My family only makes it down to Walt Disney World every few years, but in between visits I love hearing from friends about the latest developments. These days, there’s a lot of construction going on in both Florida and California. Disney is usually very tight-lipped about everything they are building. I think it’s because they don’t want people to put off vacations for years until all the really new cool things are built.
But, if you are an industrious mom (with little ones who love hearing about and imagining all the new developments on the way), you can piece together clues from various Disney fan sites to figure out what the Mouse is up to. I did that sleuthing for you and if Disney really pulls off these 3 secret projects, it’s game over for Universal, baby.
3. You will soon be able to literally ride a flying dragon at Animal Kingdom
Just wrap your head around that. You. Climbing onto a breathing, warm, scaly dragon…and then flying around like you are riding this creature on the alien planet of Pandora. According to various things I’ve read, including remarks made by Disney CEO Bob Iger, right now the Imagineers at Disney are working hard to perfect special ride vehicles that will be built in the shape of the flying dragon creatures called “banshees” that are featured in the “Avatar” movie James Cameron put out a few years ago. The story was just basically Pocahontas meets Tarzan by way of the Smurfs, but Disney knew that even if no one ever remembered a single character’s name, people would want to fly around on those dragons like some of the blue cat-people aliens got to do in “Avatar.”
For years, Disney has been wowing us with Soarin’, the ride at EPCOT and Disney California Adventure where you are strapped to a harness and you “fly” in front of a giant screen that makes you feel like you are soaring over a pine forest or the ocean or wherever. Disney is about to take this kind of experience to the next level by creating a lifelike animatronic dragon creature that you will actually sit on. If the rumors are to be believed, you will feel the creature breathing as you ride it. You will feel its wings flapping. You’ll have all the scents and sounds and feelings of riding a “real” alien dragon in the skies over an alien planet. Even people who thought “Avatar” was the dumbest movie ever and couldn’t care less about it will apparently lose their minds over this never-before-attempted experience.
2. The new Stormtrooper Battle Escape ride in Star Wars Land will be the most realistic and immersive storytelling experience of any theme park ride ever.
One of my favorite rides at Disney is the Haunted Mansion, where you are strapped into a “Doom Buggy” that carries you inside a creepy old haunted house. Imagine being able to step off the buggy in the middle of the ride to explore the mansion! Well, brace yourselves … because supposedly the new Stormtrooper Battle Escape ride that’s coming to the Star Wars Land area is going to be just like that—Disney will let you get out of the vehicle at some point and explore!
The Stormtrooper Escape ride is meant to blow away everything that Universal created for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is the long-rumored “Potter Swatter” that Disney wants to throw down to reclaim its position as the leader in theme park creativity. I’m hearing that it will have multiple levels and that you will board, depart, and then get onto new vehicles several times … just like you are on a real adventure in the Star Wars world. You’ll be chased by Stormtroopers and have to try to shake them off your trail by switching vehicles and sneaking down back alleys or exploring caves or something else exciting. My kids are going to lose their minds. I’ll be right there with them because it sounds like Disney is not pinching any pennies with this. It’s going to be out of this world!
1. Star Wars Land itself will be the most immersive role-playing theme park “land” ever built in any park.
The new Star Wars Land is coming to Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California. Sources say all cast members will be in costume as Star Wars characters. I’m not talking about how it’s done in the rest of the parks, where someone will walk through dressed as Mickey or Donald or Princess Tiana or whoever, while everyone else is dressed normally with name tags. In the Star Wars area, everyone working for Disney, including snack vendors and street sweepers, will be dressed up as the inhabitants of a space port on some remote planet. They will interact with you as whatever Star Wars character they are playing. You will also only find Star Wars-themed foods and only Star Wars universe goods to buy in this part of the park.
They are going to have a life-sized replica of the Millennium Falcon and another ride is going to allow you to climb into the cockpit and take it out for a joyride. Apparently each flight will be different depending on choices you make. That’s a huge evolution over rides like Toy Story: Midway Mania or the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland, where you use little laser guns to shoot at targets and then you get a score at the end. With this new Millennium Falcon ride, you will be able to shoot at TIE fighters and other spaceships, depending on how well you do the ride changes. The whole time that you are in Star Wars Land, you will not see into any other areas of the parks. They want to give you total immersion so you really feel like you are on a real planet in the Star Wars universe. It all sounds incredible.
If they succeed at even a fraction of these ambitious projects, I hope that in time the rest of the parks are upgraded to match this level of immersiveness. It really is an exciting time to be a Disney fan.