August 16, 2015 – Over two years ago, we first reported rumors here of Disney building a dedicated Star Wars Land, most likely at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Now comes the confirmation.
Yesterday, at the D23 Expo 2015 in Anaheim, California, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger officially announced that Disney would create TWO (2) Star Wars Lands – one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, and the other at Disneyland in Anaheim. You can watch the video below, where the announcement that Anaheim would be included as well, brought the audience to its feet. West Coast residents, after all, have long felt somewhat ignored since the annual Star Wars Weekends event has only been hosted in Orlando.
“We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever,” Iger said. “These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet.”
So what can we expect? For starters, Disney is dedicating 14 acres to the new themed area inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios, making this the largest expansion to date. Iger described a new world “occupied by many inhabitants; humanoids, aliens and droids … the attractions, the entertainment, everything we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the mythology.”
Some of the highlights:
● Both Anaheim and Orlando will feature a cantina, where fans can “run into all the droids and roaming beasts Star Wars is known for,” said Iger. The galactic characters will come from the existing Star Wars movies as well as new ones from the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
● Two E-ticket rides will be built on both coasts. The first ride will allow guests to fly the Millennium Falcon on a mission which fans can customize. The second ride will insert guests into “a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.” No further details were offered about the rides.
● A current ride, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, will be updated. New characters and locations from The Force Awakens will be added.
● Star Wars Launch Bay will be opened by the end of 2015. The new interactive experience will immerse guests into The Force Awakens with a look behind-the-scenes and a view of special exhibits. Assorted Star Wars characters from the original saga as well as the sequel will be available for photo opportunities and some meet ‘n greets. Star Wars Launch Bay will also have food offerings and Star Wars merchandise to purchase.
Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as in Tomorrowland at Disneyland.
● The extremely popular Jedi Training Academy (watch at rope drop as parents and their children run to get into line to sign up for a precious time slot) will be updated. New characters from the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, will be introduced at the Academy. We had hoped that a new, larger stage (to accommodate the huge demand) and an indoor venue (to get away from the brutal sun and heat) would be announced, but those details have not been confirmed yet.
● “Season of the Force”, a new annual event, will hit both Disney parks in early 2016. In Orlando, might this be a renaming and rebranding of the popular summertime Star Wars Weekends? We don’t know yet. In Anaheim, “Season of the Force” will occurr in Tomorrowland where guests will have Star Wars-themed entertainment and food at various locations. Disneyland’s Space Mountain will be transformed into Hyperspace Mountain, allowing guests to experience an X-wing Starfighter battle.
No dates have been announced yet when both Star Wars Lands will be opened. In Anaheim, Disney has entered an agreement with the city, promising to begin construction no later than 2017 and wrap up by December 2024.
In Orlando, Star Wars Land could be completed earlier. A reasonable guess is at least four to five years, and possibly longer. This estimate is based on the four long years it took Disney to construct its New Adventureland expansion at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, which opened in three staggered phases as different sections were completed. Accordingly, our best guess is 2019-2020 at the earliest.