When Will Star Wars Land Open?

August 21, 2015, 11:15 AM · Update: Disney CEO Bob Iger announced on February 7, 2017 that the Star Wars lands at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios would open in 2019. That was the second choice in our reader survey below, so it appears that Disney is on pace to out-perform our readers expectations.

Vote of the Week: Star Wars fans would love to know when they can start planning their Disney vacations to see the new Star Wars Land, either at Disneyland or Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. Although Disney has officially announced its plans to build these two lands, it hasn't said anything about when they will open... beyond "it will take a while."

Star Wars Land
Star Wars Land concept art courtesy Disney

But even though we have no official news about an opening date for Star Wars Land, Disney's left a trail of clues for dedicated theme park fans to follow. By taking a look at the timeline of previous major building projects at Disney World and Disneyland, and considering the current status of the project, we can make a very educated guess about when these new lands will open.

Construction has not yet started in either Anaheim or Orlando. Disneyland has identified the site in the park where it will build its Star Wars Land, but Walt Disney World has yet to announce its location in DHS. At least one contractor is on board in Orlando, and the permitting process has begun in Anaheim.

Both parks will have to start major demolition and infrastructure work as the first steps in their Star Wars Land construction. Disneyland is moving some of its backstage facilities to remote locations in order to expand the on-stage boundaries of the park to accommodate Star Wars Land. Disney's Hollywood Studios is said to be working on new access roads and expanded parking, which will allow for the expansion of on-stage boundaries for its Star Wars Land, as well. In addition, existing on-stage facilities will be need to be demolished to clear space for Star Wars Land on both coasts.

How long will all this take? Let's look at Disney's recent construction history with major new lands. Disney announced plans in 2007 for Cars Land at the Disneyland Resort, completing that project in 2012. That's five years. In Florida, Disney announced its Avatar project for Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2011 and will complete it in 2017, for a six-year development period. Disney announced the New Fantasyland project in 2011* and finished it last year, for a three-year build. (*Update: Comment points out that the original plans for New Fantasyland were announced in 2009. The 2.0 version, with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, was announced in 2011. So let's say three-to-five years for that project.)

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

Plans for Star Wars Land appear to be further along than Avatar was when it was announced. However, Star Wars Land will require more surrounding infrastructure development than even Cars Land did, and certainly much more than New Fantasyland. And then there's the timing of promotions to consider. Disney is also working on a Toy Story Land for Disney's Hollywood Studios and its much-hyped Avatar land opens in 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It's hard to imagine Disney squandering promotional opportunities by opening any two of these new lands in the same year. Given that Disney has not announced an opening date for Toy Story Land, either, that tends to suggest that it won't be open by next year. If you save 2017 for Avatar, that slides Toy Story Land to 2018. That then puts Star Wars Land on deck for 2019 — at the earliest.

Disneyland doesn't have any competing projects on deck. But parking at that resort is causing gridlock on busy days already, even without Star Wars Land attracting thousands of new guests each day. It's hard to imagine that its Star Wars Land will open before Disneyland completes its new 5,000-space parking garage east of Harbor Boulevard, which is expected to take several years, as construction has not started on that, either.

So with all this in mind... let's crowdsource an answer here. (Or at least, a collectively educated guess.)

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Replies (38)

