I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy… and haven’t stopped shouting since. A Star Wars-themed land is finally coming to Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando. Holy. Crap.
The announcement was made at D23 Expo this weekend, eclipsing both a Captain America: Civil War trailer and the reveal of Toy Story 4 to become the most talked about… anything that weekend. While this certainly isn’t the first time Star Wars has been featured in their parks (Star Tours and Star Wars Weekends are just a few of the things we’ve seen before), this will be by far the biggest and most ambitious.
Just how big will it be?
Huge. It will be Disney’s largest single land expansion in the history of the company, an estimated 14 acres at each park (for reference, Disneyland as a whole is about 85 acres right now).
What rides will it have?
The land will launch with two major attractions: one where you’ll be able to pilot the Millennium Falcon on a “customized” secret mission, and an “epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle.” Both of these will take place in the Episode VII era, so featuring the First Order/Resistance rather than the Empire/Rebels.
While those are some fairly vague descriptions, Disney’s approach to this area is all about interactivity and personalized experiences, giving you your own personal Star Wars story basically. So expect to see a pretty interesting blend of traditional ride design with experimental storytelling techniques.
How about shops and dining experiences?
There’s of course going to be a cantina, as well as the usual assortment of shopping and dining that you’d expect at a theme park.
However, Disney is really going above and beyond with the theming of these experiences. The land will be “set” on a new Star Wars planet, on the frontier of the known galaxy (a final stop before wild space). Every shop, locale, and cast member in the area will be in-universe and in-character, essentially building a completely immersive Star Wars storytelling experience.
Will it be themed after the classic films, the new ones, or both?
Like the rides, the overall land will be themed after the upcoming trilogy (Episode VII and beyond). At D23 Expo, Bob Iger stressed that Disney was focusing its storytelling efforts towards the future of Star Wars, not the past.
That being said, I have no doubt there will be plenty of nods and merch inspired by the six previous films. So don’t worry, you’ll still be able to pick up some souvenirs with Yoda’s face on them.
Where will it be located?
The expansion will be built in the Hollywood Studios park at Disney World, and in the main Disneyland park in California.
At Disneyland, it will reportedly use a chunk of land just north of Frontierland, taking over the Big Thunder Ranch and a few administrative “backstage” areas, such as the stables.
We’re not quite sure yet where it will be placed at Hollywood Studios in Orlando, but that park is not exactly packed with attractions, and Disney has plenty of room on the borders of it to expand. So we probably won’t be losing too much of what’s already built there.
Will it be called “Star Wars Land”?
It’s possible, but probably not. Like the upcoming Avatar-inspired expansion at Animal Kingdom (Pandora), the Star Wars expansion will probably take its name from the new planet it’s set on.
When does it open?
Not for a while unfortunately. Disney is not even expected to break ground on the expansion until 2017. Don’t expect to step foot in this one much earlier than 2019 (the same year we’ll be seeing Episode IX).
While we wait, will there be any other Star Wars additions to the parks?
Yes! Alongside the land expansion news, Disney also revealed a ton of other Star Wars-themed stuff coming to their parks in the meantime:
- Later this year, Star Tours will be updated to include a new segment based on The Force Awakens.
- Both parks will also see the opening of “Star Wars Launch Bay,” an interactive exhibit featuring props, activities, and merch. The Launch Bay will be built in Tomorrowland in Disneyland, and the Animation Pavilion in Orlando’s Hollywood Studios park.
- The Jedi Training Academy, an interactive live show for kids, will also get an update, including new characters from Star Wars Rebels.
- Disneyland will be getting the “Season of the Force,” a variation on the Star Wars Weekends that take place in Orlando. This will be a seasonal Star Wars makeover of Tomorrowland, including temporarily turning Space Mountain into “Hyperspace Mountain.”