Overall, Star Wars fans seem to be fairly happy with the stewardship of the franchise by new owners Disney. Reviews for The Force Awakens have been positive, plans for future installments and spinoff stories have been well received, the possibility of TV series and further animated outings are well awaited. While some continue to maintain that it was an unnecessary maneuver for the company to eliminate the Star Wars Extended Universe soon after acquisition, much of the outrage appears to have dissipated by now; with attention turning toward future ventures like the long-term reach of the saga and in particular plans for a Star Wars theme park at Disneyland.
Now, ABC has announced that Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, will give fans their first look at the eagerly awaited Disneyland expansion, as part of a high-profile television special in February.
Ford will offer audiences their first official look at what Disney has in store for the as-yet untitled Star Wars-themed section of the park, as part of The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 special on February 21, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the original Walt Disney theme park. The post-Star Wars transformation has already begun to take shape in the form of key parts of Tomorrowland having been reconfigured to incorporate iconography from the films, and around 14 percent of the park’s total acreage is set to be closed during construction — including some of the beloved Rivers of America, Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer-related attractions. Exactly what the rides and attractions that eventually make up the Star Wars park will be have been kept largely under wraps, but concept art has posited recreations of The Millennium Falcon and other memorable locations and sets from the classic space saga.
While most of the park is expected to remain open during construction, and many of the temporarily closed attractions are set to return, a few long-time Disneyland staples are set to be permanently removed to make way for Star Wars. Frontierland will be particularly effected; with Big Thunder Ranch along with its barbecue, petting zoo and jamboree already having been shuttered earlier this month. Despite this, executives are reportedly not concerned about a possible dip in attendance, noting that previous periods of construction have seen steady or even increased total visits to the park.
While Disney is understandably bullish about the prospects for what some are already calling “Star Wars Land,” not every Disney theme park expansion has been met with rousing success. The company’s deal with MGM to create the movie-history themed park now called Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida (where some additional Star Wars attractions have already been set up) has occasionally struggled as a draw over the years, and many have criticized the decision to build another Disney World park based on James Cameron’s Avatar when the long-term viability of that franchise has been in serious doubt among many analysts. Disney, however, is likely correct in seeing Star Wars as a special case given the extraordinary worldwide popularity of the brand and the wide assortment of characters and worlds to draw inspiration from — Chewbacca and The Ewoks, after all, may look much more at home mingling with the likes of Mickey and Goofy than Avatar’s Na’Vi might in the same context.
Fans can find out exactly what the Mouse House has in store when Harrison Ford appears on ABC’s The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 special Sunday, February 21, 2016.