August 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM · 2020 for DL, 2021 for DHS
August 21, 2015 at 11:38 AM · I'll bet Star Trek theme park ride will open before any of these Star Wars land is finish and ready to open.
August 21, 2015 at 11:40 AM · I think DL gets it first. They know the place and have Potter opening soon. I guess it'll take 4 year (1 year for building a parking lot and 3 for the land).
When it's finished the lessons learned and key project managers will shift to DHS to do it all again. By that time the much cheaper and less construction heavy Toy Story land will be done and WDW can smear the openings with 3 years apart.
August 21, 2015 at 12:01 PM · I'm sure WDW is hoping all of these projects (and possibly mini Future World plug-ins)will be complete by the end of 2021 for the 50th Celebrations around property. With Star Wars being "other worldly" like Avatar, the hard part of transitioning those worlds to theme parks will be easier and possibly repeated in the attractions and backdrops. Obviously not carbon copied, but jumping off points will certainly speed up the process. My guess is a 50th Anniversary celebrating the past and future with Cinderella Castle and Star Wars being the bookends.
August 21, 2015 at 1:00 PM · Minor correction, New Fantasyland was announced at D23 in 2009 so that was actually a 5 year build.
August 21, 2015 at 2:49 PM · Not sure when it will actually open, but all of the Star Wars attractions ... and 'Pandora: The World of Avatar' ... and Disney Springs ... and another hotel ... and Frozen at EPCOT will all be up and operating on October 1, 2021.
August 21, 2015 at 3:15 PM · I think 2019 for DHS to be in line with Ep IX and 2018 for DL because they have to use that $1B and I don't think the parking garage will put that big a dent in it.
August 21, 2015 at 3:19 PM · I am 40 years old. They will both open up before I die.
August 21, 2015 at 4:58 PM · @ TH Creative
I am with you, 50's of WDW!!!!
August 21, 2015 at 5:27 PM · I wouldn't be surprised if Star Wars Land opens in 2021 for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World.
August 21, 2015 at 5:47 PM · Neither would I ... Nor have I ever indicated that I would be.
August 21, 2015 at 6:25 PM · After careful analysis from Mr. Niles, I voted the same way Sean did.
August 21, 2015 at 8:27 PM · I highly doubt Disney will try to open the attraction on an Anniversary year. They just don't do those things since each attraction opening generates publicity on it's own. Anniversaries are an end to itself. At Disney World, it is even more obvious that nothing new was added for years and especially for Anniversary years. Why would they start now? A precedent usually needs to be repeated. They don't want the pressure. 2021 will just be a celebration of the parks. I think they will aim for 2020 and have a double Star Wars celebration with Disneyland and have a simultaneous 24 hour event. Not the annual 24 hour event in late May, but the Star Wars 24 hour event. Then they will ramp up to the 50th Anniversary celebration a year later and have momentum to a new Disney decade.
August 21, 2015 at 10:40 PM · I'm optimistic for a 2019 opening at Disneyland, but since construction won't be beginning until 2017 the realist part says 2020. I don't see it being longer than that because Disneyland will really need it by then. It's tough to say in Florida, but I'm leaning toward 2021 to line up with the 50th anniversary. However, I could see 2020 if Disney isn't afraid of opening both areas at the same time. 2019 seems too close to the likely 2018 of Toy Story Land, so I don't see it as a possibility in Florida.
August 21, 2015 at 10:48 PM · Just to go on the record...
Disneyland Star Wars Land will open in 2019
DHS Toy Story Land will open in 2018
DHS Star Wars Land will open Phase I in 2021, Phase II in 2023.
August 21, 2015 at 11:24 PM · I think you guys are all wrong. You may have the years right.

Clearly the only reasonable date to open Star Wars land is May the fourth.

August 22, 2015 at 5:55 AM · 2035 for a COMPLETE SW Land with 6 planets and 12 E and D ticket attractions in both parks. Perhaps a little less in Disneyland.
Anything less than that I wilbe be very very very disapointed.
August 22, 2015 at 8:16 AM ·
August 22, 2015 at 8:36 AM · You guys are all smoking the fairy dust a little too much. This is not Universal, but Disney speed..... slow as molasses. It took them five years to build a clone, kids coaster, and restaurant in fantasy land. It's going to take them 6 to build Avaitar, a clone souring ride (yes I misspelled that on purpose) and that looks to be done in phases. I don't recall anyone saying that Toy Story land is going to be done in 2018. If that would be the case it would be 3 years from today. To come up with a kids coaster, flat ride, and theming at DHS. Where's the construction, the dirt, and the shovels? I think more like 6 for Toy Story Land and 8 to 10 years for Star Wars land at DHS. At Disneyland probably 8 years.

Unless Disney grows a pair and pays their construction workers overtime, I don't see this happening any sooner.

August 22, 2015 at 9:55 AM · I was at Disneyland last week to see the new parade and fireworks. It’s crazy, the park is already overflowing with people, how do they expect to control the crowds when Star Wars land opens? It's way past time for the third theme park. They can charge extra admission and spread the crowds, come on Disney, it’s time!
August 22, 2015 at 10:32 AM · I'm almost 79. Not holding my breath for any of the above. Can hope I live to 90 though and still have enough energy to visit the park.
August 23, 2015 at 9:29 AM · "...the park is already overflowing with people, how do they expect to control the crowds when Star Wars land opens?"

