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The Art Behind the Magic of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

The Disney Imagination Campus team
by The Disney Imagination Campus team

Step aboard the Halcyon starcruiser and celebrate Star Wars Day by exploring the Art Behind the Magic in the design and storytelling of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

When Guests board the Halcyon starcruiser, they truly step into a galaxy far, far away and immediately become immersed in the story. What sets the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser apart is the unique way that each Guest can even become a part of the story and play an integral role in the experience.

We sat down with Greg Ashton, the Executive Architect from Walt Disney Imagineering who worked on the creation of the Halcyon starcruiser. Join us as he speaks about how he helped incorprate storytelling into the art and design of the ship.

“I’m not sure there was ever a typical day!” Greg expressed about what it was like working on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

“Our goal was to create the most immersive Star Wars experience ever and this meant that we were going to engage all the senses. Of course, it was going to LOOK and SOUND like Star Wars – the ship, lighting, special effects, sounds and soundtracks.” The Imagineers even selected materials based on FEEL as well as look.

“The first challenge was figuring out what type of Star Wars ship this would be. Fortunately, we could call up our buddies at the Lucasfilm Art Department – they know everything about all the Star Wars ships! The second was to consider how to make a building look like a spaceship. Windows had to look out into space, doors had to slide (not open like regular doors), and how would we get from Walt Disney World Resort to a galaxy far, far away? Via a Launch Pod, of course!

“I like to think of what I do as ‘visual storytelling.’ If I’m doing my job right, you should know the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ of the story. With the Halcyon starcruiser, there are hundreds if not thousands of details that work together to let you know: 1. Star Wars, 2. Starship and 3. We also tried to be true to the 1970s production aesthetic of the original trilogy. ‘How’ is told by our amazing cast, crew and the choices that our Guests make!”

While working on the Halcyon starcruiser, the Imagineers focused mainly on three responsibilities: design, evaluation and coordination.

Design: Research is a really important part of the design process – reading, traveling and understanding the conditions that make a subject unique. Next, the Imagineers focused on doing sketches, drawings or digital modeling to start to bring that world to life.

Evaluation: The evaluation process makes sure that designs and concepts are the best they can be. This usually involves reviewing drawings, but Imagineers really love both physical and digital models. Sometimes they build full-size mockups. For example, as part of the process of working on the Halcyon starcruiser, Imagineers created the engineering room of the ship out of cardboard boxes in California and built a full-size prototype of a finished cabin in a Florida warehouse.

Coordination: It takes a lot of people to pull off productions like we do at Imagineering. You need to be able to work as a team, incorporate ideas from other people, provide feedback and accept criticism to keep the team focused towards a common goal.

“Every member of the design team adds something unique to the equation. It was important to give them each an opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the design. I love the process of design and working with the talented collective of architects, interior designers, show set designers, graphic designers and lighting designers, to name a few of our 140+ disciplines, to create the most immersive set for this incredible, immersive entertainment experience.

Teachers, encourage your students to think about what inspires them or what stirs their imagination. Chances are, there are careers that overlap with these interests. In addition to being obsessed with space and Star Wars, eight-year-old me also loved drawing and making things…mostly pillow forts at the time. Today, those interests are still an important part of my life.”

If this work interests you, try preparing yourself with an education in design or storytelling (architecture, landscape, interiors, industrial design, fine arts, theatrical production, cinematography, writing, etc.). These subjects enable you to communicate visually in areas where there is only a picture to tell your story.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is now open at Walt Disney World Resort! If you get the chance to visit, make sure to take note of the art behind the magic as you explore this incredibly immersive storytelling experience.

Ready to learn more? Check out the Arts & Humanities workshops at our East Campus at Walt Disney World Resort and our West Campus at Disneyland Resort for a discovery of the real-world application of the art, design, and storytelling behind our most popular attractions! Sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up to date on all things Disney Imagination Campus and explore all our academic workshops to see how we inspire imagination-powered learning.

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