Theme Park Insider

Will the Force Awaken in Disney's Star Wars Land? Looking Forward to the New Rides

December 26, 2015, 12:52 PM · This week we have been taking another look at Disney's plans for Star Wars Land in the context of what the company did so successfully in rebooting the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens. We've given Disney credit for delaying its plans to accommodate the new film's characters and locations, looked at the importance of cosplay in encouraging fan loyalty for the franchise, and talked about the need for all elements in the land to reinforce its theme, including cast member support as well as food and beverages.

Today, we will wrap up our series with a look at what will become its most popular elements — its core attractions. Disney has announced that the two major attractions within its Star Wars Lands will be rides based on flying the Millennium Falcon and on fighting against the First Order.

[Spoiler warning: This is where you bail out if you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to know anything that happens. If you don't care about minor spoilers — including stuff that was revealed in the trailers anyway — you can keep reading, as we won't reveal any major plot or character developments.]

Those choices seem all the more inspired after watching The Force Awakens. The Falcon is the first "star" from the old films that we see on-screen in The Force Awakens. Having the chance to fly the Falcon will give fans the opportunity to put themselves in the same position as one of the new stars of the film — allowing them the chance to see just how good of a pilot (or how Force sensitive) that they might be.

Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Land

From what we've heard so far, imagine a ride experience that combines elements from Star Tours and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You ride aboard a spaceship that moves with multiple degrees of freedom (like on Star Tours), however, you will be in smaller ride vehicles that are each matched with its own domed projection screen as the vehicle and screen move in tandem on a ride track (like on Forbidden Journey). The spaceship in question will be the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, and the action on the screen will change in response to your actions in flying the ship. (Another analogy might be a plussed-up version of Mission: Space — without the claustrophobia triggers and zero-G nausea.)

Such a system creates wonderful opportunities to reward repeat visitors with different experiences, as well as the potential for a competitive element, as visitors try to "fly" better with each ride. We do not know yet exactly what Disney will do with this ride, but the opportunities are there.

For the First Order battle attraction, we know less — just that this appears to be a new type of experience from Disney. But after watching The Force Awakens, I cannot wait to see another fight with this crew. The movie creates a worthy successor to the Galactic Empire, one that replaces the sometimes dispassionate conformity of the old Empire with a fascism that teeters on the edge of unchecked fury. General Hux is one crazy son of a b----, and Kylo Ren is the emotionally unhinged Force user that Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels. Forget the Trade Federation — this is an enemy worth rooting against.

So how do we feel about Star Wars Land, now that we've seen The Force Awakens? Here's the TL;DR:

Bring. It. On. We can't wait.

Construction begins on Star Wars Land at Disneyland on January 11, for an expected opening sometime in 2019 or 2020. Disney has not yet announced an opening date.

Earlier:

Replies (21)

December 26, 2015 at 1:02 PM · The core attractions really are the key to the new land. All the other things we've discussed in these articles are important, but if the attractions aren't up to snuff, fans will consider the expansion a disappointment, or worse, a complete failure. All the immersion and story in the world can't save a bad ride. I am very hopeful that all the talk about WDI finally getting a chance to strut their stuff again will come to fruition and be manifested in these attractions. My expectations, at this point, are off the charts.
December 26, 2015 at 2:02 PM · Since the two sequels are unseen and Star Wars Land will open after the completion of the trilogy, I expect more surprises. So what you suggested could be changed and improved upon. It may not be what you're describing.
December 26, 2015 at 2:05 PM · Looking forward to visiting the land and attractions!
December 26, 2015 at 2:37 PM · SEMI-SPOILER WARNING:

With the Falcon getting a new captain, I wonder if the actors from the new trilogy will be infused into the attraction much like the actors in the Harry Potter series are.

