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Everything We Know About Disney Parks’ STAR WARS-Themed Land

Everything We Know About Disney Parks’ STAR WARS-Themed Land

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, I was excited about the prospect of more Star Wars films, obviously, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what the acquisition meant for Disney Parks. Star Wars already had a presence in the parks with Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Jedi Training Academy, and special events, but oh, the potential—especially after seeing the level of immersion Imagineering nailed with Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure.

My dreams about more Star Wars at Disney parks came true at D23 Expo in 2015 when Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Star Wars-themed lands were going to happen. Since the big reveal, construction has gotten underway and we’ve learned some information, but still not the official name for the additions. Have patience. This post will be updated as Disney releases news, but for now, this is everything we know so far about the upcoming Star Wars-themed lands.

Latest Update

Update, July 15, 2017:

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The Star Wars-themed lands finally got an official name. The announcement was made at D23 Expo 2017’s Parks & Resorts panel. Both the Disneyland and Hollywood Studios areas are called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The planet is on the edge of the galaxy, so that makes sense. Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Bob Chapek also announced the Disneyland location of Galaxy’s Edge will open first in 2019, with the second location opening later that year.

They shared a few new details about the area, including some of the familiar faces fans will see. You could encounter BB-8, Chewbacca, First Order stormtroopers, Kylo Ren, Hondo Ohnaka, and Rex. Rex, of course, is the pilot of the first iteration of the Star Tours attraction. He has a new role here, spinning tunes as a DJ at the Galaxy’s Edge cantina. Get additional details on Galaxy’s Edge here.

Which Parks Are Getting the Star Wars Addition?

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Star Wars-themed lands are coming to Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida.

All About Space

No, like actual space. Both the California and Florida editions of the Star Wars area will be 14 acres. It’s Disneyland’s biggest expansion.

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Update, July 14, 2017:

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A detailed look at the Star Wars-themed land was unveiled at D23 Expo, and we took over 50 photos of the model and items on display. “The 50-foot-wide model shows off the never before seen planet. Though a few placards mention some details about objects and characters you’ll find on the planet–including musical instruments and an Ithorian–this display is all about the visuals. There’s a Resistance base on the left side of the land, as well as an X-wing and an A-wing. Over on the right side of the land, you’ll see a First Order flag and a parked TIE fighter. The E-ticket Millennium Falcon attraction is tucked away on the back right, while the other E-ticket attraction that puts guests in a fight between the First Order and Resistance is on the left of the land.”

View all the photos right this way.

What’s the Story?

Every attraction and area at Disney Parks has a backstory, and Star Wars land will be no different. The galaxy is vast with any number of familiar locations to pluck from the map, but Disney’s not going that route. Instead, they’re putting the Star Wars-themed lands in fresh setting. At D23 in 2015 Iger said, “[It’s] a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.”

The goal is for the areas to be immersive a la Cars Land or Universal’s Wizarding World. You’ll walk in and forget you’re in a Disney Park. The restaurants and entertainment will fit within the narrative, with cast members staying in-universe. Only local inhabitants will serve you food and sell you merchandise. You can visit a cantina (not the cantina you’re thinking of, sadly) and order themed food and beverages. Aliens, droids, and humanoids will roam the streets.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek told the Orlando Sentinel, “It’s going to bring even more of the Star Wars story to life with an entirely new planet on the outer rim, a frontier town that’s one of the last stops before wild space. It will be full of characters both familiar and not-so-familiar. Everything will be in story from the food to the entertainment to the attractions.”

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Attractions

I find the most exciting part about any Disney Park addition to be the food, but I realize many others are more concerned with rides. Star Wars land will feature two signature E-ticket attractions. One will center on the Millennium Falcon, because what a pity if they didn’t use the fastest hunk of junk. Iger has described the experience as taking the controls of the Falcon for a customized secret mission.

The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 special on ABC gave us a little bit of a tease for both attractions in February 2016, the second of which was billed as “an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you right in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance” at D23 in 2015. Footage in the special made it looks like the ride vehicle gets up close and personal with First Order stormtroopers and their blaster fire.

MiceChat, a popular insider site, shared rumors about both attractions in October 2016. Regarding the battle ride, they said guests would be boarding and leaving ride vehicles on various levels while under attack from stormtroopers. It’s a neat idea, but I can’t imagine it’s ideal for moving enough riders through per hour.

Update, March 16, 2017:
AT-AT walkers are coming!

As construction continues on Disney’s Star Wars-themed land at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s inevitable fans are going to notice every little change–especially at Disneyland. The construction area is visible from a few vantage points, with the Mickey and Friends parking structure offering the best view. Fans, myself included, make it a point to stop and look at the progress, and they’ve noticed AT-ATs taking shape. The vehicles have a distinct frame, so it’s not like they could keep it hidden. With photos flying around social media, Disney Parks decided it was time for an update. You can see a view of the AT-ATs in the above video; Disney shows the current status and a render of the final product.

