You have “ridden the movies.” That’s what they call theme park rides based on films.
But that’s nothing compared to what is coming next.
That is the promise of “Star Wars Lands” in Orlando and California.
And whatever other thrills the movies have brought to theme park rides, there are predictions this one will be the best ever.
The “Star Wars” films, as we have been told repeatedly, have drawn record attendance. Their appeal is to millions of worldwide fans whose ages cut across all generational lines.
So anticipation of what Disney comes up with has been high.
Not a lot is known about what to expect from the new land and its rides. But it is not far-fetched to imagine the combination of Disney Imagineers with modern-day technology should produce an irresistible experience for Disney Orlando ticket holders.
As many have been on TV, Harrison Ford and robot droid BB-8 unveiled the first details of the highly anticipated “Star Wars Experience” during a February special.
But the reaction to the most recent occasion of what will come from “Star Wars” was not an overwhelming amount of information.
Meeting the promise of Star Wars
The program was termed by some as a “tease.”
That is in keeping with the Disney general philosophy not to reveal too much of its plans before the actual happening.
So what to expect…when you get your Disney ticket to the new “Star Wars” Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida?
The Han Solo star introduced the plans saying: "Star Wars is, for lack of a better word ... awesome.”
Not exactly a lot of detail.
He went on:
“I'm so blessed that I had the opportunity to be a part of it, to walk in these iconic locations. And soon, you'll be able to do that as well. Not in a galaxy far, far away, but in a place close to home."
OK. So what, already?
The program showed off new concept art from the attractions, including some shots from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon as it flies into battle with the “First Order.”
Hints of coming attractions
Not a lot was revealed…but photos and other comments from the TV event did provide some hints of what’s to come…
The Millennium Falcon ride will be interactive. That’s hardly big news.
You climb aboard and fly with you-know-who, but do you just sit there like an airline passenger in Seat 4C, the middle row?
No. It appears you get to drive the ship.
Even shooting the weapons.
Obviously, since you will be with a group, you won’t be by yourself sitting next to Han Solo.
There will have to be different stations for riders who individually have their own controls.
Another attraction (as we presume from drawings and other information) will have a ride vehicle going through a series of scenes. Riders will be attacked and fire back at Stormtroopers. Interactive battles of some kind are obviously intended.
Steering space ships, firing your weapons
Star Wars fans might also want to know the dining and souvenir elements.
At least two restaurants are planned.
A “Star Wars” style cantina is expected, which was mentioned in the TV program.
A sit-down dinner style restaurant is also believed to be planned.
Dishes will stick close and be named after movie staples, of course….to further put you into the outer space experience of being on other planets
A dinner show might also be on the menu.
An open market with not just shops but dining stops with casual quick meals should also be part of the mix, with favorite characters from Star Wars mingling nearby. Dining on odd dishes, as well.
No timetable has yet to be announced for when all of this will open. But Disney likes to use the word “Soon.”
You have heard the term: “Riding the movies.”
Meaning: boarding a theme park vehicle that recreates a movie experience.
This has become almost commonplace, which raises the expectation bar at Disney.
Some theme park providers such as 20th Century Fox are planning amusement parks entirely based on movie rides such as “Aliens” and “Planet of the Apes.”
This earthly galaxy is really far away
Unfortunately, you will have to go to Dubai to try that one. And not until the projected opening date: 2018.
There is no doubt that at some future time a Disney Orlando ticket will get you to in to see the new “Star Wars” attraction.
But in the meantime, let’s take a look at some movie-based parks that never got off the ground.
Here are some you missed:
You could have been a “Crimestopper” with the comic strip’s “Dick Tracy.”
Riders would have been driven through the crime-ridden streets of Chicago’s1920s for shootouts with gangsters and members of Big Boy Caprice’s oddball collection of henchmen.
The film starring Warren Beatty as Tracy did poorly at the box office. And a planned sequel never happened.
It’s believed the relative poor showing of the film (it was anticipated to be as popular at the comic strip but that did not happen) brought an end to the attempt.
The Muppets in 3D was another failed effort. The plan was for “The Great Muppet Movie Ride” with parodies of classic movies. Statler and Waldorf would appear heckling each other.
The ride would have taken visitors through movie sets for “Frankenstein” and “Peter Pan” with Muppet-like characters.
The “Frankenstein” section featured a mad scientist's laboratory, with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew conducting an experiment gone awry on his long-suffering apprentice “Beaker.”
The “Peter Pan” remake had the Muppets knocking over set pieces and scenery while suspended from cables and tossed around the room. The ride was to have been part of a special Muppet-themed area of the park.
But the death of creator Jim Henson ended that ride.
Disney-goers love the movies
After the success of “The Love Bug” movie in 1976, it just made sense to have you-know-what.
The ride would have taken you through scenes from the movies (the Golden Gate Bridge, among others). The plan was abandoned.
Disney also had plans for comedic film director Mel Brooks.
The comic concept included a vampire who keeps cutting himself as he shaves because he can't see himself in the mirror.
