Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm meant that fans of a galaxy far, far away would be getting new Star Wars movies, but there was much more to the transaction than that. While the film series is still the crown jewel of the franchise, the Mouse House is always looking for ways to expand the brand. For instance, at this year’s D23 convention, it was announced that there would be Star Wars themed expansions for both Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. and Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
A completion date for Star Wars land has yet to be announced, but it would appear that Disney wants to get the ball rolling on construction as soon as possible. As they prepare to build the various Star Wars attractions, 10 of the existing ones will be closing (some permanently) in January 2016 to make room for everything – an announcement that comes just months after Disney hiked annual pass prices by more than 30 percent.
The news comes courtesy of the LA Times, who report that Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo, and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree will close forever on January 10. It is noted that the animals from the petting zoo have been adopted by a Southern California family who has worked with Disney animals in the past. Temporarily shutting down will be attractions around the Rivers of America, including Fantasmic, the Mark Twain Riverboat, and the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (among others).
All in all, 14 percent of Disneyland will be closed during the Star Wars expansion construction, in an area that constitutes nearly a quarter of the theme park’s 85 acre estate. Despite so much of Disneyland being unavailable for a period of time, it is not believed that attendance will go down. Dennis Speigel, theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati, states that interest in going to Disneyland may be piqued, due to fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the new attractions being built. He compared it to the expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom in Florida, where attendance rates actually increased during the three year process from 2011-2014.
Park executives are also unconcerned, mentioning that Disneyland has added several new attractions to appeal to Star Wars fans. In Tomorrowland, the Space Mountain and Star Tours rides have been renovated to include special effects from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Also, the Innovations building at Tomorrowland has been turned into the Star Wars Launch Bay, where people can play Star Wars video games, purchase merchandise, and meet costumed characters from the films. There’s also the Galactic Grill, which has menu items such as Darth by Chocolate and the Cheese 3PO Burger. In addition, a Disneyland 60th anniversary celebration show (including fireworks and a nightly parade) will run until September 5, 2016, so there are still several reasons to go out to Disneyland for the time being.
Industry experts say that the opening of Star Wars land could be at least a year away, so hopefully this will be worth the wait. A full list of Star Wars land attractions has not yet been revealed, but Disney CEO Bob Iger has mentioned it will include a replication of the Millennium Falcon and an attraction that puts visitors in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance, the two warring factions featured in Episode VII.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: LA Times