Walt Disney World is surprising guests with Mandalorian and Grogu (Baby Yoda) characters in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios. This post covers details of the new additions, plus our commentary about how this will improve the land and Walt Disney World needs to do more of this.
For those who are unaware, this dynamic duo started meeting last year at the start of the Christmas season in California. Mandalorian and Baby Yoda have been incredibly popular out there–we’ve seen them around a dozen times in Batuu West, and each time they’re practically swarmed by guests.
In fact, when Mandalorian and Grogu first began appearing, the crowds around them were so large that Cast Members were aggressively clearing people away. Things have gotten better since, but they still get mobbed on occasion and it can be difficult to capture good photos or video.
Back when it was originally announced that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would “evolve” its storytelling, this was focused primarily on Disneyland. At the time, it was believed that this was because Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort complicated elements of the timeline at Walt Disney World.
That explanation doesn’t quite pass the smell test for me, especially given past precedent. It’s incredibly common for characters to appear in the California parks but never make their way to Florida. There’s no good “timeline” reason why Mirabel, Bruno, Raya, Ortensia (Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s female counterpart), Minnie & Friends as the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus, or just about anyone from new Marvel shows on Disney+ have appeared at Disneyland but not Walt Disney World. The timeline is just a convenient excuse.
Regardless, here’s what Imagineer Scott Trowbridge had to say about how the storytelling of Galaxy’s Edge will evolve with these additions back when they were first announced last year: “Since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019, Star Wars storytelling has experienced a galactic expansion to include many new characters and stories across a wide range of settings. Now, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is likewise expanding the stories guests can encounter when visiting,” shared Trowbridge.
“Having been designed from the outset to connect with a broad range of Star Wars storytelling, Black Spire Outpost has played a role in many of these stories stretching over thousands of years and while, up to now, we have mostly shared those story connections through media and publishing, we will soon give visitors to Batuu an opportunity to connect with those fan-favorite stories with the immersive detail and authenticity that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was designed to deliver.”
Walt Disney Imagineering is committed to the long history of Batuu and the collection of characters who inhabit the outpost. This includes legacy characters, original characters, and new and future characters from the ever-expanding galaxy of Star Wars storytelling.
Trowbridge added this, which I found interesting: “While we as visitors may be able to experience different stories throughout Star Wars history, the characters on Batuu can not. They will remain in their specific story and timeline and won’t intersect with other characters or stories that would not be appropriate for them.”
Out in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, other characters have been appearing for a while now in addition to Mandalorian and Baby Yoda. There, the legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand stake a claim in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as they wander around Black Spire Outpost.
Although Grogu is undeniably adorable, we actually prefer interacting with Boba Fett and Fennec Shand. For one thing, neither is nearly as popular–it’s common to see Fennec all by herself, blending in with the surroundings and proactively approach guests and question them. As an actual face character who is able to improvise, she’s the most amusing of the bunch, and offers up the most fun (and often funny) interactions. Makes for good people watching in Black Spire Outpost.
For now, the only characters who have arrived in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are Din Djarin and Grogu. The timing of appearances of the Mandalorian characters beginning on March 1, 2023 is hardly coincidental, as it’s also the day that the journey of Din Djarin and Baby Yoda continues in the third season of “The Mandalorian” on Disney+.
To our knowledge, no end date has been set for the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda walkaround characters in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. No other information has been provided as to when or how long these characters will appear at Walt Disney World.
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) March 1, 2023
In fact, as of the time that this story broke, Walt Disney World had not yet even officially announced that the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda are appearing in Florida. It would not surprise us in the least if it does not make the Disney Parks Blog–and isn’t in the My Disney Experience app.
UPDATE: Disney Parks has now shared the above video on its social media channels. Note that it doesn’t actually announce anything–you have to look at the reply underneath that to see this is from Walt Disney World. Many might miss that, and (understandably) assume the video is of the characters at Disneyland or Disneyland Paris.
One of the more legitimate concerns that Walt Disney World management has had about limited time promotional meet & greets is the expectations they create among guests. Meaning that if the Mandalorian and Grogu are only scheduled to stick around through March 13, 2023 (just a random example), people arriving later in the month, or April 2023…or even December 2024…will complain when the characters are no longer around.
With that said, our expectation is that the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda appear at DHS for more than two weeks. At the very least, we expect them to appear for the entirety of spring break season. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us if the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda are at Walt Disney World through Summer 2023.
As for when you can see the walk-around duo, if they’re anything like their California counterparts, you can expect to encounter Din Djarin and Grogu at random from around 10 am to 5 pm daily. Our strong advice would be to head to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge right around 10 am if you want to actually interact with them and get photos. It has been exceedingly difficult during peak hours at Disneyland.
