7 storytelling lessons of Disneyland’s newest world

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Photo: Richard Harbaugh/Disney Parks. Used by permission.

I recently visited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s new fourteen-acre themed land. I discovered that it’s not only a place — it’s a story.

When I walked through the tunnel from Frontierland and caught my first glimpse of Galaxy’s Edge, I was totally unprepared for its impact on my senses. I had an irrational feeling I was entering another world. Consciously, I knew I was in Disneyland, California, USA, Planet Earth. But the subliminal effect of Galaxy’s Edge is impossible to overstate.

Galaxy’s Edge immerses you in a story of a waystation on the outer rim of the galaxy, a…


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I have been to Batuu. I have breathed the air of another world. I have piloted the Millennium Falcon around the galactic rim — and was cheated out of my share of the loot by that scoundrel Hondo Ohnaka.

While relaxing in Oga’s Cantina, quenching my thirst as DJ-R3X was spinning the galaxy’s greatest hits, I saw Walt Disney. He was leaning at the bar, sipping a Bespin Fizz. He looked pale and translucent, and he was outlined in sparkles of blue light. The Force was strong with this one.

“Walt,” I said, rushing toward him, almost spilling my Jabba…


by Jim Denney

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I have been to Batuu. I have breathed the air of another world. I have piloted the Millennium Falcon around the galactic rim — and was cheated out of my share of the loot by that scoundrel Hondo Ohnaka.

While relaxing in Oga’s Cantina, quenching my thirst as DJ-R3X was spinning the galaxy’s greatest hits, I saw Walt Disney. He was leaning at the bar, sipping a Bespin Fizz. He looked pale and translucent, and he was outlined in sparkles of blue light. The Force was strong with this one.

“Walt,” I said, rushing toward him, almost…


by Jim Denney, author of Walt’s Disneyland

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Vice President Richard M. Nixon and family in the Disneyland Monorail, with Art Linkletter (in the driver’s bubble) and Walt Disney (standing), June 1959. Photo: National Archives.

In the early 1950s, as Walt was planning to build Disneyland, everyone told him it couldn’t be done. His brother Roy, the financial wizard of the Disney organization, argued that Walt’s theme park obsession would bankrupt the company. His wife Lillian told him that amusement parks were dirty places run by unsavory people, and she begged him to stick to making cartoons.

When Walt contacted amusement park operators for advice, they unanimously told him to forget it — the kind of clean, beautifully landscaped park he envisioned could never be profitable. Imagineer John…


“When we opened Disneyland, outer space was Buck Rogers. I did put in a trip to the moon, and I got Wernher von Braun to help me plan the thing. And since then has come Sputnik and then has come our great program in outer space. So I had to tear down my Tomorrowland that I built eleven years ago and rebuild it to keep pace.”
— Walt Disney, 1966

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Walt Disney and NASA scientist Wernher Von Braun discussing plans for Tomorrowland in 1954. NASA Photo.

During the closing years of his life, Walt Disney became closely acquainted with science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Walt often invited Ray to lunch at his Burbank studio. …


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“Fantasy, if it’s really convincing, can’t become dated, for the simple reason that it represents a flight into a dimension that lies beyond the reach of time.” — Walt Disney

Disneyland turns sixty-two on Monday, July 17. When Walt Disney opened the Park in 1955, he had a special place in his heart for each of the five lands of Disneyland. Main Street USA, and Frontierland were realms of America’s past. Tomorrowland was a time machine into the future. Adventureland took Walt’s guests to the steamy equatorial jungles of the world.

But Walt’s favorite land, the place he called “The…

Jim Denney

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