Photo via Disney
Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Orange County Register, a highly respected Southern California newspaper, posted a lengthy analysis
of the newly public permit plans for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that Disney shared with the City of Anaheim. Disney is currently building two nearly identical 14-acre Star Wars lands, one in California at Disneyland and one here in Florida at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each is estimated to cost
well north of a $1 billion. The details that the OC Register shared regarding the new land can be assumed to be accurate for the one here in Florida with a few exceptions, most notably the LARPing-focused Star Wars hotel
that has been announced for Disney World.
The new land is themed to a small town on the planet of Batuu. The new planet is described by Walt Disney Imagineering lead designer Scott Trowbridge
“This remote outpost on the galaxy’s edge was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but its prominence was bypassed by the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe haven for those intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order. While Batuu may be new to us, it is clearly already familiar to many characters from the Star Wars saga as a stepping off point for epic adventures.”
The land will be split into two sections; one for the First Order and one for the Resistance/Rebels. The First Order side is the side closest to the newly renamed Grand Avenue area that many believe
will be used as a holding area for those waiting to enter Galaxy’s Edge. After crossing through a tunnel into the new land guests will encounter the more urban decay style First Order area with a large, possibly multi-level restaurant, in the middle of it. Here in Orlando, that restaurant is perhaps where the hotel guests will eat breakfast before the land opens to day guests. An outdoor stage in the First Order area will likely house small shows similar to the Star Wars ones that have been featured off-and-on the past few years at Hollywood Studios.
The central feature of the First Order area will be a massive trackless ride, currently known as “Battle Escape.” The ride codenamed “Alcatraz” is rumored to be one of the most expensive rides ever conceived by Disney, with most estimates putting its cost at nearly half a billion dollars, or roughly the same price as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Shanghai Disneyland. With a rumored excess of 150 animatronics and confirmed scenes featuring nearly life-size AT-ATs the “Alcatraz” ride is reported to have 18 different scenes in it (for comparison the Spider-Man ride
at Islands of Adventure has 13 scenes with a ride time of between 5 and 7 minutes).
In-between the First Order area and the area controlled by the Resistance is a merchant’s alley where the two sides comingle. The alley will feature massive rockwork, some stretching over 60 feet into the air. One retail outlet will be nearly half the size of a football field. It’s believed that there will be a lightsaber buying experience similar to the wand experience at Universal or the Hatchery found in the gift shop in the newly opened Pandora area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. These rumors gained steam with the new plans with one store simply being labeled ‘Saber.’ A “land speeder garage” on the First Order side of the merchant’s alley will likely house full-size replicas of many of the more familiar vehicles from the films.
Coming out of the merchant’s alley area guests enter into the Rebel side of the land. This more lushly landscaped area will feature the 100-foot wide Millennium Falcon that will be near the entrance of the Millennium Falcon ride where groups of six guests can pilot the Falcon in a simulator experience. Individual guest performance on the ride will affect how various characters in the land interact with them.
The ride will feature multiple pre-shows similar to Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida. The ride is also rumored to have custom endings that be affected in part by how each guest performs during
it. Unlike typical rides where guests see other guests boarding and deboarding here each group of six guests will board what will look like the only simulator capsule.
Also in the Rebel controlled area guests can hang out in a cantina inspired by the Mos Eisley Cantina. Animatronic aliens and droids will perform on a small stage in the bar and will be scattered throughout the space. The OC Register mentions guests can “order a soft drink” at this bar. It’s still unclear if the Disneyland version will serve alcohol in the traditionally dry park, but it’s highly likely that the Hollywood Studios one will have a full alcoholic drink list on top of non-alcoholic favorites like blue milk.
A large berm is currently being constructed between the new Star Wars land and the existing areas of Hollywood Studios. This berm will be covered in tall, lush landscaping that will help block the other areas of the park while giving the Rebel area more depth. A droid mechanic shop sits in the middle of the highly landscaped, forested Rebel area.
Guests at DHS will then exit into the Toy Story Land area which is slated to open within the next half a year. That lower budget land will include a flat spinner ride, a family coaster, a quick service food window, and new bathrooms.
Disney is preparing for a massive influx of guests at DHS when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in late 2019 (roughly three to six months after the Disneyland version opens). The 2021 50th Anniversary celebration will be the biggest celebration ever for a Disney resort and Star Wars will play a crucial role in the marketing around the event. Construction timelines point to Disney wanting to be done with the majority of the construction projects in and around Hollywood Studios by the late 2019 opening for Star Wars, roughly just over a year before the launch of the golden anniversary celebration.
Disney Skyliner | Image via Disney
A new gondola transit system is currently under construction linking the park to nearby hotels. The former Streets of America has been transformed into the modern L.A. inspired Grand Avenue area. A new entrance ramp
directly off of Osceola Parkway is quickly rising with construction seemingly not slowed down by this fall's tropical weather.
But by far the most significant investment that will open between now and when we can finally visit Batuu will be the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
that is replacing The Great Movie Ride. That ride, which like both rides in Galaxy’s Edge, will be well over 5 minutes long and using the cutting edge, never before seen technology relying heavily upon projection mapping. The new Mickey Mouse ride
is believed to have an opening date in early 2019, a few months prior to Star Wars. Disney has been tight-lipped on the new Mickey ride, focusing instead on Toy Story Land which will open before it. Once Toy Story Land
opens this spring, Disney will likely shift their focus to promoting Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
All three areas are expected to open by 2020, just in time for Disney World’s huge 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021.