Milford Hutsell

Milford Hutsell

The Lucasfilm Story Group’s Steve Blank and actress Janina Gavankar made a special appearance today at D23’s “Level Up! The Walt Disney Company’s Video Game Showcase,” discussing the beyond-highly-anticipated Star Wars Battlefront II. In its ambitious single-player campaign, the game follow’s Gavankar’s Iden Versio, commander of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad, in a story picking up right after the destruction of the second Death Star. With Star Wars Battlefront II‘s November 17 release getting ever closer, Blank and Gavankar pulled back the curtain just a little bit on what we can expect. Here are seven highlights from their discussion — and some new screenshots, video, and more.

1. Iden has a song.

Blank and Gavankar took the stage to some Star Wars-sounding music…that we’ve never heard before. “That is a brand-new theme song for Iden Versio,” Blank confirmed. Versio joins just a handful of Star Wars characters to have their own theme. We will watch her career with great interest.

2. Single-player, here we come.

One of the most eagerly-awaited aspects of Battlefront II is the single-player campaign. It’s a completely original story, and one that EA, DICE, Motive, and Lucasfilm have all worked hard to make memorable. Blank pointed to a screenshot up on screen of the Death Star II’s explosion, seen from Inferno Squad’s point of view, as being representative of what they’re going for. “What is unique about this,” he says, “is that we’re seeing it from the Imperial perspective now. And so, what does that mean if you’re part of the Empire, you watch the destruction of the second Death Star, you know about the death of the Emperor. What challenges does that present to you? What choices do you have to make? That’s really the thrust of our story in watching Iden as she has to go down that path in this new world order.” Sounds fun.

3. Gavankar enjoyed joining the Empire.

A proud gamer herself, Gavankar believes in the storytelling power of videogames. Moreover, she also enjoyed working on Battlefront II immensely. “It’s this wonderful place to be able to unpack this perspective,” she said. “The thing that was so surprising in this whole experience so far has been how collaborative it is. I did not think that was the case. I thought I would show up and they’d say, ‘Stand here. Say these words. And now you’re in a Star War.’ That’s not what it’s been. As actors, we’ve been given access to the writers, and the producers, and the directors, and military consultants to really work on making this an authentic Star Wars story.”

4. “Do you wanna see a video?”

Gavankar posed the question, the audience roared. The featurette (which you can watch above) shows some great behind-the-scenes of footage of Gavankar’s motion-capture work, offers insight into Iden and the game’s other characters (one of her squadmates grew up on Coruscant!), and much more. Roll that tape.

5. Let’s all go to Vardos.

Iden’s homeworld is Vardos — when asked to describe it, Gavankar went full-Imperial. “Vardos is beautiful,” she said. “I’ll tell you why. It’s an Imperial homeworld. It’s beautiful because it’s peaceful and it’s orderly. Like all planets should be in the galaxy.” The actress went on to explain that Vardos is not just where Iden grew up, it’s where she learned to be an Imperial commander. It holds a lot of meaning for her.

6. John is a huge fan.

John Boyega, that is. FN-2187 himself made a surprise appearance at the panel, discussing how much he loved the series, revealing that Finn will be playable in the new game, and showing video of himself playing Battlefront II. “It’s really good,” he said. “It’s fantastic. It’s a great story, and I’m excited for people to get to know these characters on a more intimate level.”

7. Free poster!

Everyone attending the showcase received a poster featuring a striking image of Iden’s helmet held closely at her side. Even if you’re more of a rebel, you’d probably want this framed.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and a seventh cruise ship among the experiences coming for guests

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 15, 2017) – Today at D23 Expo 2017, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced an extraordinary line-up of brand new attractions and experiences coming to its parks and resorts around the world as it continues to revolutionize the guest experience, starting from before guests even arrive for a Disney vacation to the many memories that last a lifetime.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek welcomed nearly 7,000 fans as he unveiled more than a dozen new experiences coming to Disney parks and resorts and gave a sneak peek at much-anticipated projects in development. Several Imagineers joined the presentation by providing details of the creativity, imagination and innovation in development around the world. Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter also shared his enthusiasm for plans to include a larger Pixar presence at Disneyland Resort.