December 26, 2015 at 3:36 PM · Attractions are the key of any theme park land, so it is critical that Disney pulls out all the stops for these rides and doesn't cut corners. Even if the land was the most detailed ever created and felt like a perfect recreation of the Star Wars universe, without a headliner attraction the whole thing would be a waste. I am really looking forward to seeing what Disney comes up with and I just hope that they control the hype and don't create unrealistic expectations. This was one of the issues with Season of the Force and (to a lesser extent) The Force Awakens, so while it is guaranteed that not 100% of visitors will like this area they need to get 90+% to enjoy it rather than the 2/3 or so that seem to like Season of the Force.
December 26, 2015 at 4:17 PM · I really don't know how to feel about Force Awakens immediately after I saw it. During the movie, I kept thinking how similar it was to "New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back". When I was watching it, I felt like it was a greatest hits package of those movies, but with new actors. Then, I thought about it more and I think this was actually pretty brilliant on Disney's part. This movie kind of resets everything and brings you back to what you loved about the original trilogy. There are just a few characters that are really bad CGI (Maz and some creatures). Everything else looked so great. And, there were so many little puppet creatures that could easily come to life in a Disney park. I thought they were smart to have characters like that, which could be replicated in a theme park. Maz's castle seems to be the setting for the Star Wars Land in the parks (if not the castle itself that was destroyed, then something very similar). I think any ride they build around the Millennium Falcon will be a grand slam home run that will be bigger than Gringott's. Several generations now have wanted to fly on the Millennium Falcon. So, that will be a ride of a lifetime. They really can't lose with any of these space themed rides. They have limitless potential. The only thing I wish is that they were building something for the whole family as well, like a dark ride that family members of all ages can go on. That's the piece that is missing from Star Wars Land as it has been described. Grandma and little kids can't go on the Millennium Falcon or a loud battle ride. Too bad they don't have an "alien zoo" kind of ride, where you could take a Jungle Cruise type ride through the jungle on that alien planet...or a Mystic Manor kind of ride where you would be inside one of the buildings, going by the cages with all the alien creatures or something. That would be fun for the whole family. I have not seen anyone write about this yet: but Star Wars Land really breaks from Disney's long held practice of making a ride for the whole family; Star Wars Land seems to be all rides for teens and adults, not for little kids.
December 26, 2015 at 4:47 PM · The only people that won't like it are the hardcore Star Wars fans and hard core Disney fans all of whom can never be satisfied
December 26, 2015 at 4:55 PM · Aloha,
The tall pole in the tent is ride capacity. The rides will be in high demand. Crowds will be enormous. Disney needs these rides to have a high capacity. The description of the Falcon appears to be a slow mover...unless Disney has a creative solution.
December 26, 2015 at 6:39 PM · Very upset that WDC is making Millennium Falcon a motion simulated ride.
December 26, 2015 at 7:34 PM · Re-Tuna MD

I completely agree! Those people drive me nuts. It's perfectly ok to hate something, but only as long as you have a valid reason and not just because you're wearing your nostalgia goggles too tightly.

But anyway, I personally am really hyped for the Millenium Falcon ride! I love Mission: Space, but I want my actions to actually have an effect on what's going on. And who knows? Maybe that holographic chess game with the claymation aliens will be available to play. That'd be interesting.

I will admit though, the First Order ride has me a bit concerned. I'm thinking that maybe it shouldn't be a motion simulator. I'm afraid it might be the same case with MK's 3 spinners. I give Dumbo a pass since it's an all-time classic and is much better thanks to the recent update. I give Astro Orbitor a pass since it changes things up a bit by taking place on a rooftop and providing a nice view. But Magic Carpets I will not bother defending. It brings nothing new and is a waste of space.

That's what I'm afraid might happen here. Star Wars Land will have 3 motion simulators: Star Tours, the first motion simulator ever that has been vastly improved thanks to an update of it's own; the Millenium Falcon ride, which will introduce something new by actually giving you control of the action (and gets extra points for taking place on one of the most iconic spaceships of all time); and then there's the First Order ride, which so far we know nothing about to know for sure if it's gonna be anything revolutionary. If the whole ride is really just one big space battle, then people might start drawing comparisons with Star Tours or maybe even the Millenium Falcon ride.

So, Disney, please prove me wrong.

