would vent steam from its ports. While it didn't do anything on a story level, it was a nice touch. With each hack, it also would shift the direction of the “territory control.” If you chose the rebels the rebels meter would go up, whereas if you chose the First Order, their meter would go up. Everyone's personal activities contributed to the total to show who was winning. Once it reached a certain point, the winner was declared. However, that's as far as it went. The app was self contained and had no effect on the world around you.
The next immersive experience was the Droid Building depot. It was basically a Home Depot build themed “Build your own robot.” It cost $100 to create the basic droid, which was just not worth it. The droids looked cool, but the whole experience was a thinly disguised shell to sell the things for more than they were worth.
The final experience was a Savi's Workshop. This workshop is the ultimate build your own lightsaber experience. The entrance fee to this experience was simply too steep for me. As such, I had to check out a lot of online videos to make sure I was getting the full idea. Starting at $200, you would choose between four types of kits to develop your lightsaber. An actor led the experience and some lights were employed with voices from deceased Jedi as you build your lightsaber. Once again the whole event came off to me as an overpriced experience. Though I didn't experience it myself, so I can't definitively say. The price point was just too high for me and I couldn't justify spending that amount.
From the moment you walk into Evermore Park, you are entrenched in immersive experiences. You are not only allowed, but encouraged to come dressed up in a costume of fantasy. You can dress in sci-fi as well. The story allows you to come dressed
in normal clothes or in any kind that you like. Once you step through the gates, you are embroiled in dealing with the faction drama, town politics, underground smugglers, vampiric languages to decode, cyphers to crack, axes to throw, bows to shoot, guilds to rank up and advance in. The very nature of the park exudes immersive. You can't escape it. Mayoral elections, visiting dignitaries, murders to solve. Each and every time you visit Evermore Park it is a unique experience. So much so, that we created a podcast just to explain it all and even still with all of those things we are unable to describe just how much goes on there! The only way to understand how immersive Evermore Park is to go yourself.
How do They Compare?
These two parks are both wonderful. Ever since I was a child, I've loved Star Wars and I've loved fantasy. While on opposite ends of the spectrum, they attempt to bring a unique immersiveness all their own. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge does its best to break into the immersive environment. However, it only manages to do it in small doses. Everything is themed great and looks stunning. The food feels alien and different, but still manages to be incredibly tasty. I am of the opinion that despite the company already having mounds of money, the Galaxy's Edge “Immersive Experiences” feel like shallow grabs for money. The character interactions were lackluster and all the whirling lights and full-scale ship models just can't measure up to the story of adventure that Evermore Park has.
You walk into Evermore Park and almost immediately, you feel the magic. While the park is not complete, it still manages to make you almost forget that you are on Earth. The building, statues, and scenery are all built with love and care from real historical artifacts.
The authenticity brings you into a fantastical journey unlike any other. A place where you are so immersed in the magic that you don't only watch the story, you are a part of it. As the Champion of Evermore, you change the outcome of its history into the eternities.
In conclusion despite all of its money, Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge doesn't even come close to the magical and unique formula that Evermore Park brings to the table.