Smuggler’s Run is the Best Ride in the World: Technical innovations in storytelling that are now the definitions of pop culture

This has been a year of “never thought I’d see its,” to say the least, which culminated for me while watching the Disney parade on Christmas morning from the parks. Specifically, when I saw Portugal the Man perform “Feel it Still” in front of the life size Millennium Falcon at Galaxy’s Edge. Star Wars has always been popular, but there has always been a kind of social tension, it wasn’t something that people felt comfortable talking about in public. If you wore a Star Wars shirt to school like I used to all the time, kids would gang up on you for it with massive amounts of unjustified peer pressure. But after a long evolution, particularly with shows like Big Bang Theory making geekdom fun, and “popular” the Disney ownership of Star Wars is showing signs of mind-bending culture changes that were evident that Christmas morning. No longer were kids forced to keep their thoughts to themselves, Disney had made it so that Star Wars was just as popular if not more so in knowing which quarterbacks were coming out of the draft this year from which colleges. It was a shift in sentiment that I never thought would be possible, yet there it was. As I watched I couldn’t help but think that many of the same people who are those invisible Trump supporters loving the optimism of an optimistic tomorrow were the same people that spent thousands of dollars at Disney every year and would put on the mouse ears for a visit on Christmas morning to the parks to participate in their parade.

Thinking of that Millennium Falcon, after a recent trip to Disney World where I was able to ride that ride 8 times, and ride the new Rise of the Resistance and Flight of Passage at the new Pandora land at Animal Kingdom I have proclaimed that I thought Smuggler’s Run, which is essentially a flight simulator for the Millennium Falcon was a better ride for a number of reasons. As Rise of the Resistance has opened in December at Disney World and was a feature of the parade in promoting the ride to a hungry Christmas morning audience, a lot of people don’t know just what a miracle these rides are. Especially in regard to the Millennium Falcon’s Smuggler’s Run. I included a video on this article that goes into the details of just how impressive the engineering is on Smuggler’s Run. And even thought Rise of the Resistance has a lot more technical tricks to help make the magic happen, I think the engineering of Smuggler’s Run is so impressive that it’s in a category all by itself even if most of those miracles happen where nobody will ever see them.

Being a huge fan of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars I know a lot about the ship and how it should be laid out, so while I was riding it I was looking for flaws, which can be seen from my Instagram posts included here. As it is, the many mechanism that make the ride possible are completely hidden from even the most rigorous fan. There were little things that I could point out, such as parts of the cockpit altered to accommodate mass riders, and some of the internal pathways to the cockpit that were stretched to fit the needs of 1800 riders per hour. What is most clever is that the ride creates the illusion of walking into the Millennium Falcon’s interior and boarding the cockpit as a single experience when in reality there are seven cockpits on four giant rotary tables that are timed out to perfection for all the loading and unloading that goes on. Each ride vehicle gets its own wrap around screen and sits on a flight simulation platform that would have made NASA jealous a few decades ago. The technology and timing involved in this ride is incredible and all of it is done to ensure that the riders can not see the strings behind the scenes and can instead believe in the experience as a real one.

My perspective is coming from an older person who grew up on these movies. When I was a kid, my family couldn’t afford to get me the Kenner Millennium Falcon to play with so made my own out of a box. So, it is astonishing to me to read these modern critics of these rides and of the new Star Wars movies knowing how much better things are now than then. Having the ability to even visit a Millennium Falcon in real life let alone fly in it is bizarre and a huge step for science fiction and the art of modern storytelling. That Smuggler’s Run is a reality let alone other options like Rise of the Resistance in the same area is an astonishing achievement in any field of endeavor. But especially in storytelling where a ride goes to so much trouble to create an alternate reality in physical space is a jaw dropping enterprise. But then again, to host a concert by a pop culture group on a Christmas morning broadcast mainstream to the world is something I never would have thought would be possible. Knowing that, the prospects for other surprises in the future are very exciting.

But for my money, and well beyond sentiment, the Millennium Falcon ride Smuggler’s Run is the top ride in the world right now, and it will take years to match it by anybody. Also on Christmas Day my wife and I went to see Rise of Skywalker again and I couldn’t help but notice how full the movie theater was from very normal people wanting to see that movie after the day’s festivities had ended. The Millennium Falcon is one of the feature characters of that movie and it is fun, even though its just a machine. The well-known starship was so well featured in the film knowing that it was a kind of advertisement for the ride in Galaxy’s Edge. People watching the movie with their big drinks and overflowing popcorn could travel to Disney World and actually fly the thing—over and over again—and that is a new thing in the art of storytelling that we haven’t yet dealt with as a species, not only the ability to create a story to hold some abstract concept, but to physically participate in the intellectual inclusion of it into our collective subconscious—and with such swagger that Disney could feature it on a popular television broadcast with a modern rock group as part of the package.

I point it out because all things lead to other things and I can’t help but notice that we are expanding our intellect as human beings because of these kinds of technical innovations. The conflict that we hear about on the news is that the rigid orders of the past have not yet caught up to that notion. But the fans of the Disney experience, and through mythology like Star Wars, a new kind of vacationer is being created. Not a passive cocktail drink by the pools of some exotic destination, but the Disney participant that is looking for an above the line experience and is willing to pay a lot of money to get it. And for those people, Smuggler’s Run gives them a seamless experience of a reality that was only available to the imagination. Now it’s real, leaving it to be pondered what the next generation of entertainment will be. At this point, we can only wonder, because the evidence is quite jaw-dropping in its perspectives.

Rich Hoffman

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