In addition to the announcement that Fantasmic! will return to Disneyland Park tonight, two nights early in honor of the Expo, fans were treated to a glimpse of the new “Beauty and the Beast” musical production coming to the Disney Dream on Disney Cruise Line, currently in production in Toronto, and a special one-night-only medley of nostalgic entertainment numbers showcasing the heritage of Disney Parks.

“On the heels of the many new and incredibly popular experiences that just debuted this year, the best is yet to come. We have ambitious plans for our parks and resorts around the world,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  “We’re investing in the guest experience like never before, and we’re doing it all in way that is only possible at Disney!”

From new lodging and transportation options that make getting around more fun, to original storytelling and immersive experiences based on guests’ favorites, Disney continues to provide unparalleled vacation destinations for guests across the globe in even more exciting ways than ever before.

Immersive Theme Park Experiences and Attractions

An Unprecedented First Look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Fans were elated to hear their Star Wars stories will come to life in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the newly announced name for the Star Wars-themed lands. Chapek shared exciting new details and a glimpse inside the two anchor attractions, including one that puts guests right in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance where guests will feel like they are inside

a hangar bay on a Star Destroyer. Guests will also have the chance to fly the Millennium Falcon, where each guest is critical to the mission’s success. Chapek also revealed many characters that guests will meet, including BB-8, Chewbacca, Rex and Kylo Ren. Representing the largest single-themed land expansion at 14 acres each, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in 2019, with the first land debuting at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, then at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.

Timeless Transformation of Epcot Revealed

Looking ahead to the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, there are grand plans to complete the transformation that started with the debut of New Fantasyland in 2014. Chapek announced exciting plans across Epcot to realize the original vision of the park while making it more timeless and relevant than ever before. Patterned after the number one family attraction at Disneyland Paris, Ratatouille will be added in an all-new space in the France pavilion at World Showcase. Epcot will also see the addition of a brand new E-ticket attraction based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of Guardians of the Galaxy, the next step in how guests can encounter these characters at Walt Disney World Resort. In Future World, a new Green Mission at Mission: SPACE will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, and an updated Orange Mission will make the trip to Mars even more spectacular. Adjacent to Mission: Space will be a new restaurant that will invite guests to travel high above the earth for an unforgettable dining experience.

More Thrills than Ever Planned for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom

Disney remains at the cutting edge of deeply immersive, creative storytelling that draws guests into new worlds, and it is a legacy that lives on in every new Disney Parks experience. The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, will come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With a new original story and lovable attraction theme song, this new state-of-the-art ride-through attraction will take guests on a journey inside the wacky and unpredictable world of Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts using new technologies that transform the flat cartoon world into an incredible dimensional experience.

Chapek also announced that the highest rated attraction at Shanghai Disneyland is coming to Walt Disney World Resort. A thrilling, Tron-themed attraction will be added in a new area near Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom. Additionally, a new live entertainment theater coming to Main Street, U.S.A., based on the iconic Willis Theater in 1920s Kansas City, will bring world-class entertainment to the world’s most popular park.

Pixar Fun at the Happiest Place on Earth

In addition to announcing the summer 2018 opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Chapek was joined by Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter to unveil plans for Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure, where the pier will take on a brand new look as more favorite Pixar characters and stories come to life, from The Incredibles, to Inside Out to even more Toy Story. Chapek also announced there is more Pixar in store during Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort. Starting in 2018, this limited-time offering will include a new fireworks spectacular as well as special characters and entertainment moments.

As part of the celebration, the Pixar Play Parade will return to Disneyland Resort – this time at

Disneyland Park – and the fan favorite Paint the Night Parade will move to Disney California Adventure, one of Disney’s longest parade routes.

Disney Cruise Line to Double the Size of its Fleet by 2023

Chapek surprised the crowd by announcing that Disney Cruise Line will add one more ship in its expansion to take family cruise vacations to a whole new level. Joining the other two new ships that were announced just last year, all three ships will be powered by one of the cleanest-burning fuels available, liquefied natural gas. When all three ships are completed by 2023, Disney Cruise Line will have nearly doubled the size of the fleet.

