What should Disneyland do with Star Wars Launch Bay?

October 18, 2019, 5:43 PM · Tomorrow always becomes today, which has made Disney's Tomorrowland an ongoing challenge even since Disneyland opened in 1955. With its latest iteration at Walt's original theme park, Disneyland has gone all-in with Star Wars, making the land seem even more awkward now that Galaxy's Edge has opened across the park.

In my newspaper column this week, I ask, Does Disneyland have too much Star Wars?. The TL;DR, as one might guess, is 'yes.'

But what to do about it? In the column, I suggest that since Galaxy's Edge focuses on the final trilogy, there's room in the park for a Star Wars attraction that draws inspiration from the first six films. Star Tours could play that role simply by returning to its random selection of destinations, as it played before the new movies began and Disney started using the attraction as a promotion for the films (and, eventually, for Galaxy's Edge, too).

Everything else? Lose it. Once Rise of the Resistance opens, give me back the classic Space Mountain, please. And the ever-crowded Disneyland simply can't afford to waste the space taken by Path of the Jedi and the Star Wars Launch Bay — two attractions that draw less than a sleeping child in the Animation Academy.

The Tomorrowland Theater would work again as a "coming attractions" theater (as Walt Disney World uses its Walt Disney Presents attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios), now that Disney California Adventure has welcomed Mickey's Philharmagic to the Sunset Showcase Theater full-time. But there's no simple alternate use for the former Carousel of Progress building, which hasn't had a compelling full-time occupant since America Sings closed in the 1980s.

Should these locations continue as flex spaces to be used for an ongoing series of limited-run engagements? Or should Disney try to find "forever attractions" to take over these spaces?

The Tomorrowland setting seems to limit Disneyland's options, given that it would need to find a franchise at least not totally incompatible with the area's theme. (Finding Nemo and America Sings demonstrate that Disney is willing to stretch here.) However, it's unlikely that Disney would develop an original story concept for the land, unless it was to introduce a new IP that the company intended to develop as a multi-media franchise.

Looking what Disney now owns, and excluding franchises already employed elsewhere in the resort, there's Alien, Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Tron, Wall-E, and Witch Mountain (remember that one?) as my top candidates for a new Tomorrowland attraction's IP.

In case you are wondering... no, there's not enough space in Disneyland's Tomorrowland for a west coast installation of the Tron coaster coming to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. So the next question to consider is to decide whether the former Carousel of Progress building is a capital asset... or a liability that needs to be cleared.

If there were an easy solution, Disney would have developed it already. So, my aspiring Imagineering theme park design apprentices, what would you do to replace Star Wars Launch Bay and bring a new attraction to Disneyland's Tomorrowland?

Replies (29)

October 18, 2019 at 6:22 PM

As much as it hurts me to say this about the building that was once the carousel theater it needs to be knocked down and some kind of ride that brings kinetic energy to Tomorrowland needs to take its place. What exactly, I don't know. What I do know and what I've been saying here for years is the absence of motion in Tomorrowland is a real issue. Think back to what used to engage the eye of the guest as they made their way through this part of the park. The PeopleMover, The Skyway, Rocket Jets, and the old flying saucers ride brought life to this side of the park. Even the Carousel theater would rotate every few minutes and seeing a building that big rotate was quite a thing! There is SO much going on over around The Rivers of America, yet almost everything along the main corridor in Tomorrowland is inside. Again - I don't know what the new thing is, but it needs to be outside and fun to watch operate. My guess is Disney is just as stumped by the problem. I hope they prove me wrong.

October 18, 2019 at 7:28 PM

My first vote will always be for an original IP attraction. It would be nice if Disneyland turned the Tomorrowland Theater back into a 4d show. My suggestion would be a Big Hero 6 or Wreck it Ralph (I know they don't exactly fit the theme, but the land doesn't have a uniform theme as it is). I would also love to see a Wall-E ride occupy the Carousel of Progress building.

If Disney wanted to go big, they could redo the whole land in the steam punk vibe they have in Paris.

I really enjoy both the Star Wars and regular version of Space Mountain and have no problem when they switch off. It gives me an excuse to visit more often.

As a totally original IP, tying the explores club, mystic manor and some type of space theme for a ride and themed restaurant would seem pretty awesome.

October 18, 2019 at 7:35 PM

Why doesn’t Disney bring a ride, such as Ratatouille? I can see how Tron wouldn’t be able to fit. A Wall-E ride would be a nice idea. Maybe bring a ride from Tokyo over?

October 18, 2019 at 9:11 PM

Totally forgot about Wreck It Ralph! I don't know if Big Hero 6 is franchise-level, but I'd love to see that represented in the land, too.

October 18, 2019 at 9:30 PM

Man, I'm so excited for a tomorrowland refurb. Used to be my favorite land when I was little and I hope Disney can make it amazing again.

October 19, 2019 at 12:15 AM

Alwyas the problem, trying to make "Tomorrowland" actually feel like tomorrow.

