The Full Sized Millennium Falcon at Hollywood Studios: A dream come true

I’ve been writing these articles every day for the last ten years, except for a month of two here and there. And during that entire time, I occasionally do these Millennium Falcon articles about that fictional ship from Star Wars because simply put, I’ve been in love that that vessel most of my life. When I was little it captured my imagination in many positive ways and has been a very important part of my life. It has always represented to me what could be instead of what is, and the excitement of such an intergalactic hot rod that is like a deep space RV has always been something of a goal of mine to see as a reality. I have thought of building one myself. I have supported other people who have attempted to do so. And whenever there has been some kind of movie prop or promotional material regarding the Millennium Falcon, I would go way out of my way to see it. Recently when Disney was promoting Solo: A Star Wars Story at NKU in the Cincinnati area, I took a very rare day off work to go see it. I am not a guy who stands in lines for much of anything, but for that one I showed up many hours early just to see an exhibit in a cargo container set up in the university parking lot. So you might imagine dear reader what it was like for me to finally see the Millennium Falcon in real life at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and to actually get the opportunity to fly the thing in a simulator environment. I would call it a religious experience above seeing Moses come down off Mount Sinai to present the Ten Commandments. For me, it was bigger than that.

Over 20 years ago I was invited with a special contingent of people to attend a unique viewing of Star Wars at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. It was a museum dedication to the costumes and model props from the actual films and how the power of myth had helped shape our society. It was a big deal for me, I was there with the Joseph Campbell Foundation for which George Lucas himself was on the board of directors. I had at that point spent most of a decade reading Joseph Campbell and much of his source material from Nietzsche, to Thomas Mann, Carl Jung, James Joyce including Finnegan’s Wake which has turned out to be one of my favorite books ever, and many, many others—so this was a very scholarly group I was meeting in Washington D.C. I was able to meet Joseph Campbell’s wife Jean at this event and I had brought my wife and kids so the weekend was promising to be very intellectual and a great networking event. Publishers were there, filmmakers, producers, it was a good group.

I got to the event at the Smithsonian and we stopped at the actual model of the Millennium Falcon, the big one, from The Empire Strikes back that was over two feet long. I froze there looking at it for what turned out to be the rest of the day. Everyone else moved on, but I stayed there looking at that model close up for the first time for the rest of the day, and what turned out to be the rest of the weekend. I didn’t meet up with everyone later, but instead spent the rest of the weekend looking at the rest of the exhibit with my family and returning back to that Millennium Falcon model over and over again taking countless pictures of it from every angle in a time when you still had to develop film, before anybody had digital cameras or even a hint at an iPhone. I never forgot every little detail on that model and have been thinking about it every day since. So seeing the full sized model of the Millennium Falcon that the Imagineers had built at Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, Florida was well beyond a mind bending experience for me. It was God himself sitting there for me to indulge in until my heart’s content. It was a massive collision of imagination and engineering wrapped up into infinite possibilities that for me were beyond exciting.

I have talked about how excited I was to be finally at Galaxy’s Edge to walk around in the world of Star Wars. Well, I do have a voluminous vocabulary, and I don’t have words for how I felt about this experience, of seeing the Millennium Falcon aaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnddddddd, being able to go inside it and fly it. It was the most exciting thing I can ever remember doing, not just in the function, but in the possibility of it in thinking that such a thing would never have been possible. If there is anything of a heaven in my life, I could put that experience on loop for all eternity and not feel like I missed any other opportunity at happiness. That experience for me was the definition of happiness and my only regret is that I can’t have that experience every day for the rest of my life,

I can only thank the Imagineers and for Disney as a company for building such a thing. I might even buy some Disney stock after this wonderful vacation experience. For all the talk about social justice from Disney ruining Star Wars, this experience went a long way for me to forgive them for their mistakes. Disney could have gone cheap on this attraction and done something on much less of a scale, like the AT AT at Star Tours which I’ve always loved, but wished had been full sized. That full-sized model of the Falcon was as detailed if not more so as the Smithsonian model I fell in love with all those years ago. It was so special to see it up close, to eat near it, to walk inside it, to be a part of it in a reality created by Disney Imagineers for the love of people like me. They didn’t have to go that far, but they did, and I feel so much better for the experience of it.

I’m a very positive person, I have lived through lots and lots of very distinct disappointments that likely would have killed most people. But I never remember going to bed at night and waking up the next day without hope in thinking that today could be the best day of my life. In a lot of ways my source of inspiration was always the Millennium Falcon, a beat up old ship that everyone thought was junk that always ended up saving the day, and by the time it has arrived to these new movies, is the last hope for everyone in surviving to a new day. That has always been my relationship to that fictional spacecraft. And to that effect, I can say that no matter how tough life has ever been, no matter how disappointing days could sometimes be, it was worth waking up each day to arrive at a point in life where seeing this full-sized Millennium Falcon was possible. To say that I am filled with exuberance is an understatement. Seeing that thing that is much more than a movie prop in symbology is one of those things that I will always say was one of the best things I’ve ever had the privilege to experience. And that in itself is saying quite a lot.  It is a reminder that no matter how bad things get in life, its worth pushing through because somedays you have days like the ones I’ve just had where dreams do come true.  The fight is worth it just to have such opportunities.  So you should never cut yourself short and give up when things get tough, because they can always get better so long as you keep trying and working at it.

Rich Hoffman