Will the Force Awaken in Disney's Star Wars Land, Too?

December 22, 2015, 1:04 PM · The latest episode of Star Wars crushed box office records in the United States and around the world last weekend. While movie fans clearly have embraced Disney's revival of the franchise, will theme park fans react the same when Star Wars Land opens at Disneyland and Walt Disney World?

This week, we will try to anticipate the answer to that question by taking another look at Disney's plans for Star Wars Land in the context of what it has done with the franchise in The Force Awakens. Let's start though by getting this out of the way — While we will avoid major plot and character spoilers in our posts (and encourage commenters to do the same!), later in the week we will discuss a few relatively minor things that happen in the film. We will provide a warning in each post, but if you've not seen the movie and want to leave this series to read until you have, we understand.

The unprecedented success of The Force Awakens validates Disney's management decision to scrap its initial plans for Star Wars Land in favor of developing a more expansive design that incorporates elements from the new films. For millions of fans around the nation and the world, The Force Awakens is their Star Wars movie. Rey, Finn, and Poe will be as beloved by fans in their teens and 20s as Luke, Leia, and Han have been by fans who are now in their 30s and 40s. Today's Star Wars fans will imagine adventures on Jakku and Takodana as a previous generation imagined flying onto planets such as Hoth and Mustafar.

If Disney had limited its Star Wars Land to the characters and planets introduced in the first six episodes, it would have thrown away the opportunity to deepen the franchise's connection with the millions of new fans who have flocked to The Force Awakens. While theme park fans always wish that great new attractions could have opened yesterday, Disney would have lost an immeasurable amount of momentum for the Star Wars franchise by rushing a new land into development without elements from the new films.

Here's what Disney has confirmed about Star Wars Land: Each land will be about 14 acres, making them the largest single-themed lands in any Disney theme parks. They will include a Cantina restaurant and two major new rides: one themed to the Millennium Falcon and the other to a battle against the First Order. And the land will be set on a "new" planet that was not introduced in the first six films.

Star Wars Land concept art
Concept art courtesy Disney

Note that Disney said that the Star Wars Land planet was not introduced in episodes one through six. It didn't say anything about episode seven, leading us to ask if anyone else gets a Takodana vibe from Disney's released concept art for land after seeing the new film?

If you want a glimpse at what Star Wars Land would have been like under Disney's original plans, take a look at the Season of the Force event at Disneyland. Very simplistically, Season of the Force is Star Wars Land v1.0, minus a centerpiece new attraction. We've got Star Tours, a Hyperspace Mountain overlay, new food, meet and greets, and merchandise. Imagine a Star Wars-themed spinner ride plus a major new ride in the Autopia/sub lagoon space in that mix, and we're there.

Given the size of the crowds that packed into Tomorrowland for the event over the past month, Disney would have had a hit with Star Wars Land v1.0. But it doesn't take much imagination to envision hordes of little kids asking, "Where's Finn?" Or wondering why the rebels are fighting the Empire instead of the First Order. So let's count Disney's delay in announcing and starting construction of Star Wars Land as a positive sign that fans ultimately will end up embracing the new lands. With some extra time to follow the new film, instead of rushing ahead of it, Star Wars Land can appeal to all generations of Star Wars fans.

Tomorrow, we will continue our series with a look at one of the elements that made Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter so successful and the new challenge that Disney faces in replicating that within Star Wars Land.

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Replies (23)

December 22, 2015 at 1:40 PM · "Move, ball!"
December 22, 2015 at 2:03 PM · OK what is Move Ball? Some kind of Jedi mind trick?
December 22, 2015 at 3:06 PM · Not just a jedi mind trick, but it's also what Han said to BB-8!!!!

December 22, 2015 at 3:06 PM · When I saw the cantina at Maz's castle in the movie it immediately struck me as a theme park environment. The colorful flags and banners hanging in the courtyard outside of the castle had a distinct Animal Kingdom vibe.
December 22, 2015 at 4:09 PM · Disney has announced a Millenium Falcon attraction. After The Force Awakens, it's obvious why. The iconic spaceship is treated as a star. Also, I was amazed by the transgenerational nature of the public in the cinema: very young to grandparents! I can already hear the money flowing to Disney from the shops... (not necessarily a bad thing: as a theme park fan, I know theme parks needs profits to continue building new attractions and immersive lands).
December 22, 2015 at 4:22 PM · I will admit that I'm a huge Star Wars fan and I was initially disappointed that Disney was waiting so long to get things going, but now I'm glad they did. I would rather they take their time and do it right, than rush something out there and be disappointed in it.
December 22, 2015 at 5:46 PM · I saw The Force Awakens and while I won't give anything away, I will recommend to anyone reading this post who is even just a minor Star Wars fan to check it out. It's worth every penny.

I'll be honest, I was really hoping that Abrams wouldn't screw this up with so much riding on it. But the movie has given me a new excitement for these lands. Again, not gonna give anything away, but there were some moments where I thought to myself "Boy, I hope this gets included!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we're at the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the Star Wars franchise, and I can't wait to see the rest of it unfold.

