Forget the movies, television shows, comic books, and new videogames – the medium that many Star Wars fans are most looking forward to experiencing under the new Disney Company ownership is a little something called real life.
Although Disney has already had Star Wars-themed attractions in its various theme parks around the world – the motion simulator "Star Tours" first opened 30 years ago – it wasn’t until the company purchased Lucasfilm in October 2012 that it began designing an entire land that would be devoted to nothing but that galaxy far, far away. This new area, which will be installed in both Anaheim’s Disneyland and Orlando’s Hollywood Studios, has been repeatedly delayed – partially thanks to executives wanting to see how well Star Wars: The Force Awakens performed in theaters, and partially thanks to the unbelievably detailed work that Universal has been putting into its series of Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter in Orlando, Osaka, and, now, Hollywood – but, finally, the time has come for Star Wars Land’s full roster of attractions to be unveiled: this Sunday, Harrison Ford will host a special on ABC revealing everything fans have anxiously been waiting for.
We’ve known since last summer a little of what Disney has in mind, but these details have been few and far between: the land will be situated on a brand-new, never-before-seen trading post planet, and experiences will include a ride aboard the Millennium Falcon and some sort of First Order/Resistance battle that guests will be able to observe. Well, forget all that – these are the rides, attractions, character meet-‘n-greets, shows, and restaurants that we need to see, the experiences that would not only make many a Star Wars fan’s dreams come true, but would also steal the theming crown back from Universal and allow Disney to reign supreme for the next 60 years.
These, in short, are the 10 Attractions We Want to See in Star Wars Land.
One of the most magical developments The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ushered into the themed space back in 2010 was the idea that areas like gift shops, restaurants and even restrooms didn’t have to be generic areas; they, too, could be part of the theming, thereby increasing their guests’ immersion. Unbelievably enough, the various shops in the Wizarding World are so detailed – and so filled with exclusive, high-quality merchandise that literally can’t be found anywhere else on the planet – they are arguably the flagship attraction of the Potter lands.
This is precisely the treatment that Star Wars deserve – and if a store were to be so immersive, what better environment to submerge visitors in (no pun intended) than the Gungans’ capital, Otoh Gunga? There are few locales in all seven of the SW films as alien, as dynamic, and as lyrical as the underwater city; imagine walking under roofs that look up into the depths of Naboo’s oceans (thanks to hi-def projection screens), with John Williams’s timeless score softly swelling in the background, and audio-animatronic figures greeting you into each long passageway. Guests might not ever want to leave.
OK, bear with us for a moment here.
Yes, this particular idea for an attraction bucks the (new) trend of having a particular swath of real estate devoted to faithfully recreating one specific geographical location from the source material. And, yes, this experience is essentially a kids’ play area at heart, although theme parks are increasingly being dotted with such locales, and they’re becoming increasingly more sophisticated and elaborate. This just might be one of the most fun ones yet.
Think of this as a greatest hits of all the Star Wars movies, collecting a number of experiences together under one roof that kids of all ages would long to do in a galaxy far, far away. A mechanical Tauntaun can sit in one corner, alternatively providing rides or challenging guests to remain on the beast for as long as possible. In another corner, a simulation of walking the plank and jumping into the Sarlacc Pit can be situated, allowing kids to have a blast in what could be one of the biggest ball pits in the world. And to round out our roster of hypothetical attractions, an interactive video experience – think Turtle Talk with Crush – can take up an entire wall, allowing guests to interact with a number of CG-only characters from the films and TV shows, ranging from General Grievous to Maz Kanata to a whole assortment of droids.
Character meet-‘n-greets have long proven to be an absolutely central pillar of Disney Parks and Resorts’s business model; the chance for guests – especially, though not limited to, kids – to interact with their favorite movie and television characters is too good to resist, especially when the venues they take place in are highly themed and almost magically interactive (such as the recent Enchanted Tales with Belle encounter in Orlando).
Being able to meet with all the various Jedi Knights from legend, ranging from Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn to Yoda and Luke Skywalker, and being able to do so in the absolutely majestic setting of the larger-than-life Jedi Temple, then, would instantly become the pinnacle of meet-‘n-greets. Even better, though, would be the attraction’s queue, which would lead guests all through the Temple and offer plenty of sneak peeks at the Coruscant skyline beyond, with its collection of mammoth skyscrapers and unending streams of sky traffic. It might be enough to make the queues of the Harry Potter rides in Orlando and Indiana Jones in Anaheim – which are often said to be like attractions unto themselves – look like child’s play.
Okay, we lied – being able to meet up with (and possibly be Force-choked by) the various baddies of the Star Wars mythos would be even more fun than flying off to the Jedi Temple and comparing battle strategies with Plo Koon.
For starters, there’s the setting. Forget the elegant majesty of Coruscant – this would be set on Mustafar, the lava-dominated planet from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith that saw Anakin Skywalker be fatefully transformed into Darth Vader. Lava flows, the stark industrial infrastructure, the droids and other servants of the Dark Side – all would combine to create a tableau that is unlike any other anywhere in the (themed) world. This could carry an attraction all by itself.
But then there’s the stars of the hour, the Dark Lords of the Sith, all lined up to intimidate – and, of course, sign autographs. General Grievous and Darths Sidious, Maul, Tyranus, and Vader would all be on hand, with their various lightsaber configurations, but so would Kylo Ren and, just possibly, Supreme Leader Snoke. Hey – we could even throw in the first in-canon appearance of Darth Plagueis, just for kicks (and scares).
No self-respecting theme park land can exist without at least one theatrical performance, and the more production value that can be poured into it – elaborate sets, pyrotechnics, stunt sequences – the better. Since there are few visual spectacles as impressive or, let’s face it, just plain cool as lightsaber duels, our version of Star Wars Land will need to have a show based upon Jedi and Sith endlessly facing off against one another.