October 19, 2019 at 12:20 AM

I think it is a fallacy that is has to be tomarrow based. It it quite easy to just say tomarrowland ends at space mountain and this is fun ride land (what's in the old America sings, autopia and the subs. They were never really tomarrow based anyway). I would say a high tech omnimover version of the great movie ride, using all of the huge number of Disney/fox properties. The ride could go mostly upward as starship earth does.

October 19, 2019 at 1:09 AM

Thematically, Tron is probably the best IP, but a clone of Florida's ride is the last thing I'd like to see. Instead, I'd love to see an adapted version of Maurer's Spike Coaster that starts in the grid and then escapes, racing above potions of Tomorrowland and bringing a vibrant energy back to the area.

October 19, 2019 at 4:39 AM

I think its time to solve the Tomorrowland problem for good myself. Give it a Full reboot and transform into Discoveryland.

October 19, 2019 at 5:04 AM

Tommorowland needs to stay Tommorowland. Nobody would ever suggest changing Adventureland or Fantasyland. That's why it does not need to be Wreck it Ralph or any other similar attraction. Space Mountain is excellent and iconic. I would argue with the music in the cars, it is better than WDW. When you walk off Space Mountain, you still get the positive outlook on tomorrow, just like when you you go around Fantasyland you have the feeling of whimsy. They must continue this with an attraction that continues with the proper theme. I totally agree that Hyperspace Mountain's time has gone. Bring a super-plussed mission space or a space base restaurant. I am not as familiar with the space constraints at DL in that location as I am at WDW, but why would they not try a onmimover that teleports you to alien worlds but done in a more positive (but still exciting) presentation that keeps with the theme? Bring back the people mover. People say Tomorrowland is a challenge, but I am not so sure that it is.

October 19, 2019 at 5:25 AM

Just bring a version of the TRON coaster to that spot, either repurposing the building or demolishing it. This was the location after all where the Imagineers first conceived of a TRON ride being built. I do agree that simply cloning the Shanghai/MK version won’t work. Having ridden the coaster in China I can say that I loved it but it had some flaws I was hoping they’d address in the FL version. Unfortunately it doesn’t look that is going to happen. What I like about the TRON theme is that is isn’t based in space or involves aliens. There’s too much of that already with GE and Marvel.

October 19, 2019 at 6:58 AM


October 19, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Do they have the real estate available to do Tron?

October 19, 2019 at 11:14 AM

@JCVH - yes they do. They could fit it in a couple of ways if they were just going to do a straight clone. But of course some things would have to go, like the Subs and Autopia. But I think as is the show-building and canopy would look out of place at DL.

October 19, 2019 at 1:09 PM

People were saying that Star Tours should be moved or taken out when Galaxy's Edge opened, but now I'm hearing people say that they prefer it to Smuggler's Run. IMO Star Tours and Hyperspace Mountain feel more like Star Wars and are more enjoyable than MFSR, even though they are less immersive and older technology. You get a feeling of exhilaration coming off those two rides, whereas you get kind of a deflated feeling coming off MSFR, because you usually fail at the mission, and it kind of gets old after the second or third ride. As for the Launch Bay, a full out Alien attraction would be great, as long as they don't dumb it down or soften like they did Alien Encounter at Disney World. But don't make it a theater like AE, make it an immersive ride through, also don't make it corny like the Great Movie Ride version.

October 19, 2019 at 2:30 PM

I think its crazy to build a high speed roller coaster (tron proposal), right next to another high speed roller coaster. Both with space themes. And to take away the subs and autopia to do it. That reduces ride capacity. The old America sings building should be some type of slower immersive ride.

October 19, 2019 at 8:31 PM

I think they should continue to neglect it for the next 10 years and then replace it with DVC. Because that is the Disney of Tomorrow.

October 19, 2019 at 10:10 PM

Big Hero 6 screams CA adventure to me, being in San Fransokyo. Maybe a replacement of the Goofy Sky School adjacent to the already San Francisco themed area and Little Mermaid. Not much space to work with but it makes a lot more sense than Pixar Pier and Marvel Campus.

October 20, 2019 at 12:01 PM

They need to revamp autopia to a Wreck it Ralph Sugar Rush ride. Find a way to safely speed the cars up and loose the middle guide track

October 20, 2019 at 12:18 PM

@davedisney TRON is not space-themed. But your point is valid about two coasters. If not TRON then why not a version of Avatar: Flight of Passage? They could turn the building into ACE labs.

October 20, 2019 at 12:37 PM

I think either Tron, or Wall-E would work. How about something like Zootopia? I do also like a version of Flight of Passage.

