When The Phantom Menace hit theaters, I was eight and very, very excited. I had seen the original three Star Wars movies on VHS multiple times, owned Star Wars books and t-shirts, and tried my absolute best to win the Escape from the Death Star board game. I think I only won once, but hey, I was eight. So, when The Force Awakens premieres in December, it will be a big deal for me.
This weekend, Disney announced an even bigger deal: they’re adding a 14-acre Star Wars land to both Disneyland and Disney World. In case you were wondering, 14 acres is about the size of 10.5 football fields, though that still makes it smaller than the 20-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Disney World neighbor, Universal Studios Orlando. It really is a great time to be a Star Wars fan. At the D23 Expo, Disney CEO Bob Iger explained that “these new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet.” This new planet, which is a “remote trading port” in the galaxy, will also contain the Mos Eisley cantina featured in A New Hope – or at least something similar, since that cantina is on Tatooine. In addition, the port will have other shops and restaurants – presumably filled to the brim with all kinds of new Star Wars memorabilia that we will have to have – with every one operated by “local inhabitants,” including humanoids, droids, and aliens. As Iger said, “Nothing in the land will be out of character or stray from mythology.”
Since this is Disney and a theme park, the Star Wars areas will also have themed rides. One of these is the Millennium Falcon ride where guests can fly on “one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, on a customized secret mission.” The other ride will feature an aerial battle between the First Order and the Resistance from the upcoming The Force Awakens. The LA Times claims the rides sound a lot like the current 3D motion simulator Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, which has a home at both Disneyland and Disney World. Having ridden this ride at least three times, I can’t say that the possibility that the new rides will be similar to Star Tours fills me with joy. In fact, I’m kind of holding my breath that they somehow won’t be motion simulators, but it’s not clear if that will be the case.
In keeping with that disappointing news, you should be aware that no one knows when either of the Star Wars lands will open. Construction should begin in Anaheim in 2017, but don’t expect even that park to open until at least 2019. For now, the parks will keep Star Tours open and even add in some characters and locations from The Force Awakens. They will also be opening a walk-through exhibit called Star Wars Launch Bay, which will feature props, costumes, and designs from the movies. If that’s not enough, starting in 2016, you can head to either Disneyland or Disney World for Star Wars: Season of the Force, a limited time annual event that will see the parks overrun by Star Wars. This includes “exclusive, limited time events, foods, characters and more.” But the coolest part has to be how Space Mountain will briefly become Hyperspace Mountain, giving the feeling of being “an X-wing Starfighter in battle” with Star Wars music and visual effects. In a lot of ways, that actually sounds more exciting than the new rides that we won’t see for years. But like any good Star Wars fan, I’m excited about the Star Wars Land theme parks. Hopefully, unlike my fruitless attempts of the last six years to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I’ll make it to Disney near when the parks open. Though if I have to wait a few years past that, maybe I’ll be just in time for the opening of Toy Story Land at Disney World.