Immersive Hotel Concepts

Among the announcements were projects that infuse even more exciting experiences for resort hotel guests in ways that are only possible at Disney. To the delight of fans, Chapek confirmed ambitious plans to create the most experiential concept ever in an immersive Star Wars-themed hotel at Walt Disney World Resort. Dedicated entirely to the galaxy of Star Wars, it will be a one-of-a-kind experience where a luxury resort meets a multi-day adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

Adding to the immersive resort hotel slate, Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel at Disneyland Paris will transport guests to the action-packed world of Super Heroes, including Iron Man, The Avengers, Spider-Man and more. Guests will be able to explore the Marvel Universe through its comic art, films, Super Hero costumes and more, displayed in the style of a contemporary art gallery.

Leading up to the July 17 opening of Copper Creek Villas & Cabins, Chapek also announced the proposed 15th Disney Vacation Club property, Disney Riviera Resort, coming to Walt Disney World Resort near Epcot.

Seamless Transportation Options

Completing the immersion so guests never have to leave the story while on a Disney vacation, Chapek announced plans that will make getting around Walt Disney World Resort even more fun. An all-new Minnie Van service will provide a point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do, giving guests an even more seamless resort vacation from start to finish.

Additionally, a whole new transportation system called Disney Skyliner will give guests a birds-eye view of Walt Disney World Resort. This brand new system will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts, as well as the proposed new Disney Riviera Resort, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot.

Honoring the Heritage of Disney Parks

In a memorable tribute to the legacy of beloved attractions, entertainment and characters, fans enjoyed a special one-time-only performance of entertainment numbers from Disney Parks

through the years. Following the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Chapek hinted there are even more fan favorites in store from Disney Parks’ storied past.

 

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About Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are where dreams come true. More than sixty years ago, Walt Disney created a new kind of entertainment families could experience together, immersed in detailed atmospheres and vibrant storytelling. His vision now includes a collection of six of the world’s leading family vacation destinations – Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, Calif.; Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; Tokyo Disney Resort, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan; Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallée, France; Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, located on Lantau Island; and Shanghai Disney Resort, Pudong New District, Shanghai, China. In addition, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts includes the world-class Disney Cruise Line; Disney Vacation Club; Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa; Adventures by Disney, a guided group vacation experience to some of the world’s most popular destinations; and Walt Disney Imagineering, which creates and designs all Disney parks, resorts and attractions.

 

Download related images at http://files.disneyparks.com/

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[Editor’s note: More images are available for download at D23Press.com.]

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At D23 Expo 2017, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced an extraordinary line-up of brand new attractions and experiences coming to its parks and resorts around the world. Here’s what is coming to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim:

 

  • Guests will experience intergalactic adventures in the highly-anticipated Star Wars– themed land known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The 14-acre land will open with two anchor attractions – one that gives guests the chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon on a customized secret mission, and another that puts guests right in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Guests will also encounter various characters, including BB8, Chewbacca, Rex and Kylo Ren. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open first at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif., followed by Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla., in 2019.

 

  • Pixar Fest, a limited-time, all-things Pixar celebration will launch at the Disneyland Resort in 2018. The celebration will include a new fireworks spectacular, as well as special characters and entertainment experiences. As part of the celebration, Pixar Play Parade will return to the resort, this time in Disneyland Park, and fan-favorite, Paint the Night, will move to Disney California Adventure Park, which has one of Disney’s longest parade routes.

 

  • Paradise Pier will become Pixar Pier in Disney California Adventure Park next summer. This area adjacent to the “World of Color” lagoon, will take on a brand-new look as more favorite Pixar characters and stories come to life on the seaside waterfront, from “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out” and even more “Toy Story.”

 

  • Building on the success of Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: BREAKOUT!, Guardians of the Galaxy stories will soon be joined by Spiderman and the Avengers in what will become a completely immersive Super Hero universe at Disney California Adventure.

Next Phase of Expansion Nearly Doubles Size of Fleet

CELEBRATION, FL (July 15, 2017) – Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced plans today at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., to add a seventh ship to Disney Cruise Line’s award-winning fleet, giving families even more opportunities to create magical memories at sea and visit spectacular destinations around the globe.

