Disney narrows the opening dates for its new Star Wars lands

May 22, 2018, 5:12 PM · We've known for a year now that Disney's new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge lands would be opening in 2019 at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. Today, Disney narrowed the opening windows for the two lands, announcing which seasons in which Star Wars would open on each coast.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will open in Summer 2019 at the Disneyland Resort in California and then in late Fall 2019 in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

The two 14-acre lands will each include two rides — one where you pilot the Millennium Falcon and one depicting a battle between the Resistance and the First Order — a cantina-style restaurant, shops, and character encounters. Disney's patent applications suggest that the land might include some sort of lightsaber feature, and Disney's Imagineers have said that they are creating an interactive experience for the land that will evolve based upon your actions on the rides and with characters.

The action takes place on the planet Batuu, which Disney introduced to visitors on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue during the release of The Last Jedi. At Disneyland, Galaxy's Edge is going in north of the Rivers of America, between Critter Country and Fantasyland. The land is going in on the site of the old Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Replies (18)

May 23, 2018 at 6:26 AM

Those timeframes are a bit interesting. The parallel construction sites have been tracking about 3 months apart based on publicized milestones (going vertical and topping off). However, by announcing "summer" and "LATE fall", this announcement seems to suggest that construction at DHS has been slowing down ever so slightly compared to DL. Based on the original announcements and milestones, it looked like DL would open in May/June 2019 with DHS 3 months behind in August/September. These openings also made the most sense with DL's version opening in time for the summer rush, and DHS's version opening during a relatively slow period for WDW that would give some serious juice to encourage more guests to visit.

Perhaps both lands are running behind schedule since "Summer" is still pretty vague, suggesting that the land might not be ready until July or even early August. Rarely do you ever see a park use "late summer", typically because they want guests to purchase season passes for the entire year, but Disney parks are a different animal on that front. Nonetheless, "late fall" is a bit more of a hint as that narrows the DHS opening down to late October and November. Given how crowded WDW has gotten over the years for MNSSHP and the EPCOT F&W Festival, I would be surprised if they try to do a full opening during that time period (maybe previews and soft opening), and instead push it back to the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving - another relatively slow period for WDW, albeit short.

I've certainly taken notice, because my initial plan was to visit Southern California in August, assuming that the land will have been open for more than a month and crowds would have waned slightly, and WDW in our traditional October timeframe figuring the new land will have opened in August/September, and again the crowds may have died down a bit. Now I'll have to rethink our strategy (probably won't change the August trip to SoCal), and perhaps delay out next WDW to early spring 2020 or fall 2020. Those looking to guarantee that their planned trips will include Galaxy's Edge will need to follow these developments very closely. When you have to plan a WDW 6+ months in advance, knowing when new attractions will be open is critical.

May 23, 2018 at 7:27 AM

Perhaps the ridiculous amount of rain the Central Florida area has experience recently and will continue to experience during the Summer months could be to blame. Even once the structure are completed and work begins inside, there will be massive amounts scenic work to do outside. While it rarely ever rains in SoCal, it rains regularly and in great quantity in Orlando.

May 23, 2018 at 7:35 AM

The official start of summer 2019 is Friday June 21.
The official start of fall 2019 is Monday September 23.
The official start of winter 2019 is Saturday, December 21.

Thus, following how they will open Pixar Pier and Toy Story Land, They will likely pick Saturday June 29th for Disneyland.

Then November 30 at Hollywood Studios to carry over the crowds in the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Late fall should mean the last month of the fall season rather then the midpoint between October and November.

The difference in openings is 6 months. That's about right and DHS is not taking any advantage of opening sooner if they caught up.

Tourists are better off waiting as long as possible. No reason to visit early and the break in period means more ride breakdowns as experienced at Avatar where they are long breakdowns even a full year later. In fact, waiting for Star Wars means you'll have a chance to get a Flight of Passage fastpass.

May 23, 2018 at 7:34 AM

Perhaps the ridiculous amount of rain the Central Florida area has experience recently and will continue to experience during the Summer months could be to blame.

Rain passes quickly in the Summer in Orlando unless it is part of a tropical system.

More likely, Disney still isn't sure about crowd control in DHS and wants to wait until school is back in session. They will also look at what happens with the new Pixar land this Summer before setting a firm date.

May 23, 2018 at 8:33 AM

@Anton - That's true, if we were meteorologists or astronomers, but in the theme park business, "summer" starts on Memorial Day weekend and "fall" begins after Labor Day, while "winter" begins on Thanksgiving when Christmas events are in full swing.

