A long time ago in theme park really, really close…
… Disney CEO Bob Iger unveiled a new ‘Star Wars Land’ for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In this post, I’ll dive into everything we know about this new Disney ‘Land’ here in California, including a few educated guesses on how it might look.
What Is ‘Star Wars Land’?
The characters and storylines from your favorite sci-fi epic are invading Disneyland. A new 14 acre section full of droids, aliens, and adventures is being carved out from a sleepy corner of the park.
‘Star Wars Land’ will be a completely new ‘Land’ at Disneyland, similar to Frontier ‘Land’ or Adventure ‘Land.’
What Rides Will It Have?
According to the latest from Disney, there will be two ‘signature attractions’ in the new land.
One will be ‘an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.‘ The second will allow you to ‘fly’ the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission.
Without any more details from Disney on exactly what the new rides will look like or how they will function, its hard to form much of a theory.
I will say this – based on the description of the ‘signature attractions’ alone, I think either one could work for a relocated Star Tours. However, the Star Tours debate is a whole other topic and I’m writing a separate article for it. Stay tuned.
What Planet Is It?
The new ‘Land’ will feel like a remote trading outpost and won’t represent any particular planet we know from Star Wars movies, books, or comics. I think this is a great choice of theme for several reasons.
First, it will be easy to blend the theme of the new ‘Star Wars Land’ land into the existing feel of both Frontierland and Fantasyland from that section of the park.
Also, since the ‘trading outpost’ will be a completely new fictional place, there should be a lot less of the inevitable nit-picking by hard-core Star Wars fans (though this certainly won’t be the case with the Millennium Falcon on display).
Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?
The new land will be located at the rear of the park, encompassing Big Thunder Ranch and some areas beyond the berm.
In the image above, I’ve roped off part of the park that fits the area and description of the land provided by Disney. It encompasses 14 acres, overlaying Big Thunder Ranch and a large chunk of the Disneyland backstage. This includes the Pope House and Circle D Ranch.
The horses from the ranch will live off-site, while the Pope House will be relocated elsewhere. In fact, the permits to move it have already been approved.
I have an article taking an in-depth look at everything in the likely site of the new ‘Star Wars Land’. Check it out -‘Where Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be Built At Disneyland?‘
What Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Look Like?
Other than concept like the image above, we don’t have a lot to go on when it comes to the design of ‘Star Wars Land.’ However, I’ve given some thought about how the entrance might look.
It will undoubtedly have a sunken entrance that takes you below the Disneyland Railroad, similar to the one for Mickey’s Toontown.
As you approach from the Rivers Of America, I’d expect to see something with a Southwestern/Tatooine feel. You’ll have Big Thunder Mountain on your right and they won’t be able to hide it easily without spoiling the view from both the path and the ride. I’d expect Imagineers to work the feel of the mountain into the entrance theme.
The entrance space should be pretty wide, swallowing up everything from the ‘photo wagon’ by the Rivers of America to the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. I think this should allow enough space to vary the theme slightly across the width of the entrance to accommodate the shifting themes from the adjoining lands.
When approaching from the Fantasyland side, guests will step almost directly from Pinocchio’s Village into a galaxy far, far away. The current transition between the village and BTR is helped by some large, plain, wooden doors, concealing the backstage areas behind Big Thunder BBQ and breaking up the competing themes.
I’d expect those doors to stay, they grant Cast Members access to the inside of the park and the backstage area of Big Thunder Mountain. However, I would like to see the ‘Fantasyland side’ of the entrance be more whimsical than the other ‘hard-bitten’ Frontierland side, possibly with some characters from the film. Imagine a big BB8 rolling around and checking out the scene?
Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Be It’s Real Name?
Hopefully, Disney Imagineers will come up with a better idea than just tacking ‘Land’ onto the end of a valuable franchise, though you never can tell what they will call things in this modern era.
Over in California Adventure, Disney stuck with the “highly imaginative” name ‘Cars Land’ instead of changing it to something more magical like ‘Radiator Springs’ or ‘Route 66.’ Mercifully, they have changed ‘Avatar Land’ in Disney’s Animal Kingdom to the nicer and more mysterious ‘Pandora: The World Of Avatar.’
On the flip side, Disney has also announced a ‘Toy Story Land’ for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which they may stick with or change slightly to ‘Toy Story Playland’ to match the one in Hong Kong.
I’m hoping Disney will be bold and choose a name like ‘Planet/Outpost What-cha-ma-call-it: Galaxy of Star Wars’ and then 10 years from now, when it’s sunk sufficiently into society’s collective consciousness, drop the last part.
How Will You Get To ‘Star Wars Land’ In The Park?