 Last year, the leader in family cruising announced plans to build two new ships at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany with scheduled completion dates of 2021 and 2023. The seventh ship will be built at the same shipyard and is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

“We decided two ships wouldn’t be enough to hold all of the exciting new experiences we have been dreaming up to take family cruise vacations to a whole new level with immersive Disney storytelling, world-class family entertainment, and imaginative innovations that are fantastically fun and uniquely Disney,” Chapek said. “By the time all three new ships are sailing, we’ll have nearly doubled the size of our existing fleet.”

All ship names, design plans and itineraries are still in development, with each of the ships expected to have their own unique experiences. The three new ships will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas and be the same size – approximately 135,000 gross tons with about 1,250 guest staterooms planned – which is slightly larger than the newest Disney Cruise Line ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

Since first setting sail in 1998, Disney Cruise Line has provided a quintessential family cruise vacation experience that combines the magic of Disney with the wonder of exploring different parts of the world. Guests step aboard majestic and beautiful ocean liners to enjoy legendary Disney entertainment, exquisite dining, spacious and well-appointed staterooms and magnificent public spaces.

With the launch of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy in 2011 and 2012, the company introduced several firsts for the industry, including a water coaster at sea (AquaDuck) and virtual portholes in interior staterooms (Magical Portholes) that provide real-time views of the sea as well as sightings of animated Disney characters. With a legacy of revolutionary design, Disney Cruise Line’s new ships will usher in the next generation of innovative cruise experiences designed especially for families that will transform the art-of-cruising and take guests on adventures in a way never dreamed of before.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit disneycruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line at 888-325-2500 or contact a travel agent.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson made a special appearance today at D23, bringing some friends and a few surprises. Here are some of the highlights.

1. That sizzle.

Johnson debuted new behind-the-scenes footage in a thrilling sizzle reel, offering us even more of a glimpse into the film. It features new shots of the Millennium Falcon, Rey, Luke, never-before-seen practical-effects creatures, Captain Phasma, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley training for fight scenes, and much more. “I’m hoping it’ll be a little shocking,” Johnson says in the video, “but I’m hoping it’ll feel real and honest.” But it’s Carrie Fisher who gets the last word. “It’s about family. And that’s what’s so powerful about it.”

2. “I had the time of my life making this movie.”

The “Jedi Master” of the film, as Walt Disney Studios chariman Alan Horn called Johnson in his introduction, spoke openly about how much he enjoyed making The Last Jedi, which is now in postproduction. “I had the time of my life making this movie. And part of that is what Star Wars means to me, and I think means to a lot of us. A lot of that is also the people I got to work with.” With that, Johnson introduced many of the film’s stars who then joined him on stage: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and later, Mark Hamill. As he talked with each actor, Johnson showed some of his black-and-white photos that he took on set along with new stills, including shots of Finn and BB-8, Christie sitting in a chair in Phasma armor, Daisy Ridley in the cockpit of the Falcon, and more.

3. Rian and Daisy danced a jig.

After shooting wrapped in Ireland, Johnson and Ridley appropriately danced a jig. The amount of time they danced, however, is up for debate. “We had a really fantastic time, and the last night Rian and I jigged for about an hour,” Ridley said. “Well, you had been doing combat training, so you jigged for an hour,” Johnson said. “I jigged for about five minutes, then started to wheeze and smell burnt toast and then stopped.”

4. Finn will strike back.

Johnson noted that when the teaser premiered at Star Wars Celebration, he felt bad that Finn is only seen lying asleep. “Finn sees some action in this movie,” he assured fans.

5. Laura Dern makes sounds effects.

Dern is seen holding a blaster in one of Johnson’s personal set photos, but there was more to the picture. “I think it’s actually in the movie — when you fire the gun, I noticed you were saying the word ‘pew’,” Johnson said to Dern. Dern replied that Star Wars was “the dream of our lives,” and she has loved it a long time. “I was given this amazing opportunity to join you all,” Dern said. “But I didn’t remember that you don’t have to say the words you said when you were eight, pretending. So yes, you will see me go, “Pew! Pew!”