But don’t let the “Duel of the Fates” moniker fool you – these shows wouldn’t just be limited to that snazzy showdown on Naboo at the end of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In fact, while some performances could feature the slick fight choreography of Jedi Masters Jinn and Kenobi battling Darth Maul, others could highlight the sheer emotional intensity of, say, Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader on Cloud City or Rey squaring off against Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base. It’s hard to think of a subject with as much depth and drawing power, no matter the form of the attraction.
In case you hadn’t heard, even more than the shopping experience, dining has become the next generation of theme park design, the confluence of a meticulously designed atmosphere and exclusive dishes and beverages that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It is precisely this, in the form of butterbeer, that helped Universal recoup its $260 million investment in the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter in just four or five months, and it is this that should be near the top of any self-respecting Star Wars fan’s wish list.
But why Kashyyyk? The Wookiee’s homeworld is both larger than life (in George Lucas’s peculiar SW parlance, it’s a “lagoon planet” that has trees taller than skyscrapers) and largely undefined – the perfect balance for a theme park experience. Imagine climbing wooden steps up into a giant treehouse that is suspended hundreds of miles in the air; views from out of the windows could show a sprawling, pristine forest and water system, with Wookiees swinging from vines – and, if Disney wanted, an invading Separatist droid army advancing off in the distance.
And just picture the menu! All the varieties of steaks here would be both mouth-watering and bizarre, truly something that couldn’t be experienced back home, and the vegetarian options would be both plentiful and luscious. Eating with Wookiees might be one of the last things the average guest would think to ask for, but we guarantee it’d be one of the most fun.
What Star Wars fan hasn’t daydreamed about this one?
The appeal of that most infamous of Tatooine bars is, of course, self-evident, but we’ll go ahead and list its virtues anyway. While most tables would be occupied by other tourists, there would still be a large roster of alien characters, both of the audio-animatronic and people-in-costume varieties, which would allow the background to constantly be in motion and which would allow patrons to have a steady stream of meet-‘n-greet opportunities. The drink selections would be both expansive and exotic; if the Wizarding World can have the likes of Dragon Scale and Fire Whiskey (yes, that’s real booze, thank you for asking), why couldn’t the most wretched hive of scum and villainy do better?
And then there’s the iconic music, which would be expanded upon by the current roster of SW composers to make it simultaneously recognizable and different (because – admit it – you’d want to start a bar fight if you hard to hear the same 30 seconds on an endless loop during your 60-minute meal).
Okay – now we’re getting to the really good stuff.
Imagine waiting in a queue that snakes through the icy, utilitarian corridors of Echo Base on the snow planet of Hoth. Yes, it really is freezing in here, and the occasional thump of the approaching Imperial Walkers’ footsteps reverberates down the hall. You’re waiting for your chance to board one of the military transports that is attempting to escape the Imperial Fleet that has just discovered the Rebel base, and as you get closer to boarding the ride proper, snowtroopers can even start streaming in through the doors and barking orders at you to step out of line.
Once you’re on the ship – which would be realized through a motion simulator, much like the pre-existent Star Tours – all hell breaks loose; your X-wing wingman gets destroyed, and you’re forced to fly a military sortie to cover your fellow Rebels, flying across the snowy plains to pick off stormtroopers, attempting to trip up the Walkers with a tow cable, and then leaving atmosphere to dance in-between Star Destroyers and TIE fighters to get a clear jump to hyperspace.
Are you familiar with Radiator Springs Racers, the Cars-themed attraction at Anaheim’s California Adventure? It’s a quick ride through the town of Radiator Springs and then a race against another carload of guests, sprinting through the town’s majestic canyons. It’s an absolutely gorgeous attraction, particularly since large swaths of it take place outside with meticulous rockwork as far as the eye can see, including a recreation of the memorable waterfall that Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Sally (Bonnie Hunt) drive by in the first film.
This is what our hypothetical podracing attraction will be like.
Not being set inside of a building – the literal definition of a dark ride – gives the ride a not uncertain breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, as does the fact that guests would be looking at physical sets (replete with audio-animatronic Tusken Raiders taking potshots at you as you race by!) instead of digital screens. That sense of speed would also be real – and our ride really would be fast – as is the gusts of wind through your hair. It’s hard to think of a more energetic sequence from any of the movies to actually live through in the really-real world, and it’s hard to picture a more exhilarating experience to be had at any theme park.
The grand conclusion of the original trilogy, which saw the fall of the Galactic Empire and the destruction of both the Death Star and Emperor Palpatine himself, would make for, arguably, the most epic theme park attraction at any Disney park across the globe.
“Thrill ride” would only begin to cover it. Riders would be part of the space battle raging over the second Death Star, engaging TIEs in combat and helping to disable Star Destroyers before plunging into the very depths of the battle station itself. And just to serve as icing on the Star Wars cake, the vessel that guests board can be none other than the Millennium Falcon itself, with the voices of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Nien Nunb (Mike Quinn) helping to fill the cabin of the ride vehicle. It would be a blast.
But then there’s the other sections of the attraction to fill out. The queue could be situated on the surface of the forest moon of Endor, with General Han Solo’s (Harrison Ford) mix of Rebel soldiers and Ewok “warriors” doing battle against the Imperial ground forces in their attempt to take down the Death Star’s shields. And, afterwards, in a play on Universal’s Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which has riders rock out with Minions in a silly dance party, guests can return to Endor for the Ewok-infused victory celebration, replete with bonfires and musical instruments and a hand-clapping Billy Dee.
Top that, Disney.
Have your own dream attractions for the forthcoming Star Wars Land? Think you can improve on one of our own suggestions? Be sure to geek out in the comments below.