Since the Star Wars-themed land is immersive, the AT-ATs aren’t there just because they look cool. They’ll have a storytelling purpose. I’m guessing they’re part of an attraction, specifically the adventure one that puts guests in a battle between the Resistance and First Order.

Another part of the construction area is circular, and I can’t decide if it’s big enough to be the Millennium Falcon. You can get a look at the AT-AT walkers in the context of the complete construction site at Disneyland, as well as see the circle I referenced in this video from Parks and Cons:

Update, April 17, 2017:

Star Wars Celebration Orlando featured a Disney Parks panel, and while we didn’t get specifics (those will likely be kept for D23 Expo in July), we did get some concept art and clues and a video with insight about Lucasfilm is working with Imagineering (see above video). IGN was on the scene and reported the panel put a lot of emphasis on immersion. Like we’ve touched on before, they want you to feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe and experiencing a never before seen story–with some familiar droids and aliens, of course.

As far as the location, which is a brand new planet we’ve not visited before, it’s described as a spot which used to be a hopping port but has fallen into disarray. We’ve seen spots similar to this in the galaxy–places that aren’t as shiny as they used to be and therefore become the home of the wayward and sneaky. The description makes me think of some place like Maz’s castle on Takodana. It’s a gathering place for all sorts of folks, including the sneaky and possibly criminal kind. An important note: it’s set in the sequel trilogy era, Episodes VII through IX. Here’s some of the new concept art I mentioned:

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On the attraction front, we got a little detail about the Millennium Falcon E-ticket ride: guests can control the Millennium Falcon. Maybe it will be like the Mission: SPACE attraction in Epcot, except that the Falcon ride will have different outcomes depending on how the control goes (Mission: SPACE has a set outcome). When you visit the Star Wars themed land, your decisions and experiences there can help you build a rep. So, if you, say, crash the Millennium Falcon (and that is a possibility), that could come back to bite you later.

Update, July 17, 2017:

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A few more details about the attractions were dropped at D23 Expo 2017, including some new concept art. The Millennium Falcon ride will feature the likes of Chewbacca and Hondo Ohnaka looking for a crew. You can get an idea about the ride vehicle in the above picture. As for the attraction featuring a battle between the First Order and the Resistance, part of it will take place on a Star Destroyer.

When’s It Opening?

We don’t know what the land will be called yet, so it’s not surprising we don’t have an official opening date. Rumors point to 2018, but that seems like a speedy and optimistic timeline. I’ve heard Imagineers are working long hours to deliver, but on site construction only began in April 2016 in both locations. Cars Land, for example, had a five year timeline from the announcement to completion. Perhaps they’ll time it close the release of Episode IX in 2019?

The groundbreaking video:

Though it only looks like piles of dirt with occasional differences, I always like to stop for a minute in the Mickey and Friends parking garage at Disneyland to look in on the progress. The best view is from the roof level.

Update, February 7, 2017:
During an earnings report call for the first fiscal quarter on February 7, Iger announced the Star Wars-themed lands will open at Disney Parks in 2019. So, 2019 it is! (via The Street)

Update, July 17, 2017:
An update at D23 Expo confirmed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open at Disneyland first in 2019, with the Hollywood Studios location opening later in that year.

More Star Wars in the Parks

Update, April 19, 2017:
With the opening of a Star Wars themed land, wouldn’t a similarly themed resort be amazing? It could happen on the Walt Disney World side of the coast, a.k.a. the U.S. Disney location with actual room for expansion (sorry, Disneyland). WDW News Today reports some guests have received a survey from a third party gauging interest in a two night immersive resort experience to include “a continuous, story-driven entertainment experience as it unfolds over the course of the two-night stay.” Oh, and all of that would happen on a Star Wars style starship. Because of course.

The aspect that makes this survey especially interesting is the presence of concept art. Such as:

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You can view more at WDW News Today. The estimated price tag on the experience is $900-$1000 per person as of right now. Theme park admission is included, as are all meals. It takes the idea of visiting a Star Wars themed land to the next level. For two days, you can live Star Wars with programs like secret missions, robotic droid butlers, and more. I know I’m the target audience, but damn, I’m intrigued.

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Update, July 17, 2017:
Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Bob Chapek confirmed at D23 Expo 2017 that a Star Wars-inspired resort is coming to Walt Disney World. It will be a new kind of vacation experience, a completely immersive one. From the time you check in, you’ll be a citizen of the galaxy and you’ll even get proper attire to play the part. You’ll be on a “starship” for your multi-day adventure; every room window will have a view of space. No word yet on exactly when and where this resort will open, so stay tuned!

Before you go, hop on down to the gallery to see concept art for Star Wars land.

This post will be updated and expanded as Disney releases more news about the Star Wars additions. Bookmark this page and come back often!

Images: Disney and ABC

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