If it’s one thing Disney is an expert at, it’s traffic control. So this begs the question- how will they accommodate the increased flow of traffic back into this sleepy, hardly used corner of the park?
One of the many innovations Walt Disney made when constructing Disneyland was to give it a single entry/exit point. Instead of parking on one side, exiting on the other side, and having to walk miles around back to your car, all traffic flows in and out from a single point.
If you look at the location of ‘Star Wars Land,’ it’s actually closer to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure than it is to the front gate. That make me wonder:
Will Disneyland build a second entry gate for ‘Star Wars Land’?
I’m going to say no for several reasons:
- It’s much easier to control traffic from a single entry point.
- It’s tradition.
- It also will stamp out the complaining from people who won’t be able to use the gate, like the problem Disney has at the DCA gate from the Grand Californian Hotel.
So, assuming that you’ll have to reach the ‘Star Wars Land’ from the front of the park, there’s only a couple of ways to do it- left or right around Big Thunder Mountain.
- Go through sleeping Beauty Castle, past the line for Peter Pan’s Flight, around the King Arthur Carrousel, and on to ‘Star Wars Land,’ or
- Turn left at the hub, through Frontierland, and hook right on the path around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Either path will take you to ‘Star Wars Land’ and it will be interesting to see which one works out better, especially first thing in the morning.
The Fantasyland route is slightly shorter, but it bottlenecks through the castle and area just beyond. There will also be fleets of strollers to contend with going this way.
The Frontierland path, while a bit longer, has a wider path and is far quieter when the park first opens (at least right now). I’m betting it will be overall quicker and more sane to take this route to ‘Star Wars Land’ than to rush through Fantasyland.
There is, of course, a third option, which would involve construction of a new path behind Fantasy Faire in still more backstage area.
A new route through Fantasy Faire would only be slightly shorter than the one through Fantasyland, and would also limit Cast Members backstage access, so I find it unlikely that such a route will be built.
When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open At Disneyland?
At the most recent D23 Expo, it was announced that construction on the new land wouldn’t begin until 2017. In reality, construction has already been announced to begin on January 11, 2016.
This is another massive topic for discussion, so check out my post When Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Open at Disneyland for more information.
How Will ‘Star Wars Land’ Compare To The Rest Of Disneyland?
According to Bob Iger, the new land will fill up about 14 acres. While I’m sure at least part of the area will be new backstage area (off-limits to guests), I thought it would be interesting to compare that number with the rest of the Disney ‘Lands’ to get a mental picture of just how large the new land will be.
Original Disney ‘Lands’
When Disneyland was first built, there were five original ‘lands.’ All of these areas have grown in one way or another in 1955, leaving us with the existing boundaries we know today.
In this table, you’ll find the current size of the original ‘Disney lands.’ These numbers are based on what I call ‘guest areas,’ or the section of the park that we can all enjoy and not including backstage or support areas.
|Land||Current Size (acres)|
|Main Street, USA||6.3|
As you can see, ‘Star Wars Land’ will be around the size of Frontierland, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland. It’s hard to picture the size it just with these areas as a reference though.
The size of Frontierland includes much of the Rivers of America, most of which you can’t see from any one place. The main section of Fantasyland behind the castle is easy to imagine, but then it hooks around the Matterhorn and all the way back to It’s A Small World and the Fantasyland Theater.
Tomorrowland can feel massive, but like its western brother across the hub, you can’t see half of it with Autopia winding out into the trees beyond.
The concept art we have of ‘Star Wars Land’ shows a more open layout. If so, I’m sure it will feel huge and otherworldly, no doubt what Imagineers have in mind.
Added Disney ‘Lands’
|Land||Current Size (acres)|
|New Orleans Square||6.4|
The size of later ‘Land’ additions to Disneyland hardly compares to the first ones. ‘Star Wars Land’ will be roughly twice the size of New Orleans Square. This is good news to me, because NOS feels massive when you’re in it.
A lot of the reason behind this is through the use of forced perspective in the streets and back alleys of NOS. I’m sure Disney Imagineers will utilize this concept with ‘Star Wars Land’ to its utmost potential.
What we don’t know about the new ‘Star Wars Land’ far outweighs what we do.
- Location: Back, left corner of Disneyland
- Size: Approximately 14 acres
- Rides: At least two
- Construction Timeline:
- Demolition: Begins 1/11/16
- Completion: Who knows?
Disney has so much construction going on around the world that it feels like the first half of Michael Eisner’s reign as CEO, when theme parks and resorts were popping up like daisies and there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be accomplished.
I’m going to keep a close eye on this new ‘Star Wars Land’ and write more as new details are revealed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news about this and all of information on everything in the Disney universe.
Are you as pumped as I am about ‘Star Wars Land’? What excites you the most? Leave me a comment below. As always, thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!