By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
As expected, Disney CEO Robert Iger took to the stage at Disney’s D23Expo to announce a new Star Wars themed expansion to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In what will be the largest expansion to a Disney Park in history, Star Wars Land will add a pair of new main rides and attractions based on the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Wars Epic, and will give park guests an immersive, intergalactic experience.
“I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars. We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
As reported last Friday, members of Disney’s famed Imagineering corps have had to sign additional non disclosure agreements that pertains specifically to Star Wars Land, but also to the story lines for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and future films telling the Lucasian epic. Now we know why, since according to Iger, Star Wars Land will focus on the conflict that takes place during TFA, between the Resistance (aka the Rebellion) and The First Order.
Star Wars Land will have two main attractions, including a ride where guests will be able to take control of Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon and go on a secret mission. The second attraction will put guests into the middle of a climatic battle between rebel forces and the First Order.
In addition, the entire park will be so immersive, that guests will think they’ve left the happiest place on earth and visited a planet in the Star Wars universe. This will include being able to board the Millenium Falcon, as well has interacting with Disney cast members made up to look like alien beings from a galaxy far, far away.
The area where Disney will be building Star Wars Land is the Big Thunder Ranch area, as we speculated last week. This will include the Festival of Fools arena, which has been largely used for special events for over a decade. The Circle D Ranch, where Disney keeps its horses and other animals, will be relocated off property to a new area, with horses trailered in every day for their four hour shifts on Main Street.
The Big Thunder Ranch area is the best candidate for being replaced, as there really isn’t a lot there, except for a barbeque area and a fun location for holding special events, something that Disneyland has no shortage of alternatives to.
Some have also wondered why Disney isn’t going to just make a Star Wars themed overlay at Disney World and Disneyland, and also if they’ll move Star Tours out of Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Well, the fact is that Disney wants a completely immersive experience to answer the Harry Potter themed second gate at Universal Studios Florida, and being developed at Universal in Hollywood.
Tomorrowland is also a popular spot for lifelong Disney guests, and represented one of Walt’s original land concepts. To replace it would cause many faithful Disney guests to complain, rather than being excited for the new land. So it really wasn’t in the cards to replace it with a Star Wars overlay, even though Tomorrowland is a futuristic — yet fanciful — area in both the Florida and California parks.
There is talk that Disney may, sometime down the road, rebuild and update Disneyland’s Star Tours over at Star Wars Land and re-theme the current ride into something like the Iron Man Experience in Shanghai.
As for Star Tours at Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida, it looks like the ride is staying put as Star Wars Land is being built. As for another Marvel Land in Florida? Well, for the time being (and probably in perpetuity), Universal Studios Orlando’s Islands of Adventure has the license and their Marvel Island, which makes it difficult for Disney World to do anything with Marvel. It should be noted that The Incredible Hulk coaster is getting updated.
Either way, that doesn’t mean you won’t have Star Wars presence in Tomorrowland. In addition to having Star Tours, Tomorrowland’s Space Mountain will also get a seasonal overlay, much like they get at Halloween. Dubbed “Hyperspace Mountain,” the overlay an X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter dog fight into the indoor roller coaster and will open in 2016 at Disneyland in Anaheim. Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain will not receive the seasonal overlay at this point.
Also in the same area, fans will get some Star Wars experience with “Star Wars Launch Bay” a walk-through tour of props from the new movie. Disney also plans to update the Jedi Training Academy with First Order Storm Troopers, and the sith lord Kylo Ren joining Darth Vader in trying to teach young ones the ways of the dark side.
In addition to Star Wars Land, Disney also announced that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be getting a new land of their own, specially themed around Toy Story. Toy Story Land will have a family friend roller coaster themed around the character of “Slinky the dog,” an alien saucers attraction, and Toy Story Mania, which has been very popular at both parks. And Disney is also refreshing their Soarin’ ride by going international, leaving the lush confines of California with Soarin’ Around the World. Plus, at Epcot, they’ve been working on a Frozen ride that is replacing Norway’s ride.
Can you imagine? Well, you don’t have to. Here’s a behind the scenes video:
Star Wars Land will be launched in two phases, and won’t begin construction until 2017. Why? Well, the talk is that Disney plans to bring their annual Star Wars Season of the Force celebration to the west coast as an answer to Universal’s California Harry Potter launch, and timed with Hyperspace Mountain in 2016.
Once that happens, then ground will be broken to begin the Star Wars Land expansion, with an expected opening sometime in 2019-2020. Add to that the already announced Marvel Land at Disney California Adventure, and it looks like there’s going to be plenty reason to revisit the Magic Kingdom in the coming years. Heck, it’ll be a brand new park!
Hat Tip – Disney Parks Blog