6. Johnson is a Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill fan.

The new Disney Legend, Mark Hamill, was introduced toward the end of the showcase, and Johnson was effusive in what the actor and his most iconic role meant to him. “Growing up as a kid, Luke was my guy,” Johnson said. “Being a kid in Colorado, sitting there looking up the screen, just thinking that a farmboy could grow up and have an adventure. And then to get to work with you… They say never meet your heroes, but in this case, just working with you as an actor, and the amount of graciousness you have, and the trust — the experience was just so magical for me.”

7. New character posters! 

Following the panel, Johnson and the cast revealed new character posters across their social media channels. The Force — and the color red — is strong with them.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi panel gallery:

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Attention, Disney Parks and Star Wars fans: set your hyperspace coordinates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Today at D23, Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, announced that the highly-anticipated Star Wars-themed land will be called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts in 2019, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will allow guests to visit a remote trading port “on the edge of wild space,” while promising a truly immersive experience.

According to Chapek, the lands will emphasize living your own Star Wars adventure. Indeed, two major attractions will put guests in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

As detailed on the Disney Parks Blog, one attraction — the biggest in scale ever at Disney Parks — will make you feel like you’re in the hangar of a Star Destroyer.

The second attraction will have you in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, piloting the ship, shooting blasters, and getting ready to make the jump to lightspeed. Your performance in the adventure will have repercussions: do well and you’ll earn extra credits; dent the iconic ship, and you can end up on a bounty hunter’s list. You can view concept are for each attraction below.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will also feature several Star Wars characters, including BB-8, Chewbacca, First Order officers, and many more. A well-known Disney Parks droid is heading for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as well: Rex, the pilot from Star Tours, will be the DJ at the cantina — where you’ll order blue milk and other galactic concoctions.

For more on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, check out our interview with designer Doug Chiang and see a new fly-through of the model in the video below.

In addition, Chapek also announced plans for a Star Wars-themed resort at Walt Disney World. “It’s unlike anything that exists today,” Chapek said. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story. You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100-percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

See the gallery below for a look at some exciting concept art, and get ready to step inside Star Wars.

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.

Two of Star Wars greatest icons are now official Disney Legends.

Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, Princess Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga, were both named Disney Legends in a ceremony at D23 Expo today.

Carrie has been an iconic part of the Star Wars franchise from the very beginning, and she will always hold very special place in our hearts and in the hearts of fans around the world,” said Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who hosted the event. “We all miss her talent, her wit, and her friendship.”

Iger noted that this December will see the release of Fisher’s final film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “As always, she brought her trademark strength, heart, and humor to the role. It is truly, truly a legendary performance,” he said. “We are incredibly proud to call her a Disney Legend.”

Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, was unable to attend but sent a letter for Iger to read. It told of how much she and her mother loved Disney and Disneyland, routinely visiting the park together. “Becoming part of the Disney family was truly an amazing moment for her. She secretly always wanted to be a Disney princess, so getting to be a Disney princess and a Disney Legend would have been her ultimate dream.”

Iger then presented Hamill his award — first noting how they both got their starts in soap operas (“I think neither of us imagined that we’d wind up where we are today, but Mark, I think we did okay.”) — and discussed the great impact of Luke Skywalker and the anticipation for his return to the role. “Having seen his entire performance in The Last Jedi, I can tell you, it’s worth the wait.”

Hamill took the stage, delivering a funny and emotional speech. “As an avid collector of rare Disney memorabilia, it would be hard to top this one,” he said jokingly. “Honestly, I tried to think of what I could say to express my gratitude, and it’s impossible. I thought of that quote by baseball great Lou Gehrig. ‘Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’ It’s true.” Hamill thanked George Lucas, the talents behind the camera and in front of the camera for Star Wars, and acknowledged John Williams’ music, as well as the fans. But he also acknowledged the impact that Disney, in turn, had on his life.

“I’ve been a Disney fan as long as I can remember,” he said, recalling his love of old Disney comic strips, as well as behind-the-scenes specials. “Disney provided me a tutorial of how I could make my dreams come true by lifting the curtain.”

Finally, Hamill remembered Carrie Fisher. “I would love to give my deepest respects for the super-cool space sis I had in Carrie Frances Fisher,” he said, going on to discuss their playful relationship and how much they enjoyed reuniting for The Force Awakens. Hamill fought back tears with his closing remarks, saying, “Thank you all so much. I’m so humbled and so grateful. I love you all.”