Citing seasonal terms allows Disney some level of flexibility to temper expectations, but I highly doubt that a theme park is thinking of meteorological definitions when they put out releases like this. As far as a 6-month gap, that would indicate a pretty significant slowing of progress in the DHS construction that will ultimately have the benefit of trial and error knowledge shared by Disneyland's project (you would think that would shrink the gap between the 2 timelines). The fact of the matter is that the two projects have been exactly 3 months apart at both publicized construction milestones, and the projects are virtually identical in layout and appearance, so opening a full 6 months apart would indicate a significant slow down in the progress at DHS (even on a longish 36-month construction timeline, a 3-month delay is an eternity, and ultimately very expensive). I see where Rob is coming from in terms of rain affects, but I doubt that would add 3 months to a project, especially since interiors and ride system testing can still move forward even if exteriors are delayed.

I completely agree that guests should not try to peg the opening dates this far in advance, and Disney is probably wise using these nebulous terms, considering that WDW guests, in particular, plan their trips months and years in advance. However, I think guests looking to experience Galaxy's Edge as soon as possible can use these announcements to pencil in dates to make their pilgrimages to the Star Wars Universe.

If you think a FoP FP+ reservation is going to be easier to come by because of Galaxy's Edge, you're crazy. While DHS attendance is likely to explode when the new land opens (perhaps borrowing some guests for DAK), it's not likely to shift the popularity of FoP. With the headliners existing in 2 different parks, there's no FP+ limitation that will impact the availability of reservations in the system. FoP will continue to be the toughest FP+ reservation to secure in DAK, and will still command 2+ hour long lines and FP+ reservations gone within minutes of the 60-day window for on-site guests opening.

May 23, 2018 at 9:47 AM

Well, if Disney mangled the terms for Summer and Fall, then it should be pointed out that these terms mean absolutely nothing and we are still waiting for the actual dates.

Disney intentionally waited for Summer to open Pixar Pier and Toy Story Land. There is no early opening in the Spring and especially over Memorial Day weekend. It should also be pointed out that Pixar Fest in Disneyland officially opened in April so they keep dates separately from seasons.

The trend for retailing appears that holidays are celebrated much earlier and longer to increase the selling cycle. I suspect Disney is no different, but this shouldn't mean words mean absolutely nothing. Halloween is still October 31st, Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November, and Christmas is December 25th.

It should be noted that schools are trending towards ending before Memorial Day weekend and beginning the school year in mid-August. Does this mean Summer begins on late May? Nope. This means students are returning to school in mid-Summer.

May 23, 2018 at 10:06 AM

Not sure if any of you lived in Central Florida, but I did for 15 years. Yes, the storms pass quickly - but they are pervasive and would prevent some work from being done as quickly as in dry Southern California, where I have now lived for 6 years. I don't believe Disney has ever built two identical sections at the same time like this, but I can imagine poor weather in Florida six months of the year could play a role in a longer construction schedule.

May 23, 2018 at 10:15 AM

That's kind of my point Anton. Disney is still using nebulous seasonal terms instead of actual dates to guide guest expectations. It's smart, because who knows what will happen over the next year, especially since they're using at least one completely unique ride system and another ride system that Disney has never used in the US. Disney is also smart to not use Star Wars yet in their theme park promotion, and probably should refrain through the remainder of 2018 even after their "Incredible Summer" campaign is over (though I wouldn't be surprised if they do some on the Christmas Parade program).

I think the key takeaway here is that it appears that the gap between the two projects' opening dates is widening when you would expect them to stay steady or decrease. By saying "late" fall for DHS and not "late" summer for DL, Disney is indicating that the two projects are now more than 3 months apart, which was not the case as recently as November 2017 when DHS's structure was "topped off" exactly 3 months after DL's.

May 23, 2018 at 10:30 AM

My money is on around June 30th for Disneyland (which will be a nightmare with peak season) and around October 1st for WDW.

May 23, 2018 at 11:26 AM

For about the last year, I've consistently been hearing that the two projects were about six months apart, with California's aiming for May and Florida's for October. Sounds like that could hold true, or there could be a slightly later shift to June and November. Even though major events may be only three months apart on the projects, it does not necessarily mean the construction schedules are identical for both as there may be a need to do things differently in each location. For trip planning, I'd say aim no earlier than August in California and December in Florida if Star Wars is the reason you're going (or just wait for firm opening dates before planning the trip).