I agree. I was expecting them to open SW land at DHS first to get an idea of reliability, capacity, and crowds. I was surprised to see most people here think it will open at DL first since that park is already near capacity all the time.

Unless they completely eliminate APs, I have no idea how DL is going to handle an influx of more people.

August 23, 2015 at 10:23 AM · I really couldnt care when its built, im excited already!
August 23, 2015 at 1:20 PM · It does not 'take Disney 6 years' to build things. It takes 6 years for them to plan, argue over, in-fight, throw out, replan and then build things.

The actual construction times from ground breaking to finished product (and I'm not talking about how they phase projects), but straight up start on an attraction and finish an attraction - runs about 6 months longer on average than Universal. 6 months longer than they used to as well.

Disney will be done building Star Wars approximately 36 months after they start construction. It's the starting construction that is often the problem with Disney.

August 23, 2015 at 4:36 PM · I don't see how people can predict an earlier opening at Disneyland. Wishful thinking from Cali locals?
Almost certainly, it will open at WDW sooner. They don't have to build a parking garage first.
August 23, 2015 at 6:17 PM · I haven't seen anyone notice, that disney has a train, that could be
rethemed to star wars, and run to tomarrowland. if. long term space for a
second 2nd phase of star wars, is needed.or. it could be possible to
retheme and extend the monorail between 2 star wars areas.
August 23, 2015 at 6:23 PM · DHS will need about 2 years of road, toll booth, parking lot and parking garage infrastructure improvements before Star Wars land can be started. Toy Story land has land ready to build on after some demolition. This is the reason for a late guess on completion.
August 23, 2015 at 11:24 PM · I for one think Disneyland should spend more money expanding fantasyland. They should Build a stadium somewhere back area of Disneyland for shows like fantasmic that would really help reduce crowd in front of pirates attraction and keep attendance at same capacity avoiding overcrowded park. As far as Star Wars land i think it deserves a much bigger platform than just a piece of land. I say keep Disneyland to its fairytale themed. And rethink about building third park called disney studios that focus on projects like Star Wars and marvel. A third park would be great next to DCA
August 24, 2015 at 9:43 AM · Did anyone else notice they were referring to the Millennium Falcon ride they kept referring to it as a Mission !!! They also announced you would have control at certain points. Does that not sound quite familiar ? Is the main ride in Star Wars land going to be a clone of Mission Space ? It's very plausible when you think about it . It's the only major ride they have not cloned in the last 5 years Star Tours = Iron Man , Test Track = Cars , Soarin = Avatar etc I hope it's not but Mission Millennium Falcon is a real possibility :( It would also speed up construction time if you were not building a new ride from scratch and save money of course
August 24, 2015 at 10:23 AM · Mr. Duda writes: "DHS will need about 2 years of road, toll booth, parking lot and parking garage infrastructure improvements before Star Wars land can be started."

I Respond: Why can't the Star Wars construction and the civil work begin at the same time?

August 24, 2015 at 10:42 AM · My question about this land is how merchandising will work. Is Disney going to go the Harry Potter route trying to make Star Wars Land as genuine and free from outside brands as possible? As if you were on an alien planet that sold unique merchandise? Or will Disney do as they currently are and attach Mickey Mouse ears to Storm Trooper helmets and have Darth Goofy parading around selling the "Disney Brand".

Working Heart of House at Epcot and having quite a bit of knowledge about what sells the best, I would put my money on the latter.


August 24, 2015 at 11:50 AM · TH asked a good question "Why can't the Star Wars construction and the civil work begin at the same time?" I look at it as "Can WDW build Toy Story land, the infrastructure improvements and Star Wars land at the same time?" That is a lot of construction at an operating theme park. Close DHS down for 4 years and do it all at the same time if that's the way you want to go. I also think Disney would like to spend the money over a longer stretch of fiscal years.

Really, I see the reason as something very pragmatic. To build the infrastructure improvements, a great deal of undeveloped property needs to be used. This requires a great deal of studies and permitting from the South Florida Water Management District. Disney does not control them like they do the Reedy Creek District. The surface and ground water permitting process is a big effort and the resulting conditions have to be acceptable to SFWMD not just an adherence to lines on a plan map. Unexpected things do happen during construction and plans have to be changed. Disney will not know exactly how the new roads etc. will look like until near the end of construction. Then the 14 acre Star Wars land plot plan can be implemented. But this is a guess, I don't work for any of the involved parties.