But there was still more to be said. Iger noted that while they’re not allowed to discuss any The Last Jedi secrets, he would give one. “This is Mark’s best performance as Luke Skywalker to date, and you will see that I am right.”

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Introducing a new Star Wars planet — and you’ll actually be able to go there.

Last night at D23, a massive 50-foot model for the Star Wars-themed land coming to Disneyland Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios was unveiled. Based on a never-before-seen planet — and not quite like any we’ve seen in Star Wars thus far — the model is filled with beautiful miniature dwellings and vehicles, surrounded by forest and rocky terrain. (There’s also a BB-8 in there, so keep your eyes peeled.)

The Star Wars-inspired land, opening in 2019, will feature two main attractions: one that lets guests take the controls of Millennium Falcon on a customized secret mission, and an adventure that puts guests in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

To quote a certain Sith Lord, it is most impressive. You can see it up-close in the gallery below.

StarWars.com spoke with the legendary designer Doug Chiang, in attendance at the unveiling just to see the crowd’s reaction, about bringing a new Star Wars world to real life.

StarWars.com: How does it feel to see it unveiled to the public?

Doug Chiang: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s like a film premiere, because you work so hard. And we’ve been working on this for two and half years, which is pretty much the duration of working on a film. To finally reveal it to the public is a little nerve-wracking, because you never know what the reaction. But it’s so heart-warming to see the smiles on people’s faces when they see something like this.

StarWars.com: What was your role in the design of the land?

Doug Chiang: It was, really, coming up with the overall idea and working with the Imagineering team to design it — the overall scope of what the land should be, the individual textures, the buildings, the vehicles. It was a huge team effort. We’ve been deeply involved working with the Imagineering team for about two and half years, working on all the pieces, and hoping we would assemble it together, almost like a film. And that’s why it’s really rewarding for me today, because we finally see everything put together into one big show.

StarWars.com: It’s so massive and filled with so many little details. What’s the process for an undertaking like this?

Doug Chiang: The process is pretty in-depth, because we’re trying to anchor something that’s very grounded in the Star Wars universe, yet add something new to it. So it’s a very fine line of where that balance should be. For this land in particular, we were very careful because we wanted to create something fresh that would be timeless. You know, like a film, these have to exist for years and years, and so we wanted to make sure that we captured that perfect note. 

One of the interesting challenges for this was to find a world that felt exotic enough, and yet felt familiar. So one of the key things that we did was really play around with scale and the idea of petrified formations. It’s that blend of something that’s exotic, but then exaggerating the scale quite a bit and then creating a whole world based on that one idea. If you look closely, there’s history built into it. There’s history built into the landscape and history built into the structures themselves.

StarWars.com: What would you say is different in designing a theme-park land from working on movies? Is it completely different?

Doug Chiang: No, it’s actually very similar! In some ways, it’s almost like making a movie in slow-motion because the timeframe is so long. That’s because we have to build things that really are real. We can’t cheat things. On movie sets, we can frame it so that you can focus the camera on one point of view. For a theme park, you really have to make it immersive. Everything has to be worked out, because you don’t know where the guests are going to go, what they’re going to look at, what they’re going to touch. And then, I think that with the whole idea that you can be immersed in this world, everything has to be real. So, something that looks like rock has to be rock. Metal has to be metal. There’s an added layer of thoroughness that we have to do for this in order to build a world like this and have it be authentic.

StarWars.com: Finally, how excited are you for opening day in 2019?

Doug Chiang: Oh, I’m beyond excited. I mean, I’ve dreamt of visiting Star Wars in person. And I think this is the perfect opportunity for everybody to now experience that.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

The Death Star has been destroyed. And the Empire is angry.

Enter Inferno Squad, and the new novel bearing the name of the elite strike force, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden. A prequel to the highly-anticipated videogame Star Wars Battlefront II and set immediately after the events of Rogue One and A New Hope, the book follows the Empire’s response to the destruction of their vaunted battle station. Determined to thwart all threats, Inferno Squad, featuring some of the best Imperial soldiers, goes on a mission to infiltrate and eliminate the Partisans — the rebel faction once led by the legendary Saw Gerrera.

