Disney's CEO Tells More about the Star Wars Land Plans

December 10, 2014, 6:03 PM · Variety got Disney CEO Bob Iger to go on the record to confirm what's been leaking from Walt Disney Imagineering about Star Wars Land for months now — that the project's been stalled while J.J. Abrams and his team create the new films.

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Disney had given the green light for a Star Wars Land in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, to be built around the characters and locations from the original three films (and maybe, a bit from the prequel trilogy, too.) The development was code-named "Project Orange Harvest," and Disney even teased the plans at 2013's D23 Expo in Anaheim. But with Disney banking on Abrams' new film becoming a worldwide phenomenon, Iger said the he pulled the approval for Star Wars Land until new characters and locations from the new films could be included.

And with Abrams not sharing any of that information during development, work on Star Wars Land stopped.

Not mentioned in the Variety reporting, but also having an effect on Star Wars Land? Diagon Alley. Disney's Imagineers have toured Universal Orlando's project, and they came back with a fresh perspective on what they will need to do accomplish with Star Wars Land to come out ahead of Universal, creatively. We've mentioned the inherent problems with creative an immersive environment based on an IP that's spread across a galaxy. Perhaps there might be some iconic new location in the upcoming films that will solve that problem for Walt Disney Imagineering, and provide a compelling setting for Star Wars Land that will satisfy both dedicated and casual fans of the franchise?

Iger might be suggesting just that, having told Variety, "what we come forward with will have a blend of the past, present and maybe the future."


Replies (21)

December 10, 2014 at 6:14 PM · Submitted for debate: Set the odds that someone at Disney tried to tell Abrams & Co to include something in the new films that would translate easily into a new theme park land. ;^)
December 10, 2014 at 6:29 PM · Based on Iger's quotes in that Variety piece, and given the glacial pace of Disney construction projects, it appears we're probably looking at 2019 (at the VERY earliest) for any STAR WARS attractions of substance to be completed. Unless the time-table for the Hollywood Studios overhaul is moved up some, it seems more and more likely that the 2010's are going to be - essentially - a lost decade for that park, which is kind of a shame. I hope I'm wrong, or that (at the very least) the new additions will be worth the inordinate wait.
December 10, 2014 at 6:56 PM · Ughh, urrrrggghhhh, uggghhhh..... I'm going with Brett's thought that this probably pushes everything so far back that we may not care anymore... Not to mention the fact that why, WHY would they wait for what Abrams is doing to start SOMETHING???

There is enough Star Wars material and fan base from the first 3 movies alone (forget the prequels ever existed....) to create one heck of a theme park land. Okay, I'll give you a little re-boot time in light of Diagon Alley...'cause, yes, it should meet that level of immersion. But, again, there's enough stuff in the first 3 movies to do that, and do it well, no problem. Go ahead and get a land up and running based -- somehow, 'cause, yes, the number of possible locales is a bit if a head-scratcher -- on the first 3 films. Then, if Abrams' stuff is as good as it COULD be (vs. as bad as the prequels were....), create a second land - a la Diagon Alley vs. Hogsmeade. But, for heaven's sake, please do SOMETHING vs. stringing fans happy to spend money along until we're so frustrated we couldn't care less.

December 10, 2014 at 6:59 PM · Dang -- just realized I wasn't signed in. The rant about doing the first 3 films now vs. wait for Abrams is mine ;-).
December 10, 2014 at 7:15 PM · I'm very excited for the new films and hope that an amazing project comes from them and is just as immersive as the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections. The time table is nerve-racking however, as Universal could most likely build 2 or 3 more attractions and another new land and a new hotel all in the time before Disney even breaks ground on a Star Wars project.
December 10, 2014 at 7:29 PM · If the first of the new trilogy of films opens as Disney hopes it will on the 15th of December next year, then the new Star Wars Land will be put on the fast-track on the 16th of December 2015.
Disney has been burned before: John Carter (not actually a bad movie), the Lone Ranger, Haunted Mansion - sure fire hits with hundred million dollar budgets that ended up fizzling. Is Star Wars likely to do this? No. But not until after the opening weekend, once the numbers roll in, will Disney decide whether to include/leave-room for the new movies, or just stick with the "classic" look.
If you're going to invest hundreds of millions in a Theme Park Land, you're smart to be patient, and make sure you know EXACTLY what you're putting into it.
December 11, 2014 at 6:06 AM · Im starting to get the idea that Bob Iger doesn't have much of a clue. I too agree that the 2010's is going to be a decade of missed opportunities for Disney. Money that could've been spent on other more worthwhile things are instead spent on immersive restrooms, elaborate Starbucks overlays, nighttime dance parties, and the MyMagic+ system because lets face it, wheres the fun in being spontaneous in a theme park, right? I'm just not that impressed with this guy's track record. This news is only more disheartening. Rather than just make the best and most of the Star Wars IP available now, and then add to it once the new films come out, pushing the whole thing back just doesn't add up, especially with the snail's pace of the avatar project. Dance parties are just not enough to warrant a visit to other disney parks. I'll always have my ride favorites like Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, ToT, and Jungle Cruise, but for now I'm digging shopping with the wizards.