May 23, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Russell: I'm more convinced that by saying Summer and Late Fall means Disney is not rushing to open it earlier. So Summer is more likely than not means after June 21 and Late Fall means before December 21.

There are 2 likely reasons for delaying the openings.

1. Disneyland's new parking structure is having issues with getting their permits and construction project hasn't begun yet despite land being cleared for several weeks. Disneyland has more time to get it done if they stick to late June or July.

I'm also convinced Pixar Pier won't be ready by June 23rd. Technically, there's no construction where the new Inside Out spinning attraction will go in the helix of the new Incredible coaster despite artwork that shows it is still going there. Pixar Pier will be opened with minus one attraction that will show up much later.

2. DHS' Mickey's Runaway Railway is rumored to be opening in June 2019 instead of end of 2018. So they will advertise the new attraction for 6 months at DHS to increase attendance.

May 23, 2018 at 12:57 PM

"Even though major events may be only three months apart on the projects, it does not necessarily mean the construction schedules are identical for both as there may be a need to do things differently in each location."

That's possible AJ, but anything that would need to be done "differently" in Florida versus California would have involved site prep and foundation work, not interiors, ride installation/testing, or superficial/plaster work. Granted, Rob makes a solid point regarding the summer rains in Orlando, but I don't think it's going to cause the overall project timelines to diverge 3 full months. Plus, it would have been more likely that a construction project in California (with oodles of extra engineering and construction requirements) would require more time than an identical project in Florida, so you would expect the schedules to converge at each milestone instead of diverge. That also doesn't take into consideration what DHS is able to learn from the progress at DL. These are very collaborative projects despite being erected over 3,000 miles apart. DHS contractors are taking queues from those working on the DL project site, which should make the Orlando project more efficient, not less. Again, I think the ride system testing in California will save DHS a lot of time (weeks perhaps), and lead to a shorter break-in period for DHS's attractions. Going from a steady 3 month gap between milestones to a 6 month gap in delivering the final products over the remaining 24 months of the projects just doesn't make much sense to this experienced project manager.

Honestly, I would be shocked (and I think a lot of fans will be disappointed) if DL's version is not fully armed and operational by July 4, 2019. Same goes for DHS's version and Thanksgiving. I think those are absolute drop dead dates that Disney would not want to pass before opening these landmark additions.

I highly doubt Disney is going to keep an in-park addition under wraps simply because a parking garage is not done. It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Galaxy's Edge represents a HUGE investment, and Disney will want to cash in on that investment as soon as they can whether they have enough parking spaces or not.

Disney had always portrayed that Pixar Pier wasn't going to be "completed" by June 23rd, and that they would be adding more attractions later. When Disney sets a date, they rarely miss it. I would not be concerned with the re-skinned land not being open in time, especially since they're selling tickets for a preview event the night before at $300/person.

I had not thought about Runaway Railway. I was extremely perplexed when they made it sound like the attraction would be open before Galaxy's Edge, but it has always been portrayed, and was formally announced by Disney as a 2019 addition, never late 2018. It only makes sense that they would want to give the new ride at least 6 months of breathing room, which is why a March 2019 opening (in time for Spring Break crowds) made sense with a September/October opening for Galaxy's Edge. Though, if MMRR slipped to May, Galaxy's Edge opening in November would give them a similar amount of breathing room.

May 23, 2018 at 1:40 PM

Don't forget that Florida will also be building a hotel adjacent to the land at some point in the future, and depending on how that is integrated it could create some differences between the two lands. Could those require three extra months of construction time? I have no idea, but with a lot of insiders expecting about a six month gap between openings since last summer I doubt there's anything new that has caused a delay.

Runaway Railway has always been intended for spring 2019 (probably late spring). There was never any chance it would be ready in 2018. While that could contribute to pushing back Star Wars, I highly doubt delaying a very anticipated project would increase visits for a much less anticipated one.

I don't think the opening of the new parking structure will affect when Star Wars opens at Disneyland. If anything, the date the pass system changes would be the deciding factor. I've got a strong feeling a new AP plan is going to be announced for Disneyland in the next few weeks, and they'll probably time the opening to be just after all the old APs expire. Right now, my money is on an early June opening in California and a mid November opening in Florida...we'll see how close those end up being.

Also, Pixar Pier was confirmed to be a two year project several months back. This year is Incredicoaster, Pixar Pal-A-Round, and all the cosmetic changes. Next year will be the two new rides: Jessie's Critter Carousel and the Inside Out spinner.