Battlefront II: Inferno Squad arrives on 7/25 and is available now for pre-order; San Diego Comic-Con attendees will be able to purchase a special version of the book, sporting the videogame’s deluxe edition box art and signed by the author, at the Del Rey booth (#2913-F). The audiobook version, thanks to some Force-like synchronicity, will be read by actress Janina Gavankar — Iden Versio of Inferno Squad in the game.

StarWars.com is excited to present an early excerpt below, in which we see the genesis of this Imperial all-star team.

Star Wars fans: meet Inferno Squad.


The four young officers obeyed and turned to look at Admiral Versio expectantly. He had offered them no refreshment, and indeed Iden knew the members of the little gathering could count themselves for­tunate they had been invited—or, rather, ordered—to sit.

Versio’s dark eyes roamed over each of the faces turned toward him, settling on his daughter’s. The stern visage gentled, ever so slightly.

“Lieutenant Versio,” he said, “I’m glad you could join us.”

Iden felt a quick flush of warmth. Gideon had been right. Her fa­ther was glad to see her.

“Thank you, sir,” she said.

That was, apparently, enough sentimentality for the admiral. He turned to again address the entire gathering. “I direct your attention to the holoprojector in the center of the table.”

Iden went rigid.

She suspected what they were about to see. And she realized it had been she who was responsible for it being here.

Iden watched along with the others, stone-still. The only part of her that moved was the quick pulse of the vein in her slender throat. She saw the battle unfold, again, heard the sound of orders being is­sued. The countdown. The flash of light, the chaotic careening of her ship.

She forced herself not to look away, but out of the corner of her eye she registered the reactions of her fellows. Meeko’s face displayed shock. Marana’s eyes were wide and her lips parted slightly. Even Gideon had turned a shade paler, and she could tell he was forcing himself not to glance over at her, to illogically confirm with his own eyes yet again if she was all right.

Her father, mercifully, ignored her completely.

“I believe we all know what this is,” Versio said, pausing and then deactivating the hologram. “This recording is currently being ana­lyzed and evaluated as one of a handful recovered from ships that were out of the direct blast area.”

Iden was grateful he didn’t single her out, but from the sidelong glances of Meeko and Marana, she suspected they knew anyway.

“This was a dark day for our Empire. A very dark day. But, as you can imagine, and perhaps already know, we are working on plans for retaliation against the Rebel Alliance on every level open to us. We have plans from the very grand to the very intimate. And the latter is where the four of you come in. There’s a particular front in this battle that I have suggested be addressed, and I have been given authorization to proceed.”

Iden’s father was using that voice. That voice meant something very big, very significant, and very personal to him was going on. That he was including her in it made Iden feel proud—but it also put her on high alert. She sat erect in her chair, her eyes on her father, her breath­ing slow, and listened.

“Our glorious Death Star was destroyed by something very small indeed—a tiny flaw, implanted by one man who single-mindedly be­trayed the Empire over the course of years. One person, in an X-wing fighter, hit a target only two meters wide.”

He squared his shoulders. “We were arrogant,” he said, and only Iden—and, perhaps, Gideon—knew what that admission cost him. “We paid a terrible price for that. And we will not make that mistake again.

“The contribution that one small team can make when it com­prises the best of the best is, I believe, both overlooked and invalu­able. The distillation of individual accomplishments and skills into a smoothly functioning unit will be something the enemies of the Em­pire will not be prepared to guard against.

“After careful evaluation, I have decided that the four of you repre­sent the finest the Empire can field.”

It was quite a statement, and they all knew it. Versio clasped his hands behind his back and walked in a predatory circle around the rapt group as he regarded each of them in turn, his eyes searching, laserlike, and piercing, as if trying to plumb their very souls. Gideon and Iden were used to that level of scrutiny, but familiarity made it no less intimidating.