August 24, 2015 at 4:06 PM · Regarding Mr. Duda's comments related to the studies and permitting from the South Florida Water Management District and the challenges that he notes presented by "a lot of construction at an operating theme park."

If you look a few blocks away from DHS you will find the Disney Springs development -- a civil and architectural project that is every bit as large as anything proposed for DHS. There seems to be no problem with building the guest areas at the same time as the civil work. That same project involved the SFWMD and RCID. It also required heavy construction (roadwork, three parking garages, pedestrian bridges, construction of an off-ramp from I-4) in an area where there is a water park and a retail, restaurant and entertainment district (including a live music venue, recreation [bowling], attractions [DisneyQuest], a live theatrical production [Cirque] and one of the areas most trafficked multiplex movie theaters) -- facilities that attract just as many guests as DHS.

They pulled the trigger on the entire expansion at Disney Springs, no reason they can't (or won't) do the same at DHS.

August 24, 2015 at 4:47 PM · I'm 38 years old and would really like to Star Wars Land and Toy Story Playland before I die :)
Let's get on it Disney Hollywood Studios.
August 24, 2015 at 8:37 PM · TH, a big difference is that there are no new, undeveloped areas at Disney Springs that need to be studied with the goal of mitigating environmental damages due to the new construction. Also, no one is charging the people who visit Disney Springs $100 per day for the privilege of being there. If DHS lets everyone in for free during the construction that will disrupt an en enjoyable visit, I am sure there will be many people who would visit DHS despite the impediments to walk around just as there are many people who are going to Disney Springs during this construction phase.

Another problem is scheduling/getting the construction personnel, bulldozers, cranes, plumbers, electricians, etc. for the work. There are finite numbers of such qualified resources.

August 25, 2015 at 4:31 PM · Mr. Duda writes: “TH, a big difference is that there are no new, undeveloped areas at Disney Springs that need to be studied with the goal of mitigating environmental damages due to the new construction.”

I Respond: There were several acres of undeveloped area behind and Typhoon Lagoon that were torn up to build the Disney Springs off-ramp from I-4 and the associated traffic bridges. And the project absolutely involved the SFWMD and RCID. That area around Typhoon Lagoon was adjacent to the Bonnet Creek area – not to mention the Downtown Disney waterways – that posed environmental challenges.

Mr. Duda writes: “Also, no one is charging the people who visit Disney Springs $100 per day for the privilege of being there … “

I Respond: I’m not sure what that has to do with any impediments to starting civil and attraction construction around the same time. But, while folks are not paying an admission price for the restaurants or retail at Downtown Disney, they are still spending money in those businesses when they have alternatives at CityWalk and International Drive. Also people ARE in fact paying admission prices at House of Blues concerts, the AMC multiplex, La Nouba and DisneyQuest.

Mr. Duda writes: “I am sure there will be many people who would visit DHS despite the impediments to walk around just as there are many people who are going to Disney Springs during this construction phase.”

I respond: Um … okay. I agree. After all they built the Dwarf Mine Train smack in the middle of Fantasyland.

Mr. Duda writes: “Another problem is scheduling/getting the construction personnel, bulldozers, cranes, plumbers, electricians, etc. for the work. There are finite numbers of such qualified resources.”

I respond: The labor shortage in Orlando construction is certainly a concern. But those issues are managed at the subcontractor level. Writing as someone who has worked in Central Florida commercial construction for the last 20 years, I have never heard of a project owner (let alone Disney) base a development schedule on concerns about finding skilled tradesmen. Indeed, Universal keeps announcing work without fear of finding people to turn wrenches. Also the Disney Springs development will be substantially completed in May 2016 (if not sooner) – releasing a small army of “construction personnel, bulldozers, cranes, plumbers, electricians, etc.” to move on to new projects.

August 25, 2015 at 8:07 PM · TH, I guess time will tell. I gave my guesses, I can't remember what yours were.
August 25, 2015 at 9:37 PM · The construction workers that start are not the same that finishes, but the general contractor might be. They will rotate their workers depending on the jobs. I'm sure Disney is like anyone that hires a contractor to do a job. There is only so much money to go around.

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