October 21, 2019 at 8:47 AM

I'm going to disagree with Robert in that the Star Wars attractions in Tomorrowland need to go. For me, Galaxy's Edge is a completely different Star Wars experience from what is offered in Tomorrowland. Hyperspace Mountain is incredible, as is Star Tours, and to have them lost simply because of the existence of Galaxy's Edge seems wrong. I think there's a lot of wasted space inside Launch Bay, so perhaps that can be reworked or rebuilt to serve a different IP with the meet and greets and museum-type attractions moved to another location. I guess the issue is that the Star Wars attractions in Tomorrowland look to the past even within the IP, which is problematic. I'm wondering if they could move the entry to Star Tours closer to Hyperspace Mountain and find some additional backstage space between the 2 rides to house the Launch Bay attractions to create a fully enclosed Star Wars experience isolated from the rest of Tomorrowland. This would allow Disney to retheme and unify the rest of the struggling land while keeping the popular Star Wars attractions that don't fit the Tomorrowland theme or Galaxy's Edge.

October 21, 2019 at 10:56 AM

I'd love to see them refurb the building and bring Carousel of Progress back from FL. I think the nostalgia loving Dapper crowd in SoCal that eats up the Tiki Room would love and adore the Carousel of Progress. That being said, if they're going to tear down the building, they need to go BIG. Move Star Tours to the expansion pad between SWGE and Toon Town, get rid of Buzz Lightyear (keep the toys over on Pixar Pier), and start Tomorrowland up from scratch with TRON and whatever else fits. I'd love to see a next generation Peoplemover weave it's way through a whole new tomorrowland.

October 21, 2019 at 12:17 PM

So... with the relocation of the Tomorrowland Fastpass machines, and the addition of the new staircase in front of Space Mountain, is it possible that they'll rip out everything from where the current Space Mountain entrance ramps are north to Autopia?

October 21, 2019 at 3:39 PM

While I'd really like to see an original IP.....I think Wall-E (who currently doesn't an attraction) would fit.
Wreck In Ralph could work as well.

October 21, 2019 at 6:16 PM

It's time to close Tomorrowland completely. Only allow construction tunnels through the line cue's for selected rides. I think we can all accept a 2 year closure and make the Original Disneyland Tomorrowland best ever.

October 22, 2019 at 4:12 AM

How about this. Are you guys familiar with the Dreamworks Theater at Universal Studios? Ok keep that in mind. The Carousel of Progress building is converted to a Big Hero 6 attraction. Inside, guests are seated in circularly-arranged stadium seating looking down to a central Bot Fighting Ring. The attraction is billed as a Bot Fighting Show, and starts off as such, but before long the villain from the movie takes over the show, controlling the bots for his own evil misdeeds. The walls and ceiling of the building are seemingly “ripped away” as the arena is sucked into an inter-dimensional void. The seating lurches and shakes as the arena spins into chaos. Baymax, Hiro and the rest of the Big Hero 6 team appear to save the day, flying around the arena and battling the villain in a mix of special effects, live stunts and motion simulated mayhem.

I think this would be a nice return to form as a show building, with an original and exciting take on a modern Disney classic.

October 22, 2019 at 12:51 PM

I see a lot of interesting and funny comments but, I think everyone is too far off topic and this may be why we all struggle. Previously, the concept of Tomorrowland had a very direct focus. It was our world in 1986. Epcot was based on the concepts of futurisms as well, something Disney seems to be distancing itself from with Discovery, Nature, and Celebration. Future world be damned. The Launch Bay needs to go.

You really have some great concepts to that can put into Tomorrowland that seem largely ignored. In Tron legacy, Flynn was fighting to salvage the world he was trying to create from his own program Clu."To create the perfect system". The absolute of this meant the end for the human race which had at stake the solution to the world biggest problems, saving our planet, our health, mapping or genetics, the origin of life. It was described as “everything”.

My point is that this is your new "futurism", the McGuffin. It's the thing you’re trying to get to. That being said, an immersive World of Tron with your transformation (or getting catapulted) into the digital world plays closer to real things and SCI-FI fantasy. I'm not touting this as an old Epcot edu-traction, rather, something to excite, thrill, and scare. If you can immerse yourself in the World of Tron with an "internal indoor ride building" that housed multiple attractions that would be the way I would go. It could have multiple ride systems leading to another with the goal of escaping the exile in the digital universe. Not just a light Cycle coaster. A digital universe to explore.

It is not dissimilar to the GoTG Cosmic rewind which is just as much about the creation of our universe. We will always be exploring new depths of our solar system and universe. This even opens the door for non-IP rides. Something that Disney excelled at and something Tomorrowland was based off of originally.

There were no IPs tomorrow land. Equally the attractions should not be tied down to IPs necessarily. We are always trying to push the boundaries of science and physics which with the technology that exists today, Disney should have no problem creating rides that use go old fashion mind tricks to bend or breaks the laws of physics.

Disney was not meant to be a museum and every time I hear someone say Autopia or the Carousel show building is original Disney I get confused because both that building and Autopia have changed multiple times since 1955. I would re-route the monorail and possibly through a new building where the Autopia currently is. Then start going to work on the rest of Tomorrowland, It needs a new anchor.

October 22, 2019 at 1:03 PM

What is wrong with a mission to the moon attraction where you exit on a moon base and return to the earth? Or an omnimover to other worlds? Before we know it all Disney parks will be nothing but Pixar and Star Wars attractions. While I love those movies, that is not what the parks need to be.

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