Disney Parks announced this week that its new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land would open in summer 2019 at Disneyland in California and in late fall of 2019 at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida's Walt Disney World Resort.
We'd known since early 2017 that the Star Wars lands would open next year. But the specific timing of the openings on each coast has prompted many fans to ask why Disney would lead with what promises to be its most-anticipated theme park attraction ever at the smaller of the two resorts.
The simple answer is logistical. Disney started construction at Disneyland first and the construction progress there consistently had remained about three to six months ahead of that in Florida. That accounts for the difference in the announced openings.
Disneyland had to reroute its Rivers of America to make space for its Star Wars land, which otherwise is going in on the site of what had been back-of-house operations. In Florida, Walt Disney World had to close and remove several attractions to clear space for the new land, including the Lights, Motors, Action auto stunt show, the Streets of America (and its holiday Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights), and the Studio Backlot Tour, including Catastrophe Canyon. That put the start of the Florida development behind Anaheim's.
But why didn't Disney pour more resources into pushing the Walt Disney World installation ahead of the project in California? Wouldn't opening in Florida first, with its larger base of tourists, have been more profitable for Disney?
This is where we get into the internal politics of the Walt Disney Company. We think of Disneyland and Walt Disney World has being part of the same corporation, but they actually operate somewhat independently on a project-by-project basis. If Disney World wanted to rush its Star Wars land construction, that expense would have come out of its bottom line.
And to what end? To upstage a debut that would otherwise have happened in the media capital of the world?
The opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is going to be a media and promotional event to put all previous theme park debuts to shame. Mounting that in a region that's already home to Disney's corporate HQ, the ABC TV network, Walt Disney Imagineering, and most of the stars of the Star Wars franchise — not to mention many, many more journalists than call Florida home — just makes the process of putting on this show logistically easier for Disney.
And by letting California take the lead, that means a huge PR event falls onto Disneyland's budget, allowing Walt Disney World to mount what should be a much less expensive opening event for its land. That, in turn, should help make Florida's bottom line look better, especially when the Disneyland opening should result in a huge surge of bookings to Walt Disney World, anyway.
So for Walt Disney World managers, allowing the west coast to go first with Star Wars land turns out to be an internal corporate win-win. And that is why Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is opening first at Disneyland.Tweet
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