Strong emotions…From both young and old.
This will be the largest overhaul ever within a Walt Disney World theme park.
“Finally!” said one younger commentator.
He was reacting to the news of just one long-rumored event:
A perhaps typical reaction from another older fan:
“Remember the older generation…We cannot ride fast roller coasters and need to ride on scooters but we can walk short distances…Is there a way to remember us as you are building your new Star Wars Land?”
Non Star Wars fans also thrilled
And even non-fans had an interest in the occasion for sharing it.
“My husband is a HUGE Star Wars fan (but he doesn’t go too overboard), which I don’t share. But this is a dream come true for him and we will be able to share it with our daughter, who is just an infant now.”
They were far from alone in applauding Star Wars.
Because that was not the only news from Disney.
What was the occasion for all this was the D23 EXPO when CEO Bob Iger announced to an audience of 7500 fans that Stars was landing at both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The news actually involved more than Star Wars.
Toy Story will also get a new land.
There will also be a new theme for the “Soaring” Ride at Epcot.
Some details were released but fans also had a lot of questions such as what will the new attractions involve. And why now? (Rival Universal was the villain, but more later).
But perhaps the best question was when they can begin to actually visit the new Disney attractions?
Answers are still coming, but here are some questions and answers to give you the most up-to-date information available.
Briefly, of course.
And without any Disney generated hype.
Q: Let’s start with Star Wars Land…since this has been the most anticipated and predicted addition to Disney.
A: A new Star Wars land will open at both Disney in Orlando and at Disney in Anaheim, Cal. Each Star Wars area will be 14 acres. That’s just a number, but one acre is very roughly about the size of a football field. So 14 acres covers a lot of football fields (you can see why there is some excitement here).
Q: So what will Star Wars Land involve?
A: It will be like another planet to visit right here on earth. It will be similar to going to a movie, except that you (the visitor) will be part of the dramatic cast.
Q: What does that mean?
A: You’ll be able to take part in the battle between the First Order and the Resistance.
Q: What else?
A: You’ll be able to drive the Millennium Falcon, among other rides.
Q: Any more details?
A: Disney says the two major attractions will be flying a mission aboard the Millennium Falcon, and placing you in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. The latter is a theme for the new movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” coming out in December.
Expect blue milk
Q: What else besides new rides?
A: Among treats for the senses: blue milk. Similar themed dishes are promised but actual foods were not announced. Yet. Yuck, maybe.
Q: Yes, we said no Disney promises, but what do they officially say about Star Wars?
A: Promises Bob Chepek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, told D23 fans: “It will introduce you to a land you’ve never seen before -- a getaway planet located on the outer rim, full of characters familiar and not so familiar.”
Q: Being in a movie keeps coming up here, doesn’t it?
A: “We really want people to feel that they’re in that movie,” said Kathy Mangum, a Walt Disney Imagineering executive, also told D23 fans.
Q: What about the smaller Toy Story expansion?
A: Admittedly less exciting. But still, it will be fun to think you have shrunk to the size of a toy.
Q: What else at Toy?
A: Two major attractions are the focus. One is a roller coaster ride, Slinky Dog. Green aliens on a second major ride will take “tiny” visitors for a spin on their own flying saucer.
Q: Toy Story Land. More, please?
A: As we said, visitors will see themselves shrunk in size to toys. Woody and Buzz will be surrounded by oversized toys (scary in itself). These are Andy’s toys, of course. They will include building blocks and other pieces. The roller coaster, Slinky Dog, is viewed as a “fun, family-friendly” ride through the new land. Visitors will also find an upgrade version of games at Toy Story Midway Games Play Set, as well as a third track there.
Q: What if I want to visit Hollywood Studios now…while they are building Star Wars Land? Will it still be fun?
A: In the short term, call it a “land in limbo” because there will be construction vehicles everywhere. New buildings will be coming down, and others going up. This move will be challenging for visitors but even more challenging for Disney to orchestrate the move to keep current visitors happy during the expansion.
Q: Other expansions?
A: African wild dogs and hyenas are coming attractions at Animal Kingdom, with added night time hours. Epcot’s California-themed ride will get a new theme and name, “Soarin’ Around the World.” And, of course, there’s also Pandora, which most people already know about. The center piece lets you soar on a Banshee over the alien world with a birds-eye-view.
Q: More on Pandora, please?
A: Avatar Land won't be a single ride, but a fully realized, immersive land set in the mythical world of Pandora. Discussing the size and scope of the area, which will be built on the site of Camp Mickey-Minnie. Disney officials say it will be "encompassing, to make sure guests are not pulled out of the story." You should realistically expect to encounter giant, blue-skimmed Na’vi, of course. And floating mountains as well.
The role of James Cameron and Avatar Land
Q: How much is James Cameron, director of the film, involved in this project?
A: Very much, Disney says. Definitely hands-on.
Q: Just how big is Avatar land?
A: Tom Skaggs, a leading executive Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in an interview that it will be a “huge addition…We have sufficient size and scope to make sure guests are not pulled out of the story…It will be encompassing.”
Q: Since we’re on the subject with Skaggs (during his interview), what is now going on with Marvel?
A: There are restrictions on how to use Marvel in Florida, Skaggs said. He pointed out that Marvel characters inhabit a real world. The US President is Barack Obama, for example. “We want to be careful about how we explore them,” he said. Disney involves fantasy so merging the Marvels will require some effort. But Skaggs predicted they will end up in the parks somewhere.
Q: Why is Disney announcing Star Wars at this time?
A: Disney feels no need to explain why, but others point out the success of Universal’s Harry Potter expansion is certainly a major factor (though Disney admittedly has been mulling over Star Wars and other new attractions for a long time).
Q: What does this do for Hollywood Studios, the location for the new Star Wars?
A: Hollywood will now go from becoming the least popular park at Disney to perhaps the most visited. Visitors will come here just to see Star Wars. Hollywood Studios will become a destination in itself, similar to Harry Potter at Universal.
A partial timetable
Q: Will all of this cost more for visitors such as us?
A: No one has said so specifically, but no one could believe that these multi-billion dollar additions will not lead to price increases.
Q: When is all this going to happen?
A: If you’re asking about price increases, who knows? But construction of various new elements will vary, of course. Some will happen soon. Relatively soon, we should add. Others will take much longer. The additions to Animal Kingdom such as the added African wild dogs are due to bark at you next spring. River of Light also at Animal Kingdom, also should open next spring. For Epcot’s “Soarin,” expect it next year. Avatar looks like an opening in 2017.
Q: What about the main attraction, Star Wars?
A: Disney had no answer but others predict it will take four years to complete. In the meantime, however, Disney will be opening some elements along the way. So remember what we said earlier? Patience, please. ###