By the way, I would just like to add this is the same man who canceled Twin Peaks. As if there wasn't enough reason for him to grind 'me gears. (Season 3 is coming to showtime! Could you imagine that world in a Theme Park or Halloween Event)

December 11, 2014 at 7:20 AM · This has to be great news for Universal. It buys them more time to capture that extra audience with their new expansions (attractions & hotels). So it looks like there won't be anything dynamic at WDW, except for Avatar, during the next five years. I'm looking forward to Star Wars, but it sure looks like it's a long way off. I agree with Melanie's comments. Too bad Iger didn't look at it that way.
December 11, 2014 at 7:53 AM · Like Robert said, with the Star Wars universe being so diverse, it's hard to come up with a theme for a single land. With Iger wanting to include the new movies, it would make it hard to create a unified land now and then shoehorn in a new area later. The easiest part of the project would be adding new destinations to Star Tours.
December 11, 2014 at 8:28 AM · I know I know what Disney is planing to do! They are going to re theme the great movie ride and the muppet ride to be a cross between muppets in space and TCM bc Star Wars is a classic! Have a George Lucas look a like take you on a tour and have a cross park theming where they can convert the Mexico pavilion at Epcot to Yavin 4, it already looks kinda like it and oh there could be a churro light sabers with special pendants sold everywhere! A princess lea meet and greet in the Mexico I mean Yavin 4! A cantina restaurant, where you can dine with the characters! Man I hope Disney does this right.......

I got a bad feeling about this......

December 11, 2014 at 8:22 AM · "Disney CEO Bon Iger" Slip of the keyboard?

I don't understand why they can't do a Star Wars Land based on the original trilogy for phase one and then do phase two after the last trilogy is released sometime after 2020. The delay is inexplicable. No one will care about the other trilogies.

December 11, 2014 at 9:15 AM · Reading between the lines, I have a theory that pushing back Star Wars land is less about waiting to see what elements are going to be in Episodes VII, VIII, and IX (Do we really believe that there aren't THOUSANDS of pieces of concept art AND numerous pre-viz'd animatics of the action scenes? They probably already know the major components of VIII at this very moment, as they've had the creative team in place for months working off an already established outline.) and more about Iger not wanting to start another huge construction project while Shanghai is behind schedule and (very likely) over budget. It's too bad the company can't multi-task the way they could back in 1988 - 1994, where dozens of large-scale builds were going on around the world.
December 11, 2014 at 2:24 PM · My humble opinion is that they already, more or less, know what their plan is, concerning the new Star Wars based attractions. For obvious reasons, they can't go into any kind of detail as of yet because of tbe secrecy around the new trilogy. It honestly makes sense to wait a little bit, so they can include many elements of what is sure to be a billion dollar movie, with Episode 7. I really don't believe Disney should have to rush a Star Wars land out there without having a solid plan to do it right, so I'm ok with waiting a couple more years. We've all waited this long for our dream Star Wars Land, what's a little bit more. As for the prequel bashers out there, though they weren't nearly as great as the original trilogy, I really enjoyed them because they were STAR WARS MOVIES! Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I know that real Star Wars fans just enjoy being imersed in the amazing Star Wars universe that we've all grown to love through the years, and yes, I even enjoyed the Star Wars Holiday Special :-) Just my opinion.
December 11, 2014 at 2:35 PM · It is possible that they want to finish their major projects at Animal Kingdom first before they rush out Star Wars. I'm sure they want to market the heck out of Avatar and their new nighttime show. They can't have people clamoring for Star Wars before getting the new Avatar project out in time.

On the other hand, they are already making changes at DHS. The Mickey Sorcerer's hat will be removed. Other rides have closed like the tram ride and American Idol. They might install a new track at Toy Story Midway Mania. They are doing these improvements at the edges until the big announcement. Just wait and see.

December 11, 2014 at 4:17 PM · I don't know that anybody is saying Disney should be "rushing" Star Wars land. I'm certainly not saying that. I'm saying that they should have been building it already. There's no reason they couldn't have done a Phase One expansion (we all know Disney loves to open things in phases these days!) with a few smaller attractions based on the classic films to tide us over until Phase Two, which could be where the new films are showcased. The best of both worlds.

