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What would you do? Designing a Star Wars theme park

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Published: May 17, 2011 at 1:39 PM

If there's one thing I've learned from our many recent posts and discussions about the new version of Star Tours launching at Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California, it's that theme park fans would love to see Disney do even more with Star Wars.

Give us an immersively-themed land, as Universal did for Harry Potter fans, they say. Or, give us an entire Star Wars theme park.

Mos Eisley spaceport, from Star Wars

Personally, I don't think a new U.S. gate is feasible for Disney at this point, in this economy. But could Disney expand and retheme a land in one of its existing parks for Star Wars, as Universal did in changing much of Islands of Adventure's Lost Continent into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

So let's make that our "what would you do?" discussion exercise this week: What would you do, if you were in charge of Disney's theme parks, to develop a Star Wars land or park?

Here's my pitch, to get the conversation started:

I wouldn't try a separate gate, and I would build from the foundation laid by the new Star Tours adventures. It makes little marketing sense to develop a Star Wars land separate from the multi-million-dollar investments that Disney has just made in its Star Tours ride. So my new Star Wars lands would include those rides.

That means: a retheme of Disneyland's Tomorrowland as "Star Wars Land" and the creation of a Star Wars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.

Once the construction crews are done place-making the new entry to Disney California Adventure, bring them across the plaza to transform the hub entryway to Tomorrowland as Mos Eisley spaceport, with Star Tours departing to the far reaches of the galaxy.

That's the easy part of this. After that, decisions get tougher, as attractions and restaurants would need to be rethemed. But to what?

I hate to lose the kid-friendly Buzz Lightyear theme from Astro Blasters. But Buzz isn't part of the Star Wars universe. Space Mountain could stay, with a bit of Star Wars theming added to the queue and load platform. And anything that went into Innovations would represent an improvement over that trade show floor.

I'd leave Autopia and Finding Nemo alone, ceding them to an expanded Fantasyland. Star Wars land would extend only between Star Tours and the Jedi Training Academy stage (meaning a theme change for the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant, as well).

What replaces Buzz and Innovations though? What would serve as the themes for the former Redd Rockett's and Tomorrowland Terrace restaurants? Does Space Mountain get a Star Wars-themed story?

Maybe I should just bail out of my plan at this point and defer to the Star Wars experts on the site. (Heck, I haven't even addressed Florida yet.) What do you think Disney should do to expand the presence of Star Wars in its theme parks? (If anything?)

What would you do?

Readers' Opinions

From Jack Curley on May 17, 2011 at 2:26 PM
In Florida, they could re-theme Blizzard Beach into a Hoth waterpark. It would be worth it just to get an AT-AT on property.
From Jack Curley on May 17, 2011 at 2:41 PM
I think re-theming a restaurant into the Mos Eisley Cantina with an animatronic cantina band playing all the "hits" from Star Wars is a no-brainer. I'd like to see them put some real effort into it by taking all the big songs like the main theme and the Imperial March, and playing them in the cantina band-style rather than using the orchestral versions.

There should also be a prequel themed ride that's terrible.

From Jorge Arnoldson on May 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM
If the economy was on its feet again, I would build a Star Wars park outside of Florida and Southern California. Each of the themed lands would represent a planet in the Star Wars universe. That's all I have for you now..
From Albino Pygmy on May 17, 2011 at 4:31 PM
For the DHS "Star Wars Land" I'm thinking it could go one of two ways:

1) Remove the Indy show and use all that space for future Star Wars development or replace it with a Star Wars themed stunt show. One scene could have the death star princess rescue and escape scene to include the swing over the bridge and plunge into the garbage compactor. Another scene could be the chase sequence in Mos Eisley as you race to get to safety on the Millennium Falcon. The final scene could be . . . modified motorcycles to look like speederbikes as they weave through the intricate network of trees and all the little ewoks in their little huts up above are getting involved and throwing stuff.

2) Remove the Streets of America area. Since they're pretty much no longer an actual studios and more of a theme park, I think it's time that all those pretty sets that they're not going to use should go on their way out just like the rest of the studio themed attractions. Might as well lose the studio tour now since all that is is just an overhyped commercial for the stunt show it drives by. But anyways, back on track. You now have an arcade/pizza joint that can be rethemed to the Cantina (keeping with the Tatooine theming from the exit of the Star Tours attraction) The Honey I Shrunk the Kids could be easily rethemed to Ewok village, or maybe as a Jedi Obstacle Course on Dagobah. Muppets will be removed, no need to have 2 3D star wars attractions so instead, how about a more permanent place for Jedi/Sith training camp? Having it indoors only means room for more elaborate and interactive theming, think of how Olivander's Wand Shop is at WWoHP. This expansion would probably only take up half of the Streets area, leaving the other half for a possible Pixar land expansion.