The admiral’s gaze settled on the tall man. “Del Meeko. You worked your way up through the ranks, first as a stormtrooper, then a shoretrooper, then a TIE pilot. You have received several commendations for courage under fire. Your commanders have made notations that you excel at whatever you turn your hand to, but you seem to be par­ticularly gifted with repairing everything—from armor to droids to engines.” Versio smiled thinly. “Your captain did not part with you with good grace.”

Meeko was smart enough not to break eye contact with the admi­ral, but the mechanically inclined TIE pilot did fidget slightly in his seat as he inclined his head in appreciation of the words.

“Seyn Marana,” Versio continued, turning to the petite young woman. “You possess the gift of eidetic memory, which has served you well throughout your career. You graduated top of your class at the Imperial Academy of Uyter a full year early—and with honors. You speak . . . twenty-seven languages, is that correct?”

He paused to let her answer. In that sweet voice, the very young lieutenant replied, “Twenty-nine, sir.”

Versio’s eyebrows rose. “Twenty-nine,” he said, his voice a gravelly purr. “I stand corrected. You can read and write seven more—it is seven, yes? I’d hate to be mistaken a second time.”

The girl—Iden couldn’t help but think of her that way; clearly Seyn was barely into her twenties at best—seemed to be seriously recon­sidering her earlier quick correction of Versio, but she replied,

“Yes, seven, sir.”

“Seven. You are also a master cryptologist. And a superior shot who can take out a foe at over five kilometers.”

Iden regarded the “girl” with considerably more respect.

Now Versio turned to Gideon. Iden, who knew him so well, saw her father’s expression soften with pride. “Gideon Hask. First in his class at Coruscant Imperial University. Served with valor aboard the Mandate, receiving a battlefield promotion and the Crimson Star for exceptional performance against the enemy.

“And finally, Iden Versio. Graduated top of her class at Coruscant Imperial University, with honors. One of a handful of survivors of the Death Star, where she had held the record for most verified kills in battle—and has the melancholy honor of never losing that title.

“Your mission will be to recover information, artifacts, or indi­viduals that could prove harmful to the Empire if they fall into the wrong hands—or if, perchance, such information has already fallen into the wrong hands. You’ll be cleaning things up, as it were. We’ve just borne witness to the level of damage that can be inflicted upon our Empire when such pivotal information is used against us. We cannot, must not, shall not allow this to happen ever again. Is this understood?”

Everyone replied quickly in the affirmative. The admiral nodded.

“You will do as you are instructed. No questions. We need to re­cover anything and everything, anyone and everyone, who might pose the slightest threat to the Empire. You are all accustomed to being part of something larger than yourselves. To being a part of a vast machine. But this unit will be a microcosm of only four. You’ll be performing the majority of your duties without direction from me—in fact, there may be lengthy periods of time when you will not be in contact with me at all. It is imperative that you learn very quickly how to work together smoothly and efficiently. You’ll find that a great deal of weight will be resting on your shoulders.”

Iden’s heart began to slam slowly against her chest, but she gave no sign of it. It wouldn’t do to register how thrilled these words made her feel. Responsibility was exactly what she wanted. The team as a whole, it seemed, would be given a great deal of it—but she wanted more.

The girl smiled, and for a moment Seyn looked so young that Iden wanted to protect her more than she wanted to fight alongside her. She dismissed the thought. Seyn’s youth surely belied a lot of strength. Garrick Versio would never want anyone on “his team” who wasn’t strong. After all, they were the best of the best.

That logical conclusion meant that the quiet Del Meeko also had something special to offer. And of course, Iden knew Gideon well enough to know how much he brought to the table.

“Any other questions?” There were none. Versio nodded. “Dis­missed.”

The four got to their feet, saluted, and turned to go. At the door, though, Gideon hung back, considering, then asked his new com­manding officer, “Sir? Does this unit have a name yet?

The faintest of smiles quirked Versio’s lips. “It does,” he replied. “It’s a promise to the rebels.

“It’s called Inferno Squad.”

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Now that it’s been 34 years since Return of the Jedi was introduced to the world, choosing your favorite scene should be easy – unless your favorite scene is the whole movie. Do you prefer heart-pounding action or heart-felt dialogue?  Plot twists, creatures, epic showdowns, or all of the above? Let us know what you can’t get enough of by voting below and if we forgot your favorite, leave it in the comments!

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