Disney theme park guests on both coasts will get to visit a galaxy far, far away but only after they’ve waited in line for two more Star Wars movies.
That was the word from Disney CEO Bob Iger, who announced in an earnings call Tuesday that two “Star Wars Lands” will open some time in 2019 one in Anaheim, one in Orlando. In other words, after The Last Jedi (2017) and the as-yet-untitled Han Solo movie (2018) have come and gone from theaters.
The lack of any further detail from Iger is right in line with what we’ve come to expect from Disney regarding Star Wars Land: a level of secrecy that would make the Emperor proud. Here are the few details we know.
1. The Star Wars Land project costs at least $1 billion
That’s one quarter of what Disney paid for Lucasfilm. Each park is 14 acres, which is some pretty prime real estate where Disney is concerned.
This is one heck of a big bet, and yet it’s about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Considering they already got two $1 billion box office hits out of the deal (The Force Awakens and Rogue One), the Mouse House is certainly getting its money’s worth.
2. Construction started in April
You can see the ‘under construction’ signs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando (see picture at top, right down at the end of Pixar Street) and Frontierland, part of Disneyland California in Anaheim, which had to close down several attractions (including one of Walt’s favorites, the Disneyland Railroad) to make way.
Hollywood Studios also had to close down the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.” Sorry, Rick Moranis.
3. The basic concept: Star Wars Land is an entire, as-yet-unnamed planet on the Outer Rim of the galaxy.
The Outer Rim, far from the galactic capital of Coruscant, is where all our favorite ne’er-do-wells and smuggler-types congregate. Expect to see a lot of it in the Han Solo movie.
What you’ll get is an immersive experience full of “humanoids, aliens and droids,” Disney Imagineer Scott Trowbridge, head of the Star Wars Land project, told Disney fan club D23. Trowbridge added it would “engage all the senses. What does that street feel like? What does that animal smell like? What does blue milk taste like?”
In other words, don’t expect to have Darth Vader just casually wandering around taking pictures with guests; that would destroy the illusion.
There will be a Cantina, and we suspect it will look much like the famous “hive of scum and villainy” in Mos Eisley but it won’t specifically be the same one.
That said, you will be able to interact with one very famous piece of Star Wars lore …
4. You’ll be able to fly the Millennium Falcon
That should make for an excellent tie-in with the Han Solo movie. Although as nerds immediately pointed out when they saw the concept art, we don’t know if we’re talking about the Force Awakens Millennium Falcon (seen flying with the square radar dish) or the pre-Return of the Jedi Millennium Falcon (seen on the ground with the round radar dish, which was lost in the attack on the second Death Star). Get it together, Disney!
5. A battle between the First Order and the Resistance
The battle will break out while visitors watch suggesting this is an Outer Rim planet in the Force Awakens/Last Jedi era. The First Order and the Resistance are the successors to the Empire and the Rebellion, respectively. (That whole New Republic thing didn’t last too long.)
The concept art detail below a (blue) Resistance X-Wing suggests that famous class of ship will also be an attraction. A life-size X-Wing was one of the biggest hits at the Rogue One world premiere back in December. Disney is getting pretty good at building them.
6. We don’t know whether Star Tours will survive as a separate attraction
Same goes for Trials of the Jedi Temple, an interactive experience for kids in which they get to fight Darth Vader. Neither quite fit with the “Outer Rim planet in the sequel trilogy era” aesthetic.
Currently the Star Tours ride is in Tomorrowland in both Disneyland and Disney World (not to mention Disneyland Tokyo and Paris). Revamped in 2011, it takes guests on a shuttle ride guided by C-3PO to two of seven possible planets all set between the prequel and original trilogy eras.
Whatever happens, here’s a bold prediction: Star Wars Land will be more popular than “Pandora the World of Avatar,” an attraction opening in Orlando this summer based on James Cameron’s 3D hit movie.
Still, the Avatar attraction looks pretty cool too and leaves us thrilled about the possibilities for Star Wars Land.