From 71.108.66.150 on May 17, 2011 at 4:33 PM
Redd Rocket becomes the Cantina.

Space Mountain becomes the Millenium Falcon flying through the asteroid belt.

Submarines become Naboo.

ANYTHING replaces Innoventions.

Captain EO-- ??

From steve lee on May 17, 2011 at 4:44 PM
"There should also be a prequel themed ride that's terrible."

Discussion over. Jack wins.

From Daniel Etcheberry on May 17, 2011 at 5:43 PM
Disney Hollywood Studios:

I would change Echo Lake into a new Star Wars Land. That means bye bye Sounds Dangerous (not very popular anyways) and Indiana Jones.

The Indy theater could be used as the Jedi Training Academy. I would add a Yoda animatronic who interacts with the kids.

Sounds Dangerous could became a Jabba the Hutt attraction; Disney could keep the Drew Carey picture at the entrance because no one will notice the difference.

I would call the new land Star Wars Universe.

From Tony Perkins on May 17, 2011 at 5:55 PM
You forgot retheming Captain Eo at DL as a mash-up with Star Wars.
From 70.247.245.25 on May 17, 2011 at 7:25 PM
First of all, leave Disneyland alone. It is classic and does not need to be Star Wars anymore than it is. Since Disney needs to compete with Harry Potter (or does it?), it makes most sense to put it in Hollywood Studios, but stop with the replacing things. Try to work it where an area is expanded without removing things. If you do remove something, remove the Indiana Jones stunt show and put the Indiana Jones ride in. To continue the Star Wars land, keep moving past the Jedi Training and add a Cantina restaurant and two more rides. You have Star Tours already, so there should be two that mesh with that without replacing it. I say a fast indoor roller coaster that is where the preshow is that you are a rebel spy that has to escape the second Death Star before it explodes or make it similar to mission space in an escape capsule. Another ride could be a slower dark ride similar to Haunted Mansion where you slowly go through a spaceport. I can tell you that woulod draw legions of fans yearly to Orlando. But stop it with the replacing things.
From Anthony Murphy on May 17, 2011 at 8:12 PM
I would make it a land at DHS
From Anthony O'Neal on May 18, 2011 at 4:47 AM
Really, either one would work.

If someone wanted to do a whole park, I came up with 20 rides/attractions in as many minutes.

If they wanted, they could go (as someone suggested) from the Sounds Dangerous! and Indy Show back and beyond the Star Tours to end of that region. Regardless, any remodel of something like that would require the Mos Eisley spaceport as a place where I could try that blue milk from Episode 4.

From Robert's idea, you could easily transition the Buzz Lightyear ride into something with Star Wars. Either change to targets to battle droids and Stormtroopers in various scenes or try to bullsye some womprats and the Death Star.

All I know is that somewhere, somehow, I need to hear Admiral Ackbar say "It's a trap!"

From Scott B on May 18, 2011 at 7:32 AM
For Anthony:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piVnArp9ZE0&feature=related

From 209.203.77.11 on May 18, 2011 at 11:23 AM
I'd be for a Star Wars land, and not a whole theme park.

And yes, please no prequel based attractions. Everytime someone rides those/ watches the prequels, an Ewok... no a Gungan... no a Jedi Youngling dies.

From edwin roman on May 18, 2011 at 12:55 PM
hollywood studios has room. right in front of tatoine traders has a small area that can be turned into multiple scenes for photo shots with different props, currently they have one now, the muppets can go and make a jedi temple out of it,and possibly a small ride...the pizza place should turn into a cantina/restaurant...and, redo part of ny ave like blizzard beach, phony snow and do a hoth sequence..although it would be a small star wars redo, it would rival harry potter in that you now have a restaurant bar the cantina, hoth...jedi temple ride...and, something small in front or the existing star wars store...
From Bryan Fear on May 18, 2011 at 2:33 PM
I've been batting this idea around as well ever since the 1997 re-do of Tommorrowland. I'd hate to see Tomorrowland completely replaced and/or turned into Star Wars Land; that dedication to a single movie-franchise license feels like it goes against what Walt seemed to have in mind. Unfortunately the romantic ideas about "the future" aren't what they used to be in the 50's. As we find ourselves actually living in "the future" it almost seems like Tommorrowland needs to rely on a bit more of the escapist views of the future to remain interesting. I'll admit TL should have star Wars elements but it can feel free to draw on Buzz Lightyear and the ( possibly ) upcoming Black Hole reboot. Disney owns plenty of other futuristic space-based tie-ins that could be used here and hopefully STILL find a way to fit in something of scientific informational value. ( To me, the best part of the '97 Tomorrowland re-do was the science pavilion with the x-23 prototype and a space suit, etc. )

That having been said, I also respect that a park must make things cost effective. That means any proposition should be cost-conscious and I think mine is.

