Disney's finally done it. It managed to make a ride that puts you right smack inside the action of a Star Wars movie -- using high-tech tricks and immersive theater storytelling to create a new class of theme park entertainment.
The ride is called Rise of the Resistance and it is the key attraction of its Star Wars-themed land, Galaxy's Edge.
At Disney's Hollywood Studios park in Florida, we got an early look before it opens to the public on Thursday. It will be opening California's Disneyland on Jan. 17.
Disney has long talked about this as its most ambitious and technically advanced attraction. The 15-minute adventure is a blend of several ride systems, immersive theater, holograms, trackless droid-driven transport shuttles, audio-animatronic characters, video screens and blaster fire -- all created on movie-size sets.
Oh sure, there have been Star Wars rides made before. But what makes Rise so unique is how it plays with your mind -- changing the typical narrative of a ride by moving you between different areas, mixing people and animatronics and screens as you're shuffled between environments, at a scale you don't typically see in a ride, with all the stars of the new trilogy.
You're not on some side mission in the Star Wars universe. Here, Rey gives you the briefing. Finn is firing blasters to cover your escape. Kylo Ren is moving fast and up close, hunting you down.
From start to finish I was in awe of how fast it all was happening, trying to figure out how Disney was pulling off all these effects.
This is the first time I've felt so close to the action with the main stars of the saga. And I found myself so moved by it all -- screaming "WHAT!?" over and over again at every scene -- to the point where I'm wondering if this will change the future of theme park entertainment. Immersing guests in a universe could someday mean blending theatrics with the technology to make us believe that this is an experience instead of just a ride.