December 26, 2015 at 8:37 PM · From Micechat, re DL SW Land...

"...the actual construction phase of Star Wars Land will begin, and that program has been code named “Atlantis” by WDI. (Greek scholars will appreciate the Imagineers coded references here.)

When the construction phase of Atlantis begins later in 2016, the biggest warehouse, or “show building” in Disneyspeak, will be found in the northwest corner of the new land and will eventually block the views of Mickey & Friends. That building will be the home to the Stormtrooper chase and escape ride, code named “Alcatraz” at WDI, that will feature autonomous trackless vehicles and nearly every other techno marvel WDI can throw at it. The second largest building will be on the northern perimeter and will contain the Millennium Falcon flight attraction, which is code named “Big Bird”. These massive show buildings should begin to be framed in by early 2017, with a projected opening date that’s now pegged for Spring, 2019."

December 26, 2015 at 10:05 PM · Don't really know how a Millennium Falcoln ride could be anything but a motion simulation. However, to make it akin to Forbidden Journey, it would need one hell of a footprint. Also, not sure two rides will cut it. They need more than just two. Harry Potter really allows shops to stand in for attractions, but not sure that Star Wars would allow for that. Also, and this is the biggest question for me, how in the world are they ever going to manage the crowds? I can ride Forbidden Journey 5-6 times on the busiest day at Universal. On a slow day the way things are now, it would be two rides max at a Disney park with these Star Wars attractions. I have always said that this show have been a seperate park by itself, and the current box office gross is bearing that out.
December 26, 2015 at 11:19 PM · Keep in mind that FJ includes practical sets, which take up a lot of footprint. Presumably, MF would not have practical sets, and the track's purpose would be to allow a continuous load/unload of riders (a la Haunted Mansion), rather than the pause/run-style load on rides such as Star Tours. That would mean a smaller footprint than FJ.
December 27, 2015 at 3:40 AM · I am really curious what Disney will have for sale in the Star Wars Land, the way that Harry Potter items are for sale in Wizarding World. Universal should be thankful every day that JK Rowling came up with not one but TWO shopping areas in her books that perfectly translated into theme park worlds. Star Wars really has nothing like that.

What kind of things will people be able to buy in Star Wars land? Will they have a light saber buying place, like Olivander's with wands in WW?

Besides that, Disney loves selling cheap junk that is "One Disney"...so I find it hard to believe they will resist the urge to just have the normal, regular junk filling up Star Wars Land stores.

I am actually really fascinated by what Disney marketing and food and beverage and merchandise departments do with Star Wars Land. These people are so hard-wired to churn out the cheapest junk merchandise imaginable: they don't make quality things and the slap character faces on everything. So, it's going to be amazing if they don't have Darth Vader chocolate helmets and all that other cheap junk.

December 27, 2015 at 4:53 AM · Call me cynical, but i very doubt this will be built anytime soon. Bob Iger has already shown a complete disregard for the parks in Orlando. Announcements just to appease the hardcore fanbase, and investors. He has no real intention to actively invest in the parks.
December 27, 2015 at 7:38 AM · This comment is in response to the discussion thread about completely converting DHS into one entirely themed Star Wars park.

Now, Star Wars has been one of my favorite franchises since my early elementary school days. And I can see it becoming it's own park. But building it over a preexisting one? Not a good idea.

Now first off, just because most people consider DHS the weakest of the WDW parks doesn't mean that they hate it; it just means that they don't like it as much as the other 3.

And changing Tower of Terror?! Are you serious?! I know that in years' past Disney has gotten rid of fan-favorites like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Horizons; but the fact that MK, who has been open 19 years longer than USF, still has a good number of it's opening-day attractions still in operation gives the impression that they'll avoid it if they can. Besides, Tower of Terror is a perfect and timeless ride. Altering it would be nothing short of blasphemy.

December 27, 2015 at 5:19 PM · I think Star Wars could exist in all four parks in Florida as a different "Planet" at each park. I am sad that Disney chose to go cheap and make both WDW and Disneyland have the same Star Wars planet, whatever it will be. They could have had all the same rides but just designed it to look like a different planet at each park. Then each Disney park could have had a different planet to visit in the Star Wars world.

