If Star Wars fans are good at one thing, it’s waiting. It was a whopping 16 years in between the release of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and come December it will have been a solid decade between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s a lot of anticipation, excitement, and energy to be built up between installments. But, just as quickly as Star Wars fans will admit that the wait between films is hard, they’ll also admit that the wait was worth it.
The interface is brilliant and so ridiculously Star Wars-y: when you boot it up, it flings you through the stars and comes complete with droid noises (mostly adorable chirping). When you reach the main hub of the app, you can gain access to the official news feed (where things like news about the upcoming Han Solo movie will appear), official videos, and a selfie experience co-created by Walt Disney Imagineering. Elsewhere there is a nice GIF collection to send to your friends, an augmented reality component, and a Force trainer like the one in the first Star Wars (the little ball that shoots mostly harmless lasers at Luke Skywalker). There are also lovely little flourishes like what the date means in Star Wars history and a note about what planet most closely resembles where you are, weather-wise. Like we said: worth the wait.
To celebrate the launch of the app, we spoke with Mickey Capoferri, the Senior Director, Online Content and Programming at Lucasfilm. He told us about the development history and design, what makes the app unique, and, yes, emojis.
What was the thinking, in terms of the design and development, behind this app?
We wanted to create an authentic feel from the Star Wars universe. We wanted to bring a little bit of Star Wars into our world and we wanted, in designing the interface, we wanted to create a dashboard, which is what we call the main landing page, that felt like a window into Star Wars. As opposed to an app designed around Star Wars, we wanted to feel like you’re touching something that could be from that world. So we wanted much more of an authentic, organic, visual user experience for that Star Wars world.
There have been Star Wars apps that have come before this one. What sets this apart?
It’s a connection to the pulse of the Star Wars franchise. Everything that’s happening around the brand—it’s news, it’s animation, it’s gifs, it’s augmented reality experiences. It’s your daily dose of Star Wars. On a daily basis I can check in and find out everything that’s going on in the world of Star Wars but more importantly you can interact with these fun, native mobile features that I do anyway, but Star Wars versions; things that people make on their own anyway. This is a network and it’s meant to grow. It’s a platform we’re going to expand, potentially, over the next 10 years as more movies, games and TV shows come out and adding experiences to this. The goal is that there won’t be 20 to 30 random Star Wars apps on the app store. If you download the Star Wars app from the app store, you’re never going to miss anything in the Star Wars universe. It’s unlike any other app.
What else will people have access to on the first day?
Weather, this date in Star Wars history, an ongoing countdown that lets you know how many days are left until Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rebels and Rogue One, user profiles, the ability to change the theme. You can choose light side, dark side or droid-based color schemes and it will re-skin itself based on that and include slightly different animations and sound effects. Also worth noting: all of the sounds and sound effects are custom sound effects from Skywalker Sound. There’s an additional augmented reality experience that allows you to bring up a full-sized new Episode VII Stormtrooper or BB-8 droid. So you can take a photo with a Stormtrooper or have a small Stormtrooper pop up on your desktop. There’s also a “More Star Wars” section that connects you to the Star Wars Disney Store that cross-promotes all of the officially licensed games.
Will the emojis from Star Wars Celebration be there?
Rest assured: the emojis are coming. They will not be at first launch but the first update, a couple weeks after launch, will add 30+ emojis, featuring classic characters and the Episode VII emojis.
Is there any interactivity between the app and Star Wars at the parks?
That is definitely something that we’re looking at long term. I know WDI is looking at their own in-park app; whether our Star Wars app ultimately connects to the parks, I’m not sure. But I hope so. That’s the right line of thinking, though, in terms of where I see this going. What we launch with will be fun and there will be lots of things for people to play with. But that’s not what gets me excited. The hope is that every few months we’re adding another feature to this.