December 22, 2015 at 7:32 PM · I really hope that Disney will build Star Wars Land in HK Disneyland's second gate. It only makes sense. The designs already exist and it will really put HKDL ahead of Shanghai Disneyland.
December 22, 2015 at 8:42 PM · I'M SO EXCITED FOR STAR WARS LAND IN DL AND DHS! Honestly, I feel like Star Wars Land belongs in DCA, not DL. I'm excited either way!
December 22, 2015 at 9:07 PM · The question of whether theme park fans will embrace Star Wars was answered by the Season of the Force. Most definitely. As for whether they accept the new storylines, I have no idea for I haven't watched it yet, but that is of little concern.
December 22, 2015 at 10:48 PM · Star Wars Land does not belong at Disneyland. Pure and simple. It breaks the thematic layout of the park! It does NOT belong in the old west or next to the land of fantasy. It makes Disneyland more like *gasp* UNIVERSAL STUDIOS which can be a little bit of a thematic mess. I agree that it would serve DCA or its own park much better. It is, however a PERFECT FIT in DHS, as that park NEEDS IT.
December 22, 2015 at 11:56 PM · Assuming Disney delivers a land on par with (or better than) Cars Land and doesn't cut corners, it is impossible to imagine Star Wars Land being unsuccessful. This is a much better plan than the previous "cannibalize Tomorrowland" idea that may or may not have been seriously proposed and should please everyone. While the initial section of the land will be geared toward the sequel trilogy (and yes, that concept art does look like Takodana, but it's a bit more developed...maybe it's a world we'll see in VIII), I've been hearing for months that two phases are currently planned, and with the second phase supposed to focus on the original trilogy (and possibly a bit on the prequels) any Star Wars fans who can't enjoy the final version of the land could probably never be pleased by a Star Wars theme park attraction anyway.
December 23, 2015 at 2:06 AM · Yes I agree! go see it! Given the hit (inside out, avengers 2) and miss (tomorrowland) of Disney movies this past summer, I wasn't completely sold on this movie.

Anyways, now my question is what will the attraction based on the first order look like?

A shooting dark ride like Justice League at Six Flags, or more along the lines of toy story midway mania?

December 23, 2015 at 4:53 AM · I think Disney is best keeping the land as neutral as possible, in terms of where and when it exists in the Star Wars universe.

I always thought a new planet setting was the smart way to go, because it let the imagineers full reign on what they want to put in there. There's no cantina on Hoth, no ewoks on Tatooine, and no forests on Corrusant, but you can create a new world and put in whatever you like, without breaking any of the theming.

Now the question will be WHEN in the Star Wars universe you will be visiting. A "Fight The New Order" ride doesn't technically jibe with Darth Vader challenging kids at the Jedi Training camp. But I imagine, in this respect, Disney will just have to play it a little bit looser. As long as guests get to walk around in that universe and realistically feel like they are seeing aliens and droids and spaceships, it should all work out.

December 23, 2015 at 8:05 AM · Here's my question: what to do with Star Tours? The ride doesn't really fit in with the theme of the new movies, as their are scenes and characters from across the Star Wars spectrum. As a standalone attraction its fine, but as a part of Star Wars land, it doesn't really seem to fit in? Obviously they could update all the scenes to reflect the new movies? Or maybe put in some kind of time travel storyline that explains why you can visit these different places?
December 23, 2015 at 11:33 AM · While I'm excited for Star Wars Land, I still do not think that it belongs in Disneyland. If anything, Star Wars Land belongs in a third gate or in DCA. But nevertheless, I'm still excited that this will be DL's first new major attraction in over 20 years. However, I am upset that based on the rumors that are flying around, that the Millenium Falcon E-ticket will be very similar to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at USO. I was honestly hoping that WDI would steer clear of all motion simulators but it looks like WDI has now jumped on the Universal bandwagon.
December 23, 2015 at 12:35 PM · Probably doesn't help that Star Wars is still owned by Fox, while Empire and Return are also owned by Fox for the next five years.
So it would seem like Disney isn't too keen on advertising the original trilogy.
December 23, 2015 at 12:57 PM · Can we get "PUSH" back in Starwars Land? He is technically a Droid and he can wonder around like he used to do at Tomorrow Land
December 23, 2015 at 1:08 PM · No Land - Entire Park needed - See my thread in the discussions forum.
December 23, 2015 at 2:17 PM · I really hope that Disney will build Star Wars Land in HK Disneyland's first gate. It only makes sense. The designs already exist and it will really put HKDL ahead of Shanghai Disneyland.
December 23, 2015 at 7:10 PM · Re-Derek Morse.

I believe Disney has announced that they will add scenes from the new movies. Don't worry, I think we can afford to kinda let timeline go. Even WWOHP, as awesome of a land as it is, is also a little screwy when it comes to timeline. Hogsmeade seems to take place during Goblet Of Fire; the fact that Sirius Black is still a wanted man, seeing Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students walking around, an entire attraction (Dragon Challenge) being based around the Triwizard Tournament...but then take the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley and you have Escape From Gringotts which takes place during a very particular scene from Deathly Hallows Part 2. :/
I guess you can say that the two lands take place during different periods in the series, but if Diagon Alley is set during Deathly Hallows, then why is it that all these "mudbloods" can freely walk around Diagon Alley without being brutally murdered? See, there is something to be said for things like that, but sometimes you just gotta let things like that go, especially when everything else is so spectacular. And I'm pretty sure this will be the case with Star Wars Land.

December 24, 2015 at 6:54 PM · I doubt Disney focus on just the new trilogy for the parks. New material is still being produced with the animated series Rebels, and the recent inclusion of the Seventh Sister from that series in the Jedi Training Academy attraction proves that not just the new trilogy will be supported in the parks. Let's not forget we have a couple of confirmed stand alone prequel movies coming down the pipe, too.
December 26, 2015 at 12:40 PM · I agree with Brian, as a Star Wars and Disney fan, I won't be pleased with just 3 rides and one planet represented. I believe that DHS should have 5 different planets represented, each one with one D or E ticket and one A to C ticket ride, representing the 3 trilogies.

The others resorts should have one or two planets each. Disneyland could have 2 planets, DLP other 2 , the resorts in Asia should not repeat the same ones.

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