Construction for Star Wars Land is well underway at Disneyland, with the plot now almost totally cleared as of April 2016. We were in the park last Friday and as we were leaving the Mickey & Friends parking structure, I stopped in my tracks upon noticing the construction. I hadn’t intended upon doing another construction update until May (so I hadn’t taken pictures while we were in Disneyland), but I figured this was worth its own quick post. Not only had significant progress been made since we were last in the parks a couple of weeks ago, but more of the plot was finally visible, and it is huge.
Before we go over some of the details, a little basic info. Skip below the next photo if you’re pretty familiar with the plans. By now, you’ve probably heard of Star Wars Land, the 14-acre expansion coming to Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Land is set to be Disney’s largest single-themed land expansion and will transport guests to a remote trading port on a never-before-seen planet.
The tentative name for the land is the Star Wars Experience (hopefully that changes to something less descriptive; word to the marketing teams: guests aren’t total idiots), which is expected to include at least 2 E-Ticket attractions: a simulator attraction in which guests pilot the Millennium Falcon, and a “battle escape” attraction. There’s also the possibility of a smaller-scale kinetic transportation attraction (think PeopleMover). Also expected are a cantina, restaurants, meet & greets, and prop ships throughout the land. Oh, and a ton of rock-work.
Based on announcements, we’ve known that this is to be located between Toontown and Critter Country, north of Frontierland on a plot of land that is the former home of Big Thunder Ranch and backstage facilities. What has been unknown is just how much of this land would be utilized for Star Wars Land. It seems like we have an answer now: “all of it.” Pretty much everywhere you see text in the above graphic (and some areas south of it) is now a construction zone.
Here’s a look at the current construction (I recommend clicking the photo to view it larger). To give you bearing on what you’re seeing, I was standing on the roof of Mickey & Friends (top left of the map above) and the trees lining Disneyland Dr. are in the lower left of the photo. On the right edge of the photo is the berm on the north end of the now-drained Rivers of America (see below). To the left of that are Big Thunder Mountain and the Matterhorn. In the middle of the photo is the large tent-like theater for Mickey and the Magical Map. Left of that you’ll see Toontown.
As you can see, construction is occurring in this entire stretch. Basically, from the area west of Toontown to the area just north of Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country, there’s construction. There are still some backstage facilities abutting Disneyland Dr., and it’s unclear whether all of these will be removed to make room for show buildings, but it’s a huge swath of land, regardless. This week’s Dateline Disneyland meticulously looks at the progress with more zoomed-in photos of the construction, if you want to see more detail.
Although I didn’t get a new photo, the portion of the Rivers of America beyond the cofferdams located north of Big Thunder and Hungry Bear Restaurant has been drained. It’s difficult to see what construction work is being done along the northern bend of the Rivers of America because there are no good sight-lines from inside the park or the parking structure. The plan is to re-route the Disneyland Railroad and shorten the Rivers of America by a bit, and we can safely assume this work is a priority, as the Railroad, Rivers of America attractions, and Fantasmic can’t resume operation until that work is completed (likely early 2017).
What doesn’t require assumption is just how quickly construction is progressing. I’ve heard a lot of chatter that Star Wars Land has been fast-tracked with a very ambitious target opening date (Christmas 2018) given the scope of the project, and that seems fairly evident based upon the progress we’ve observed thus far. Over the last decade, I’ve kept tabs on a lot of Disney construction projects, and I don’t recall any moving at this brisk of a speed. I watched the action for about 5 minutes, and during that time I counted over a dozen construction vehicles actively working. And this was on a Friday afternoon in California–a time when nobody works (I’m pretty sure the state constitution forbids working past 2 p.m.).
Maybe I didn’t realize just how large 14 acres is when the Star Wars Land announcement was made, but this land is going to be insanely large. Far bigger than any other land in Disneyland–more like the size of several of the other lands combined. As Micechat has reported, the show buildings for the 2 E-Ticket attractions will be among the largest at Disneyland, potentially larger than the mammoth Indiana Jones Adventure building. They also indicated that Star Wars Land would connect to Critter Country and Toontown, which now seems a given based upon the construction footprint. (It’ll be great not having these two lands dead-end anymore.)
I know this there’s not a ton of meat to this update, but I’m not sure when I’ll next get to Disneyland, and I thought the progress thus far is sort of fascinating. I think we’re still a while away from the project going vertical, but fortunately Disney isn’t moving at a snail’s pace with Star Wars Land. I can’t wait to step onto this new “planet” in a couple of years and marvel at its landscape. If it lives up to the high bar of Cars Land (and I think it will), we are all in for a treat.
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