It’s nothing new for Walt Disney World to add characters for a limited time to promote a new movie or television show. That’s almost certainly what’s happening here with Din Djarin and Grogu for season 3 of the Mandalorian on Disney+. What remains to be seen is how long this promotal appearance lasts, and whether it becomes permanent by popular guest demand.
To that end, if you are fortunate enough to meet the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda, we’d encourage you to post about it on social media and also mention it in guest satisfaction surveys (if you’re sent one via email after your trip). The more popular these characters end up being and the stronger the impression they make on guests, the more likely Walt Disney World “finds” money in the budget and reason to keep them around permanently.
Back in the 1990s, pretty much every new animated film received a full parade. More recently, it has happened with meet & greets, dance parties, projection shows/tags, and extended previews…but mostly just at Disneyland. The quality of these varies and does whether they fit naturally or feel contrived, but the point is that synergy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Historically, Walt Disney World has benefited tremendously from synergy, and could continue to do so in the current climate with the company fixated on its Disney+ streaming service. Why they have declined so many recent characters (and other additions) is actually a bit frustrating.
Some might argue that failing to embrace synergy is an even worse thing, and I would be in that camp. There are finally rumors that Mirabel will have a dedicated meet & greet in Magic Kingdom (replacing Merida) but it’s been over a year since Encanto was released and became a smash hit. Up until now, all Walt Disney World has is Mirabel in a cavalcade and (as of today) Encanto topiaries at the front of EPCOT. This is still woefully insufficient. An average first-time guest expects to see characters from popular new movies at Walt Disney World.
As people who enjoy fun and adorable critters, we’re totally on board with Baby Yoda (officially Grogu, for people who take Star Wars seriously), the Mandalorian, and other characters appearing in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We actually discussed exactly this in our post: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Needs to Break the Rules.
Suffice to say, this alone will go a long way to address our core complaints, many of which could also be rectified by simply adding many more characters to inhabit the land. (Something that we’ve yet to really see since both Walt Disney World and Disneyland dropped physically-distanced characters.)
One thing that I thought was notable about Scott Trowbridge’s previous statement was that visitors may be able to experience different stories throughout Star Wars history, but the characters on Batuu can not. Specifically, he said this about the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda: “They will remain in their specific story and timeline and won’t intersect with other characters or stories that would not be appropriate for them.”
To my knowledge, this isn’t relevant to any of the character additions that were just announced. Both of the series on Disney+ are only set a couple of decades before Batuu, so there’s nothing inherently at odds with them appearing in the land’s current timeline. This statement seems more relevant for future changes.
The clear implication–reinforced with multiple references to characters, including legacy characters–is that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will no longer be bound to a specific timeline, but the characters inhabiting it will. This wouldn’t be anything new; character integrity has always been a big deal for Disney.
This would mean that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could theoretically be one time period in the morning and a different one in the evening, or even different timelines in different areas of the land. So long as the characters themselves don’t break continuity, there’s wiggle room for what the land itself can accommodate, at least, in theory.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Walt Disney World will juggle multiple timelines simultaneously throughout the day, week, or even year on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It could simply be nudging open the door for switching things up in the future to keep the land fresh and encourage repeat visits.
Over time, it’ll be interesting to see what happens on that front, and how the physical components of the land (e.g. attractions, shops, dining, etc.) play into this timeline continuity–or don’t. It’s been almost a year since Trowbridge originally announced all of this, and the only thing that has changed thus far is the characters. At some point, a ‘timeline refresh’ of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would be a cost-effective and efficient way to bring a sense of newness to the land.
Ultimately, this is great news for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Kudos to the team that finally got the Mandalorian and Grogu at Walt Disney World; this is a huge addition that’ll really bring a fresh sense of energy and excitement to Black Spire Outpost.
As we wrote before, it was only a matter of time until Baby Yoda and his homies started to appear at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. No matter what the initial intent and timeframe for their appearances, this is too big to contain. These characters are tremendously popular, with guest demand and satisfaction scores inevitably making the decision for Walt Disney World to make these characters permanent fixtures of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios. This is the Way.
Beyond that, this is another signal that Imagineering and Lucasfilm are still tinkering with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the land isn’t viewed as a “finished product.” That’s not altogether unsurprising, as there were credible rumors about additions and changes way back in early 2020, but those fizzled out entirely in March of that year. Between the MagicBand+ bounty hunter game and this character news, it’s nice to see Imagineering getting more opportunities to revisit Batuu, iterating and improving upon its offerings. Here’s hoping that more is on the horizon. We’ll keep you posted, so stay tuned!
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Are you excited to finally see the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda appear at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Hopeful that they’re still in the land during your next trip to Walt Disney World? Do you think Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge should break its own rules or stick to the fixed timeline and story? Would you like to see even more characters in the land? What about Darth Vader and other original trilogy characters? Think Galaxy’s Edge should focus on fun, canon, or a mix of both? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!