Ever since The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm – and all that goes with it – last fall, the rumor mill has buzzed with gossip that Star Wars would have a greater presence in Disney’s theme parks. Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris already boast the thrilling, recently updated Star Tours attraction, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando hosts the popular Star Wars Weekends every May and June, where fans from across the galaxy gather to take part in special events and meet the films’ stars and cartoons’ voice over artists. Some kind of Star Wars themed land would be a natural fit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
As a longtime Star Wars fan, the mere possibility of a Star Wars Land in Florida thrills me infinitely more than the Avatar themed land already in the works at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But can it be that such an ambitious project could become a reality in a few short years? The grapevine is working overtime on this one, and the speculation comes with an interesting amount of detail.
Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider seems pretty confident in proclaiming a Star Wars Land:
Multiple sources have told me the long-awaited dream of theme park geeks everywhere is actually happening. Disney’s moving ahead with both Cars Land and Star Wars Land at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
From what I’m hearing, Cars Land will replace the Lights, Motors, Action auto stunt show as well as Catastrophe Canyon on the southern edge of the park, providing a logical extension to the existing Pixar Place.
So what about Star Wars Land? The logical places for that expansion would be on either side of the existing Star Tours ride. From what I’ve heard, it appears that the expansion would take out the area between Star Tours and the auto stunt show stadium, including the Muppet theater and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area. But I’ve also heard of consideration of going in the opposite direction, which would place the new land on the site of the Backlot Express restaurant and Indiana Jones stunt show theater. Given that the Indy theater’s used for several other events throughout the year, and that both the Muppets and Honey I Shrunk the Kids attractions long ago passed the height of their popularity, I’m hearing more forceful arguments for the first option.
This appears to be a five-year project, putting completion in 2018, though Disney could choose to throw money at it and accelerate it by a year.
Star Wars fan blog TheForce.net confirms the buzz, adding an anonymous source:
Speaking of Star Tours, it seems like that attraction will be receiving upgrades as part of the Star Wars land. “Expect to see new levels added to Star Tours and some more interactive attractions, possibly an additional ride,” my Disney source said. However, my source added that “most of the expansion will be environments and character meet-and-greet areas.”
A sort of co-rumor that has sprung up alongside the Star Wars Land gossip concerns a possible Mos Eisley Cantina themed restaurant coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and/or Disneyland Paris. A.J. Wolfe at Disney Food Blog makes her case for a Cantina, including ideas for character meals and menu items:
Welp, rumors have been circulating since Disney bought LucasFilm last year about the potential for a Star Wars themed land coming to the Disney parks. And I thought it was high time to weigh in on what would obviously be the best part of one — the potential restaurant!
Yep — sources are swirling about not only a repeat of Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but also a Star Wars Land of some sort!
According to one source, a Chalman’s/Mos Eisley Cantina-themed Star Wars restaurant could be on the horizon for Disney World as part of the proposed Star Wars expansion. (Though other sources put the Cantina in Disneyland Paris.)
Why would this be a totally rad idea? Well, I’m always up for more restaurants in Disney World, AND the Star Wars Cantina scenes are relatively well-known and referenced in popular culture.
And again from TheForce.net:
I spoke to a Disney Cast Member who not only confirmed Niles’ report, but added some new information. This Cast Member heard directly from Disney supervisors that Disney is discussing building a Cantina-themed restaurant in the new Hollywood Studios Star Wars area. Last April, the blog Disney and More reported that a restaurant modeled after Chalmun’s Cantina in Mos Eisley was being considered for Disneyland Paris. It makes sense to bring a major renovation like a Cantina restaurant to multiple locations, in the same way thatStar Tours: The Adventures Continue opened at several Disney parks around the world in 2011.
Why is the notion of a Star Wars Land so exciting? From a Star Wars fan’s perspective, it makes the most of Disney’s newest acquisition, leveraging the brand that the company spent so much money to grab. From a Disney Parks fan’s perspective, it’s more fun at a park that sorely needs it. From a business perspective, it creates greater competition with nearby Universal.
As Niles puts it:
Imagine a future Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Star Wars Land, Cars Land and Pixar Place anchoring the southern half of the park, with Sunset Boulevard, featuring Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, anchoring the north end. After many months of Universal Orlando pummeling Disney with one popular new expansion after another — Harry Potter, Transformers, Springfield, and more Harry Potter — it appears that Disney might, finally, be ready to strike back.
How has Disney responded to the buzz? Alison Walker of News 13 in Orlando found out:
I asked Disney World spokesman Bryan Malenius to confirm the rumored addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what he told me:
“For more than 25 years, our partnership with LucasFilm has helped bring the imaginative universe of Star Wars to life at our parks and resorts across the globe,” Malenius said. “We remain excited to explore new ways to bring these stories to life and have nothing to announce at this time.“
So Star Wars fans, sit tight for now. Though the gossip is unsubstantiated as of now, tomorrow may bring a new hope. (Hey…it’s the best pun I could come up with.)