I'd recommend the roofs over Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear be made up to look like Star Wars style landing pads. From below it would look like you're walking under a pad with support beams and hoses and on top is an X-Winger or TIE fighter, maybe even the Millennium Falcon. ( It doesn't even have to be the whole thing, just enough to look like it from the ground view up. ) The entry into TL could be the recognizer from Tron, already proven to be an interesting piece from it's current use at DCA.

Most concept art of futuristic movies ( or even real architectural design with a futuristic flair ) seem to include walkways. Big hallways in the sky that interconnect building to building. I always thought it would have been neat to see one of those going between the center of the Buzz Lightyear building and the Star Tours building, like some giant hamster tube. Maybe even a "T" section that branches off to go to the 2nd floor of Innoventions? I don't know how much a walkway would cost but as opposed to making a whole new ride with moving parts and a mechanic on duty? Come on, it's a walkway.

Lastly, I've always thought the People Mover should be replaced by a Tron ride. One lightcycle that seats 4. The track of the People Mover remains the same, only the car changes. The car seats 4 facing forward. As the canopy closes it becomes a movie screen. No transparent windows on this ride car! The ride itself moves slow but if the car were built like a scaled down version of the Indiana Jones ride vehicle, the occupants would feel like they're on a crazy light cycle ride.

The idea of theming the word of the future as Mos Eisley is terrible. Mos Eisley wasn't the future, it was a desert outpost that people tried to get out of. If the goal is to remain in "the future" one would want to make it look more like the pinnacle of technological achievement, not the dirty little hideaway in the universe.

From Joshua Counsil on May 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM
I actually really like Robert's idea of changing Tomorrowland to Star Wars Universe. The Tomorrowland theme has been trivial since the '70s. They simply can't design a land that mimics the future for an extended time because of incredible developing rates, e.g., Moore's Law. On top of that, today's Tomorrowland is so... cold. It has none of the heart that existed in its original inception.

Of course, this kind of out-of-the-box thinking is going to draw major ire from Disneyphiles (see: anonymous poster above). Their argument is that anything Walt touched is perfect and shouldn't be replaced or extensively altered. As Walt said: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." He also noted: "Disneyland is not just another amusement park. It's unique, and I want it kept that way." Which sounds more unique: a dilapidated Tomorrowland, or a Star Wars Universe?

Star Wars has a cult following. Every minute detail in creating a Star Wars Universe is pertinent to its success. Therefore, I suggest Disney holds some kind of internal contest, like a test, to determine which Disney employees are the most dedicated Star Wars aficionados, then have them contribute ideas and monitor progress.

From Anthony O'Neal on May 18, 2011 at 5:40 PM
The only really good prequel rides I could come up with would be a launch coaster based on podracing and a hot/cold coaster theme for Hoth and Mustafar.

As for Mos Eisley, while it is a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," I think they could claim that it has since been cleaned up due to "new management."

Thanks for the link to Ackbar, by the way!

From 70.247.245.25 on May 18, 2011 at 8:39 PM
As I read comments I am agast at the number of people that are OK with replacing classic rides. Why don't we turn the Haunted Mansion into a Twilight ride, turn Space Mountain into a teen rock show coaster, and retheme all of Fantasyland to High School Musical? Leave Magic Kingdom and Disneyland alone. I am fine with plussing classic rides, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. If a Star Wars area is to come to the parks, it needs to have its own area and not replace or modify existing areas. This is coming from a die hard Star Wars fan. Don't replace. Add.
From Tony Duda on May 18, 2011 at 9:07 PM
So Tomorrowland will become Long-Ago-Land? That'll really confuse the clueless.
From AJ Hummel on May 18, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Personally, I do not think Disneyland's Tomorrowland should be removed, as it is so well known. However, this would be my idea for a Star Wars replacement. Note that this is not too realistic as the budget would likely be too high, but given no constraints it is what I would do.