As for the other DHS changes coming, until Disney officially announces some quality E or D tickets, I'm not expecting to be impressed. A third Midway Mania track and some version of Toy Story Playland would certainly NOT be enough to entice me or my family to make a special trip to the park to experience them. I'm hoping for the best (I want to be wowed! Really!), but Disney's Florida track record of late is causing me to expect the worst.

December 12, 2014 at 6:14 AM · This site has been correct in pointing out the problematic issue of having a land that encompaces years of Star Wars lore with speculations of how they would achieve it. It seem that the way they chose to handle it is to only use the new movies. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the fans of Star Wars. You have a base of fans that ONLY are interested in the original trilogy. There will be hard core fans that will eat up anything. There will be casual fans that will go no matter what. You also have hard core Disney fans that will be upset if they remove or change existing attractions. Currently Disney has an extreme problem in crowd control and the fact that their attractions are being overdone by the company across town. I think they need to make a fifth park. It can be Star Wars or something else. If they choose to expand only at Hollywood Studios, they need to go big. So far it seems that Iger is content with a lack of innovation and understanding what draws the non-Disney fanatics to the parks. They must find a way to really pull the fans of Star Wars in without just trying to appeal to the fans of the new films. What if they flop?
December 12, 2014 at 7:16 AM · I'm fine with Disney waiting a few years to get going with Star Wars. The movies have endured over 30 years and will always be relevant. Imagine if Disney had created a Star Wars land in advance of the prequels? It'd be a joke. So let them wait, at least until reviews and box office are in for the first sequel. Then decide if the new land will be based around the new films or the originals.

I wish they would have chosen a different way to make Animal Kingdom better than Avatar. The first movie was a huge success, but it has no history. The original Matrix was fantastic, but the rest were garbage. What if the next Avatar movies are terrible?

I understand Disney want to build a land around the new worlds and movies, but I think they should wait to see what the public's response is to the movies. If they are panned, and ticket sales are soft, then make a fantastic Star Wars land based on episodes 4-6.

I'm afraid Disney is going to wait, and then build a fantastic, expensive land based on the new movies, and the movies won't live up to the hype. And then everyone will be upset that they didn't simply build around the original movies.

I am fine with them waiting. Let Disney Springs finish, Avatar finish, Shanghai finish, etc. Maybe put some more money into Walt Disney Studios and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Of course, DHS needs something. Doesn't have to be Star Wars right now. Perhaps expand the Pixar area (and not with a playland or a bigger TSM). Something unique.

December 12, 2014 at 9:52 AM · That Disney will do Avatar with one movie before they do Star Wars with six doesn't explain much about their strategy. That you're worrying about the Avatar sequels with the track record of James Cameron doesn't reflect reality of his success. Disney should do a Star Wars Land regardless of the new trilogy. If they are concerned about critical success, the Return of the Jedi episode 6 proves it failed a long time ago. Matrix garbage? I wouldn't go that far.
December 12, 2014 at 2:48 PM · Disney need to get this overhaul under development pronto. As a lifelong Star Wars fan I've wanted this forever, Star Tours getting an overhaul was pure magic and that is a benchmark for how simply and easily Disney could potentially refresh any rides or theming after the new trilogy makes a mark.
Quite frankly though the best possible thing Disney could do is base the Star Wars section primarily on the original trilogy, it's the trilogy that everyone is emotionally invested in because it's what we've all grown up with. The original trilogy is the filling in the Star Wars sandwich, the glue that inevitably holds the entire saga together. Any prequel or sequel trilogy rides/theming in theory can be subtle blended in if the basis for the Star Wars section is the original trilogy.
Disney really need to get to work on this, the Hollywood Studios hasn't had any new investments for a while and it's much needed with the Harry Potter expansion
December 12, 2014 at 5:24 PM · I would just add that if it took them the better part of like 5 or 6 years to do a Snow White ride based on a 70+ year old IP that is pretty simplistic in storytelling and presentation, how much longer is it going to take them to put together something cohesive from 9 different quality films released over almost 40 years with a literal galaxy full of characters, locales, and ideas. I wouldn't expect to see anything like a "complete" Star Wars land for at least 10 years from now, maybe longer. No one expands as slowly as Disney. How there is not a dueling family coaster with a white and black track named "X-Wing versus Tie Fighter" already in this world, I'll never know.

It's depressing to me to think that there will probably be an entire Paramount Park (with an awesome Star Trek coaster/land naturally) created and built in England and maybe elsewhere before we see Star Wars land completed.

December 15, 2014 at 6:22 PM · Like Brett Blake said earlier, projects overseas is probably the big reason why the Star Wars land is being pushed back. The dedication of Disney to please the oversea fans than its core has been lost to the ones running the Mouse House.

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