“Star Wars” takes place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” as any fan of the popular movie franchise knows. And the process of getting a famous product embedded into a new Disney park based on “Star Wars” seemed to last for a similar duration.
Coca-Cola and Walt Disney have worked for more than three years to make some of the beverage giant’s best-known products available in “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” the new immersive park experience that opens May 31 at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, and Aug. 29 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. The result, unveiled Saturday, is a new spherical “orb” container that houses Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite and Dasani. Coke and Disney also transformed the drinks’ well-known logos into Aurebesh, the printed language used in the iconic movies.
“As Disney was figuring out how this ‘land’ would come together, we needed to stay the course with them on that journey,” says Ellen Gutierrez, strategic partnership and brand marketing director, Coca-Cola, in an interview. Coke executives understood they had to “ensure we were staying with the ‘Star Wars’ storyline and connecting with the passion of the consumers who would be coming to the park.”
Coca-Cola has long maintained criteria about how its colors are portrayed, right down to details about lettering and the contours of bottles. Sometimes, however, even the most durable brand has to break the rules.
Coca-Cola’s decision to rework its famous markings and container standards for a shot at quenching the thirst of Disney customers shows the leap even some of the nation’s expert marketing operations need to make when they want to cater to a specific fan base. Anheuser-Busch InBev recently raised eyebrows, for example, when it allowed HBO to take over a Super Bowl commercial for Bud Light to tout the last season of “Game of Thrones.” As part of the agreement, a character from the long-running fantasy drama killed off the popular ad mascot, the Bud Knight. Such a story might normally never seen the light of the day, but hooking on to “Game of Thrones” proved alluring enough that Anheuser allowed the commercial takeover by the WarnerMedia unit (and recently revived the character, anyway).
At “Galaxy’s Edge,” staying true to the look and feel of the world of “Star Wars” is paramount, says Scott Trowbridge, Disney’s lead Imagineer for the park. “This is a fully authentic and immersive world. We really want you to feel like you’ve walked not just on to the set of a “Star Wars” movie, but into the story itself,” he says. “We have had from day one this very important guideline, which was around authenticity. If a thing wouldn’t feel at home in the movie, it shouldn’t feel at home in our land.”
The new parks – 14 acres each – will let fans take part in a grand “Star Wars” adventure that can include taking control of the Millenium Falcon or eating at Oga’s Cantina. Executives at Coca-Cola, which has been a Disney Parks partner since the open of Disneyland in 1955 and Walt Disney World in 1971, felt the company could find a way to become part of the newest experience. “Even the cap on the package was a true collaboration,” says Susan Propp, vice president of strategic partnership marketing for Coca-Cola. The companies have even applied for a patent for the new “overcap” they developed which sits atop the orb and keeps the beverage from spilling.
Over the course of the joint plan to weave Coca-Cola products into the Disney experience, Coke’s designers created dozens of different package prototypes. The idea to use the special “Star Wars” language on the orbs came after Disney Imagineers toured an archive at Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters. Disney visitors who examine the containers will eventually find a label with nutrition information and some more familiar designs associated with the products.
“I had no idea what goes into bottling these kinds of beverages and all the different technologies and design features that help us take these products for granted,” says Disney’s Trowbridge. “Luckily, with our partner’s research and development involved, we were able to create the new packaging together.”
The new drink containers will only be available at “Galaxy’s Edge,” but Trowbridge suspects people who have yet to visit the new attraction will likely see the packages soon. “I kind of feel like these containers, we are going to find very, very few of them” left behind. “They are going to make their way home.”