Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Opens With A Cosmic Soundscape Bringing It To Life
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
And now to the galaxy's edge. The new Star Wars Land at Disneyland opens today. Fans can pilot the Millennium Falcon and wander the distant planet of Batuu brought to life, as Tim Greiving reports, with a cosmic soundscape.
TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: The red rock of Frontierland transitions into blackened petrified wood pocked with blaster holes as I enter Batuu. And luring me through this cool underpass like a siren song is unfamiliar music by a familiar composer.
MATT WALKER: So you're hearing the opening principal theme that John Williams composed for the land.
GREIVING: Matt Walker is the head of music for Walt Disney Imagineering.
WALKER: But here it's kind of boiled down to its essence, just to create this suggestion, this welcoming into the land.
GREIVING: As I walk into the 14-acre land, music actually goes away for the most part. In the trees, I can hear the chatter of alien insects and birds and the oinking of a puffer pig.
(SOUNDBITE OF PIG OINKING)
GREIVING: At the Droid Depot, where you can actually build your own little robot, a chorus of familiar bleeps and bloops reverberate around the rock walls.
(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPS)
GREIVING: And the marketplace bustles.
JOHN KESTLER: We have barkers. We have animals. We have chimes. We have people that live in the apartments above.
GREIVING: J.K. Kestler leads audio and sound effects at Imagineering. His task was to turn Galaxy's Edge into a living land through sound. More than a thousand tracks of audio play through thousands of speakers dotting the land.
KESTLER: We just start with what we want to hear as we walk from place to place. How are we going to create this living land? You'll almost never see a speaker in any of our parks because we're so good at integrating those with our set people and our rock work people.
GREIVING: The absence of music is striking. Classic show tunes, New Orleans jazz, jungle drums and futuristic synthesizers fill other Disney lands, but the planet of Batuu is conceived entirely differently, says John Dennis, executive creative director of music at Imagineering.
JOHN DENNIS: Like most real places, music doesn't play everywhere the way it would in, say, a traditional fantasy park. Music here is motivated. It's directed. It comes from a source. It doesn't - you know, we don't have an orchestra playing out of a rock.
GREIVING: So you might hear a Jawa pop song coming through the radio at a shop.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREIVING: Or when you pop into Oga's Cantina, where, yes, you can actually order alcoholic drinks, a droid named Rex spins some of the hottest tracks from around the galaxy.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Get your (unintelligible).
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREIVING: But this being "Star Wars," of course, you'll hear more John Williams; just not his classic themes pumping 24/7. The 87-year-old five-time Oscar winner who's composed roughly 20 hours of "Star Wars" music still had to be convinced. So the musical Imagineers, led by Matt Walker, brought Williams to their magic shop in Glendale.
WALKER: It was fun to see John Williams kind of rediscover his teenage self as we were plunging him into light speed or, you know, dropping him in an elevator shaft. And then talk about, how can we set this place apart? And so we asked him to - you know, if he would go away and compose a theme, and he came back with a five-minute symphonic tone poem.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS: GALAXY'S EDGE SYMPHONIC SUITE")
GREIVING: That five-minute suite performed by the London Symphony Orchestra was adapted by others to suit the various needs of Galaxy's Edge. To hear some of that familiar John Williams sound, I boarded the life-sized Millennium Falcon to pilot the interactive flight simulator ride, Smuggler's Run.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREIVING: I banged the ship up pretty bad, but we made it back safely, to the strings of John Williams' new fanfare.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Great job, compadre. You retrieved two containers of coaxium.
GREIVING: Even when you lose here, you can't help feeling like a hero with that music playing. For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving in a land far, far away.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS: GALAXY'S EDGE SYMPHONIC SUITE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.