Star Wars Land Announced for Disney World & Disneyland!

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Stars Wars Land was just announced for Walt Disney World and Disneyland at the D23 Expo! At the end of an otherwise dull Star Wars segment of the Live Action film panel, Disney CEO Bob Iger came on stage to announce the lands for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, and Disneyland (park) in Anaheim.

Few details were given, except that the plans are incredibly ambitious, and set to be Disney’s largest single-themed land expansions ever at 14-acres each (which likely means that they are clones of one another) and will transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port, and will feature recognizable characters.

At Disneyland, the expansion will take the place of Big Thunder Ranch plus some backstage areas; it sounds like Toontown is safe. No word has been given as to where in Disney’s Hollywood Studios that Star Wars Land will be added. 

The new land is said to transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, which is a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space. In this land/on this new planet, guests will be immersed in an experience where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.

Each of the lands will have two signature attractions, one with the ability to take the controls the Millennium Falcon on a customized secret mission, and will include an epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

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Realizing this expansion will take years to complete, Disney has a short term solution, too. Both Star Wars Launch Bay and Season of the Force will begin within the year. Launch Bay is set to (ahem) launch later this year, and will feature specific exhibits, meet & greets, and behind the scenes experiences all based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It will be located in Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Toworrowland’s Innoventions at Disneyland, where it will be called Super Hero HQ and also feature Marvel stuff.

Season of the Force, is a new seasonal event beginning early 2016. It will occur in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, where there will be special entertainment at Tomorrowland Terrace and elsewhere, along with Hyperspace Mountain, a re-imagining of Space Mountain, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Walt Disney World in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it will be a weekend event featuring a fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies. No word on whether this replaces Star Wars Weekends, but I’m guessing not–instead, it’ll just be riding on the Episode 7 hype train.

Additionally, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue will have a location and characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens added to it at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland. Likewise, Jedi Training Academy will have new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series, “Star Wars Rebels.” These additions should be in place before Episode 7 opens.

Reaction

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It turns out some of my speculation and predictions in the $3.5 Billion Walt Disney World Expansion? posts were correct…and also incorrect.

I’m pretty ecstatic about Star Wars Land, and I’m not even a huge Star Wars fan. What has me most excited is that this is a new planet. This is because my main hope as stated in that post was this:

I can’t really say there’s something specific I’d like to see represented in this land. What I am hoping is that a single, distinct environment from one of the films, rather than a “greatest hits” of different Star Wars locales. One of the reasons I think Cars Land is so successful is because you feel like you’re actually stepping into that film.

 

As readers and I went on to discuss in the comments to that post, this would be a real challenge. I think reader Chris really hit the nail on the head with this:

Harry Potter is much better suited to places I want to go and be in. In Star Wars they always want out of where they are… Tatooine, Hoth, Dagobah system. Not even the Death Star to me is somewhere I want to hang out. The exception is the Millenium Falcon, but obviously not being a land, that can only accommodate so many people.

Chris was absolutely right, and this definitely seemed like it presented a challenge that might mean Star Wars Land is a simple, unidentifiable “greatest hits” repository of attractions. Thankfully, the Imagineers are more creative than all of us armchair enthusiasts, and they zigged when we zagged, opting to create an entirely new planet that, frankly, looks like it features some pretty awesome characteristics and is a place I’d want to hang out, based upon the concept art.

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As only a casual Star Wars fan, things like canon and continuity in the new land do not matter to me, so I’m going to like the new land as long as it looks awesome. However, you better believe canon, etc. matters to serious fans, and I’m sure the Imagineers are working hard with Lucasfilm to ensure the new planet fits properly within the Star Wars Universe.

This planet will have to evoke the feeling of being in a Star Wars locale to serious fans, which I think will be a more daunting task for the Imagineers. (Of course, there’s also always the possibility that by “new” planet, they mean one from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that has yet to be seen by fans…)

Now that I’ve heard the announcement, creating a new planet seems like such an obvious solution, but it’s definitely not something I had considered before.

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As for the attractions themselves, the descriptions provided were so vague that there’s really not much for me to say. Obviously, piloting a Milennium Falcon is going to be a real crowd-pleaser. An attraction like that does seem like an obvious choice, and it’s a choice I’m glad they made. Beyond that, I am hopeful that at least one of these attractions is family friendly–but also pushes the envelope in terms of creative design.

I really hope these are “wow” attractions that breed a whole new generation of Disney fans. Based upon the rumblings I’ve heard from those who would know, that’s exactly what both of these attractions will be. I couldn’t care less about the exact substance of the attractions–I’ll trust the capable hands of the Imagineers when given a healthy budget– all I want is to be blown away, repeatedly uttering “whoa” like I did on my first rides on Radiator Springs Racers or Mystic Manor. I know people are excited about Toy Story Land, but I’m hoping for attractions in Star Wars Land that raise the bar so high that people will be wondering why they even bothered riding some dog-coaster. 😉

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As for the seasonal stuff, I’m impressed just by the fact that Disney has recognized they need something ready quickly to satiate the pent up and coming demand for Star Wars. I strongly suspect these additions are at least being partially funded by the studio’s healthy promotional budget for Episode 7 (just like the studio pays for those 3D preview films in Epcot & Disneyland), but at least the parks are finally putting that money to more imaginative uses.

I don’t expect any of the Launch Bay or Season of the Force stuff to be particularly impressive, but anyone who is expecting any of this to be E-Ticket quality has unrealistic expectations. I think it will all be well done “diversion” level of entertainment that will particularly be enjoyable for families, which is about the most that should be expected. I’m pretty impressed that they are doing this at all, and at the end of the day, anything is better than Innoventions, so at least there’s that! 😉

About the only thing that bugs me about this is that I don’t think Disneyland–Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom–is the appropriate place for a single-property land. I have no issues with the tone or substance of Star Wars being “un-Disney” as some people are complaining, but it is a bit disconcerting that the park Walt specifically built with broad themes conducive to the guest having an individual experience based on their dreams and imagination. An entire land based on a single property (be it Star Wars or Snow White) seems contrary to that.

This is something with which I’m still wrestling and I think I’ll get over it as the times have changed and there’s still ample opportunity to “choose your own adventure” and have an imaginative experience in Star Wars Land, but right now it doesn’t sit well. It may surprise some of you to learn, especially those who know I am an avid Disneyland goat enthusiast, that it doesn’t bother me that Disneyland is losing Big Thunder Ranch. I love Big Thunder Ranch, and spend a ton of time there. It’s one of those charming, distinctly “Disneyland” things that makes the park special. That said, it takes up a lot of space, and Disneyland doesn’t exactly have the blessing of size. Repurposing that area to better utilize the space makes sense, sadly. I’ll miss my goats, but perhaps I can adopt a few. 😉

I have no such concerns for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where IP has always reigned supreme. “Studio” is basically a cop-out in terms of theme, anyway. As long as they do a good job and each land is internally consistent, I’m satisfied.

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If you are planning a Walt Disney World or Disneyland trip to visit a galaxy far far away (at a time far–or not so far–away), check out our planning resources! The best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide or Disneyland Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!

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YOUR THOUGHTS…

Do you think this is a good addition? Are you excited for a big-budget Star Wars Land? Excited to pilot the Millennium Falcon? If you could choose, what would be your dream Star Wars Land be? If you have other ideas, questions, or thoughts, please share in the comments!


65 Responses to “Star Wars Land Announced for Disney World & Disneyland!”
  1. Brett Eymann June 5, 2017
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