Another featured a closed bathroom stall with “Frankenstein” reaching for some toilet paper, only to grab one of the Mummy's bandages instead.
The project ran into problems
when developers couldn't come up with a cohesive story for the ride. Brooks left the project to star in and direct the movie “Life Stinks.”
There was almost a Disney theme park in another location that was the scene of a famous film,”Meet me in St. Louis” with Judy Garland (of “Wizard of Oz” fame).
But the park was not about that or any other film.
It was more than half a century ago.
Walt himself negotiated for this park
Disney himself drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning attention to Florida.
Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif., in 1955, and by the early 1960s, Walt Disney was looking to expand with another park easily accessible beyond the West Coast.
The Associated Press wrote:
“St. Louis seemed a good choice, and not just because of its geographically central location or because Disney grew up in Missouri.”
St. Louis was booming at that time.
Plans called for “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square” to cover two blocks in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the Arch grounds and the Mississippi River.
St. Louis isn’t blessed with California-like weather, so Disney’s plan called for a five-story indoor park.
Some of the rides planned for St. Louis eventually became fixtures at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
These included “Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion,” and “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.”
Disney himself met with St. Louis Mayor Raymond Tucker in March 1963 to discuss the proposal.
But the idea fizzled.
No beer, no park
Legend was that the plan was thwarted because Anheuser-Busch beer baron August A. Busch Jr. insisted that the theme park sell beer.
But an even more mundane reason was cited by a local historian: Disney was willing to pay for the rides and attractions, but wanted St. Louis’ redevelopment corporation to pay for the building. The corporation declined to do so.
Disney officially backed out in 1965.
Perhaps the most famous Disney park that did not open was an American history theme park in northern Virginia. Environmentalists and historians objected and even the US Senate raised objections.
The 3,000-acre, $650 million park called “Disney’s America,” had been planned just 35 miles outside of Washington, near the site of the First Battle of Bull Run.
Disney abandoned the project in 1993.
“It inspired fervent opposition from some historians who said it could blot out important Civil War sites and from environmentalists who said that it would bring crowding, road congestion and smog to an area where all these problems have mushroomed in recent years, “ reported The New York Times.
“Disney’s America” was designed and planned as a complement to the monuments, museums, and national treasures of Washington D.C. Disney described the park as a venue to discuss the future of and learn more about our nation’s history by living it.
No Disney’s America, either
The park would offer guests rides, shows and interactive experiences about the history, present, and future of America. The park was designed as timeline, starting in the mid-1860s and going back in history or forwards into the future.
The park was to include a ride through a blast furnace, and virtual reality Revolutionary War battles, in which visitors would have had a chance to fire muskets.
Also planned were nightly recreations of the Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack, the first duel between ironclad ships.
Then, there were planned parks that went beyond movie reach.
One of these was “The Museum of the Weird.” Madame Tussaud-like. Just it sounds.
One of its features was a talking chair. It stood on its hind legs to speak to talk to visitors.
It was to have been filled with other strange collectibles, such as wallpaper that seemed to stare back at guests.
There was also a grandfather clock decorated with human bones, and a haunted organ played by a ghostly skeleton.
Ideas found now at Haunted Mansion
The project folded after Walt Disney's death, but several of the museum's ideas became part of the “Haunted Mansion” instead
“Candy Mountain” was one of the most famous non-starters that at one time sounded sweet.
It was a ride inside a rock candy mountain. Candy canes and lollipops surrounded it. Planned for California but never happened.
Animal Kingdom park brought wildlife into Disney in Orlando. But one planned section that was scrapped would have taken visitors on rides populated by wildlife that didn't actually exist.
The canceled “Beastly Kingdom” was to have explored "animals of myth and legend.” Dragons, unicorns, etc.
There was also a suspended roller coaster called "Dragon's Tower" that brought riders face to face with a huge fire-breathing dragon.
Some kid-friendly rides were also planned for a section called “DinoLand USA.”
Never happened, though the Kingdom did get a mountain roller coaster “Expedition Everest,” which did have riders chased by what some call a mythical creature, a “Yeti.”
ECPOT was set to have a Time Racers in Future World. It was a high-tech thrill ride that fast forwarded riders through history or time travel.
It was supposed to replace Spaceship Earth, but its price tag approached $500 million, which was too high for down-to-earth Imagineers.
EPCOT itself had a whole string of lands that were planned but never finished such as an Iran Pavilion with a ride through Iranian history and a shopping bazaar (scrapped after the fall of the Shah of Iran).
Among other proposals, there was an Equatorial Africa Pavilion (would have featured a 60-foot treehouse and African cultural areas). There was even a Soviet Union Pavilion (with the Kremlin and a replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral, all abandoned when the old Soviet Union disbanded).
As of now, we can only wait for “Star Wars” and anticipate that the next attraction though not as big as that may have its own twist.
There are rumors that at least one attraction is doing the opposite of the movie-theme park progression: “It’s a Small World” may be destined for a big screen production. That would be a different kind of ride. ###