To represent both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, Tomorrowland would be split. Entering from Main Street, guests arrive in Coruscant. The entire entrance area would be redesigned, and the area where the Astro Orbitor currently stands would look like a landing pad at the end of a street (Astro Orbitor would be removed). As guests prodeed down the street, two attractions await them. On the right is Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. The building is themed to look like a spaceport, and a couple Starspeeders sit on the roof of the building. The attraction itself is relatively unchanged. On the other side of the street is a retheme of the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. The ride is now themed as a stormtrooper training center. Guests are enlisting, and must be tested to determine if they are suitable to become an Imperial stormtrooper. The ride would still use the same ride system, but the cars would be rethemed to resemble levitating pods and the scenes within the ride would feature mock-ups of famous battles throughout the series (Geonosis, Utapau, Kashyyyk, Hoth, and Endor).

Further onward, a new wall has formed on the guests left, forcing them to turn right. Behind this wall is the queue line for the Rocket Rods replacement. Themed to a speeder chase, riders fly above the ground below on speeders. The ride would follow the same track layout as the Rocket Rods, but it would be redesigned to allow speeders to travel at full speed for the attraction's duration.

Now, guests reach the plaza in front of Space Mountain. Four different attractions can be seen from here. First, Captain EO would be replaced with a new 4D movie. This could be about almost anything within the Star Wars Universe. The second attraction is a retheme of Space Mountain. The building design is changed to resemble the Galactic Senate building, with a landing pad out front. Once guests enter, however, they learn that Chancellor Palpatine has been taken captive, and there is a shortage of combat pilots. Riders then enter a Republic Star Destroyer, where they board starfighters and launch into the middle of a space battle. The third attraction is a retheme of Redd Rockett's Pizza Port into Dex's Diner. The fourth is a replacement for Innoventions. The entire building would be torn down, and a new building resembling the Jedi Temple would be constructed. Inside, guests would find a unique roleplaying attraction. Jedi Initiates are given a lightsaber and taught how to use it, then are sent on missions. Each room of the building is themed to a different planet, and the player must accomplish a certain task in order to succeed. After completing a set number of missions, Jedi are sent to face a boss character (most likely Darth Vader, but could be any sith or other bad guy). Defeating this character allows them to become a member of the order.

A wall prevents access to the other portion of Tomorrowland. However, there is a tunnel that allows passage. Passing through the tunnel (themed to a hyperspace jump), guests enter the Tattooine themed portion of Star Wars Land. Themed to Mos Eisley, the street of sand would extend from Autopia all the way back to main street. Facades on both sides would make it look just as convincing as Coruscant, although the Matterhorn would look a little out of place along one side. The Tomorrowland Terrace would be fully enclosed and transformed into the Mos Eisley Cantina, complete with the band performing at set times on the stage. There would also be two rides here. One would simply be a rethemed monorail, now themed as an intergalactic transport. The second is Autopia, which would be rethemed. The cars would be turned into landspeeders and the terrain would be turned into a desert, complete with canyons, dunes, rock formations, expanses of sand, and Jabba's Palace. A Jawa sandcrawler and Tusken Raider animatronics could also be seen while on the attraction.

There are two attractions that have yet to be mentioned. First is Finding Nemo: Submarine Voyage. This attraction would have to be redesigned to board closer to the Matterhorn. The lagoon would be labeled as Tattooine's only lake. The other is the Tomorrowland Train Station. This would most likely be removed, as it is generally the least popular of the four stations. However, it could also be rethemed.

In addition, appropriately themed shops would be built, and walk around characters would be all over the place. However, instead of being the big-name characters of the franchise, they would be generic characters from a variety of alien races.

From 99.35.233.145 on May 18, 2011 at 11:11 PM
I don't think they should redo DL's Tomorrowland completely, it's ok if it's a combination of themes. Leave Buzz, Nemo, Space Mtn, but do something different with Starcade and Captain Eo, and change Redd Rockett's into the Cantina. The best idea is to do an E ticket animatronic attraction similar to Pirates or Haunted Mansion. I would love to see an animatronic Jabba the Hutt. They could do a Harry Potter type ride with the Kuka arms, but unfortunately, they have to wait 10 years.
From Joe Brown on May 19, 2011 at 7:11 AM
"As for Mos Eisley, while it is a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," I think they could claim that it has since been cleaned up due to "new management.""

I shudder at the thought of Gilbert Gottfried singing in the cantina.

From Anthony O'Neal on May 19, 2011 at 3:52 PM
"I shudder at the thought of Gilbert Gottfried singing in the cantina."

I just want to eat dinner with Greedo.