May 23, 2018 at 2:03 PM

"I highly doubt delaying a very anticipated project would increase visits for a much less anticipated one."

Huh? This makes no sense. Runaway Railway will have nothing to do with Star Wars attendance. The mere opening of a new attraction at DHS will increase demand. They already expect Toy Story Land to be completely inundated from Fastpass demand. these 2 new attractions will be less interesting than Runway Railway, yet no one is saying their popularity will be impeded by Runway Railway. Why would Runaway Railway have less of a response just because Star Wars Land will open in another 6 months? The thing is each attraction opening will build up the theme park's attractions slate, thus increasing park capacity that adds to higher attendance.

"I don't think the opening of the new parking structure will affect when Star Wars opens at Disneyland. If anything, the date the pass system changes would be the deciding factor."

Which would be useless if no one can get a parking space.

May 23, 2018 at 2:46 PM

My humble guess. The finishing touches by a specific group of skilled imagineers is being estimated to take 6 months to complete. Thus it wouldn't matter when construction is complete. the issue would be that the design team (of which there is one overseeing both projects) needs 6 months to do their finishing work. They can't start their finishing if they're still in CA prepping for that park first. Just a guess.

May 24, 2018 at 6:17 AM

"The finishing touches by a specific group of skilled imagineers is being estimated to take 6 months to complete."

That's not how it works...Both lands are already designed right down to the last bar stool in the Cantina. Crews are working off very detailed blueprints that are not likely to be altered or varied from unless there are logistical issues or structural considerations not identified by the engineers reviewing and stamping the plans.

There are probably some areas where sculptors and artists (usually subcontracted, not Disney employees or Imagineers) can take license and add their own touch to the plaster and some other themed elements, but the Imagineering work is already complete. Imagineers will probably visit the project sites periodically to ensure that construction crews are putting things together as originally envisioned, but to think that Imagineers will magically show up at the end of a project to sprinkle some pixie dust on the land is complete nonsense. Imagineers are likely to test the ride systems when crews have completed the initial testing to ensure they function as designed, and perhaps tweak or slightly alter ride programming to maximize the story lines and forces. However, I would expect most of the tweaking to occur on the DL rides with the DHS versions copying whatever changes they make in DL to the letter, causing a much shorter "test and adjust" period for the Orlando attractions.

Engineers (and Imagineers) no longer use trial and error as they did when Walt was alive. Attractions are delivered by ride system manufacturers, erected by subcontractors, and then tested by park operators before opening to the public. Most of the design, layout, and decorative work is completed before the first shovel hits the ground. Imagineers already know exactly what this land will look like, and their only input once construction starts is to make sure crews satisfy their vision and that the attractions deliver the experience they dreamed up, with only small changes allowable.

Remember that Disney is not actually building these lands, nor have they fully designed the ride systems for the attractions. They are subcontracting this work to other firms that realize Imagineers' visions. Even when designs utilize Disney-owned patents, it's usually an outside subcontractor lending their expertise to apply the patented technology to the ride systems. Even something like Soarin' or FoP where Disney Imagineers completely designed the theaters, they hand those designs to a ride system manufacturer to create and assemble. Disney is not an engineering firm, they are a creative firm that hires engineers and other experts to make their dreams reality.

May 25, 2018 at 10:29 AM

I realize that... but there's a big difference between engineering and set decorating. And trust me on this, the set decorators and the people who come in and do the final touches to make sure everything looks just right are actual WDI employees. Or don't trust me, it doesn't matter.

May 28, 2018 at 6:25 AM

As follow up to the comment : Russell Meyer
May 24, 2018 at 6:17 AM
..
By the way, people ... isn't it reasonable clever to execute full operational testing and tech-bug adaptations on ONE site only ? All teething problems of such an attraction can be cleared out efficiently on ONE site only, then proceeding with the gained information on the other site. I've never heared that outside contractors are faster in debugging then inside-job technicians. They are both people of the very same flesh-&-blood-&-brains kind :-)
It would be dumb to struggle through bugs on 2 sites at the same moment.
I looks more like a wise development decision being made, then a delay caused by external factors...

(We've seen the development-&-testing delays 4-5 times in Efteling as well, where the own offices worked on the concept and outside contractors had to build it "with all of their specialised expertise". That's not the point, as always when a NEW concept is involved, the onsite startup is still challenging unpredictably... )

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