Just before Christmas 2012, Mickey Mouse bought an exciting gift for his parent, The Walt Disney Company. And it only cost $4.06 billion. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm Ltd. lock, stock and two smoking blaster barrels, I believe it’s time for the company to open a full-on Star Wars park at one of its resorts.
Star Wars has had a presence at Disney parks for years, and Disney recently opened two major additions to Walt Disney World and Disney Land, in the form of Fantasy Land and Cars Land, respectively. Plus, the company has at least five new Star Wars movies in active development – three sequels and two spin-offs – to be released over the next few years. The time is right.
Finally, the grand success of Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter provides a model of what a full-scale Star Wars park could be.
Existing Star Wars Attractions
Disney has a smattering of Star Wars-themed attractions and events in place. They’re all well done, and demonstrate the company’s desire to appeal to Star Wars fans. Now that it owns the properties outright – and has several big-budget movies pending – it’s time to make the jump to light speed. Here’s what’s in place so far.
Walt Disney World’s Star Tours attraction opened on April 12, 1992, shut down on August 14, 2010 and re-opened with a new experience for visitors on May 20, 2011 (The Disneyland attraction was also revamped). Disney states that the ride features 50 possible story combinations, which are chosen randomly for visitors to enjoy.
Walt Disney World’s Jedi Training Academy lets young padawans experience a 20-minute adventure in learning the ways of the Force. A lucky participant may even have a chance to confront Lord Vader himself (or kneel in reverent submission, if that’s her choice. All too easy.)
Star Wars Weekends is an annual event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park that’s a lot of fun. There are special activities, meet-and-greets, character appearances and a lot more. Star Wars Weekends attract huge numbers of visitors.
You’re A Jedi, Harry!
Meanwhile, the Force is strong with young Potter. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a park in Universal’s Islands of Adventure resort. I’ve been twice, and I can tell you it’s extremely well done. Much like Walt Disney World, Islands of Adventure features several parks, each with its own theme. There’s Dr. Seuess, Jurassic Park, Marvel Super Heroes, Toon Lagoon and of course, Harry Potter.
It isn’t very big, but packs in a lot for Potter fans. The main thoroughfare resembles Hogsmeade, and features familiar stops like Honeyduke’s candy store, the Owl Post, The Three Broomsticks, The Boar’s Head and more. The effect of walking among the shingled buildings with their pointed, snow-capped roofs as John Williams’ themes are piped into the air is, well…bewitching.
Standout attractions include Mr. Olivander’s shop, in which a costumed actor re-enacts a scene from the first movie with a lucky patron; Flight of the Hippogryph, a mid-level roller coaster that even young witches and wizards will enjoy; and Dragon Challenge, a pair of edge-of-your seat coasters that test your mettle.
But the big daddy is deep within the Hogwarts castle. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is hands-down the best amusement park ride I’ve ever experienced. The castle itself is an elaborate, interactive queue (something Disney is getting better and better at) that features character interaction and events/props from the film to find and experience. Once inside, the ride is a heart-pounding adventure through many of the saga’s most exciting moments.
An Immersive Star Wars Experience
I mention the Potter park this because it suggests exactly what a Star Wars-themed Disney park could be. There’s so much story to choose from. Imagine strolling through Mos Eisley and coming across Watto’s shop. Eat at the Cantina or find the perfect lightsaber. I imagine main attractions like an X-Wing or TIE Fighter coaster, or maybe a podrace. There could be character interaction, of course. Young visitors could climb around the Ewok village, while others test their skill at the Landspeeder testing grounds.
Disney’s success with Pixar spawned the fantastic Cars Land. Universal hit the quaffle out of the pitch with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now it’s time for imagineers to turn their attention to the new acquisition and work some magic. A new Star Wars park would be awesome. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.