From Terry O'Neal on May 19, 2011 at 4:39 PM
Han shot first.
From Terry O'Neal on May 19, 2011 at 4:43 PM
Don't take Indy away. They could change the Chronicles of Narnia into a walk-through advertisement for Star Wars the Clone Wars.
From 98.148.79.194 on May 20, 2011 at 1:15 PM
Okay, lets be realistic. There's no way Disney will change Tomorrowland into Star Wars Land beyond what they've already done. It's current decor is already quasi-Star Wars. Indeed what Disney needs to do is go back to the original concept of Tomorrowland that Walt disney envisioned as science-speculation rather than science-fantasy. There's still a "big beautiful tomorrow" out there as they used to sing in the Carrousel of Progress not so long ago. A future Star Wars Land would be a better fit in California Adventure where there's space right next to the new Cars Land under construction. But instead of Mos Eisley Spaceport lets base it on Coruscant, call it Coruscant Square like New Orleans Square in Disneyland and Liberty Square in Walt Disney World. Disney could either relocate Star Tours there
along with several new attractions and restaurants and stores. It would be the perfect setting for the Blue Man Group from Las Vegas and flying tour of Coruscant in a Bespin pod-car or a Landspeeder.
From Kurt Larson on May 20, 2011 at 2:19 PM
Um, I could write for 7 hours on this as being a Disney dork and an even bigger Star Wars nerd leaves my brain bouncing around with ideas that are unsettled like asteroids in an asteroid field. And I'm not even sure that made sense.

That being said, IMO-

1. I agree that Star Wars should have it's own land or full area. I would never remodel Tomorrowland after Star Wars (and believe me, it's PAINFUL to write that). I don't reallly dig taking away from the originality of Disney.

2. If a land were created, then the prequels would have to be included (again, PAINFUL). The elitist Star Wars fan in me has to concede to the children... and thousands love the prequels (even Jar-Jar). Disneyworld is above anything else, for children. Taking the prequels out of the equation isn't fair. It's similar to when collectors nab up all the new action figures, leaving kids who really want specific guys left out. I don't like the prequels either, but they stay. So does Clone Wars cartoon. I draw the line at Ewok and Holiday specials...

3. But in including the prequels, you have to, for the love of God cede to Mos Eisley spaceport. Any land without that will spark severe and deserved outrage amongst Star Wars fans. Yes, it's the most obvious choice. That's why it HAS to be in there. 'd pay 50 bucks just to be in there for 2 hours.

4. Economy or not, the merchandise would and does fly off the shelves. It will never end. Star Wars could easily sustain a whole land.

5. The amount of characters walking around is mind-boggling.

6. Whoever wrote that "It's a Trap" needs to be uttered is my hero. Totally agree.

From Adam Dodds on May 20, 2011 at 2:21 PM
Pretty sure Disney wouldn't replace rides as much as they would build new things. I think if anything, next to Cars land they might build something there, probably not in DLR. Star Wars is more of a Studios thing. I'm sure they won't replace Indy because that still brings on huge numbers. There is ample space to build that park outwards and I do think they could use the Sounds Dangerous Space, re-theme the quick service place over there and maybe add a courtyard that has one or two more rides. Honestly, the question is how much is Lucas willing to let happen?
From Anthony O'Neal on May 20, 2011 at 4:35 PM
So many options. . . I mean, who else (besides me) would like to make the Kessel Run in the Falcon?
From Curtis Young on May 21, 2011 at 4:25 PM
I don't ever see it happening, but it's nice to dream. DHS has lots of room for expansion; all it would take would be to re-route the south entrance drive to the parking lot closer to the canal. That said, retheming the Streets of America is a great idea. Lights, Motors, Action and (of course) Muppet Vision can stay. Otherwise the only other reason to really visit Streets of America for is the Osborne Lights at Xmas. I'd be all for turning into a Star Wars Universe.

Snowspeeder coaster, anyone, wrapping itself around the legs of a falling AT-AT? Escape the Death Star interactive dark ride? As a nod to the prequels, how about a submarine voyage to visit Gungan City, or a high-thrill ride through the lava fields of Mustafar? The Mos Eisley Cantina is a must... but how about dinner at Jabba's Table? Ewok Village play area? Even a kids area is easily themable: X-Wing fighters kids ride, landspeeders... even the non-monumental ideas would be crowd-pleasing, though I don't think Blue Juice could possible compete with Butterbeer.

As for Disneyland, I see no reason at all to retheme Tomorrowland, because people really love it. You can't GO to Disneyland as a non-local without being excited about Tomorrowland. Let Star Wars be a Florida thing. What's good for the goose isn't actually necessary for the gander.

From David Roth on May 22, 2011 at 5:50 PM
Lots of great ideas! I need a life size Millennium Falcon. Great for meet and greet pictures with droids or Han and Chewie. Inside, guests will be able to tour the ship with all the sound effects playing in the background. Some will find it boring so to save space, put in on an elevated landing pad on top of a ride.

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