What we really should be looking at is what Universal will do with its third theme park. Universal is really who will be the leader in making a park around just one Intellectual Property franchise. That's never been done before, to have just one park themed to only one world of characters. Star Wars could have really been a park like that, because each "land" could have been a new planet, with the hub being like a space port and then you are taken to different worlds like through star gates. Harry Potter also could have been its own self-contained park.

I think Jurassic World could be its own park, but would people just want to go on rides all day about dinosaurs getting loose and chasing you. if it would be its own park (with no other IPs in the park), it would have to also have museum-quality dinosaur learning experiences and also attractions based on other eras of prehistoric life. And also maybe a zoo of living reptiles and animals that are similar to prehistoric life. So, a Jurassic World park could exist as a theme park, museum, education center, and zoo all combined into one.

Universal could easily make Nintendo its own park, with different lands based on different video games. That would work.

I think whatever Universal does it will set a new standard. If it creates a truly immersive world that makes you feel like you have left our world and entered into a new world in the theme park, then Disney will be forced to make a fifth park that is immersive as well. Where the hotel is even part of the theme and the world and the cast members are all role playing and once you step through the gates you are in this amazingly realistic world. That feels like the future, but I don't think Disney will be leading the way into that future. Disney is just too cheap and short-sighted these days.

December 27, 2015 at 5:22 PM · Spring 2019? Give me a break.
December 28, 2015 at 1:59 AM · Film just hit 1 billion faster than any film in history...so expect this to land to charge into production...Disney got a fantastic deal buying this from Lucas for only 4 billion
December 28, 2015 at 10:36 PM · Aw man, not more of this Universal fanboy crap, here I was hoping we've grown past this already...

First off, I can get behind Star Wars being it's own park, but one land in every park? Are you kidding me? How do you expect Star Wars to fit into DAK? Or even Epcot for that matter? I know what you might say, "but DAK is getting Avatar which has aliens!" True, but Avatar works for this park because it's all about environmental conservation. Star Wars has a handful of underlying themes; religion, good vs evil etc; but the environment is not one of them.

And how dare you say that Iger doesn't care about WDW. Sure he's been light on attractions, so what? There are other ways to show love and care towards a park. How about spending a crapload of money on a new FastPass system? How about updating two classic thrill rides to become better than ever? How about the new Fantasyland expansion? That's just a fraction of the stuff that shows Iger cares. Also, I didn't see Universal Orlando debuting any new big rides for 2015. Where's the backlash on that? Where's the backlash for not updating Dudley Do-Right or ET? If that was Disney instead of Universal, I'd bet you everything I own there would've been a huge amount of fan complaints.

Now, don't think I'm just a mindless Disney fanboy who thinks that Disney is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and that there's no other good theme park out there. I love Universal, and in quite a few recent articles I have pointed out some mistakes Disney has made over the years. And I completely accept that some people prefer Universal over Disney. But I can't accept it when people start hating on Disney even when they're actually doing something right. And it's even harder for me to accept it when
you talk like anything and everything that Universal does will be awesome. Considering the fact that Disney still has a much bigger and much more dedicated fanbase shows that Universal still has a ways to go before they reach the top.

Star Wars Land will open before the decade is over. And while whether or not it will be as good as WWOHP still can't be decided just yet, I personally am sleeping well knowing that most likely it will be awesome. Like the supporters of the Jimmy Fallon ride keep saying: don't judge it until it comes out.

December 30, 2015 at 10:53 AM · I am a huge Disney fan. Love it. But the new Fast Pass system does stink. They crafted a system that was convenient for them instead of the customer. Now the lines are long for everything. We went to Orlando and did Universal for four days just because of how unreasonable the lines are now. Every, and I mean every, family that is a Disney regular despises the new system. I am sorry to say, but the theme parks have slipped. My favorite place on earth is Magic Kingdom, but I will return when the line for Pirates of the Carribean is less than 45 minutes on a daily basis.

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