While previewing its upcoming live-action film slate at the D23 fan expo, Disney dropped the blockbuster news that the company’s vaunted Imagineers were plotting an immersive Star Wars Land to cover 14 acres at both the Orlando and Anaheim outpost. Later on, however, during a separate panel focusing solely on the theme parks, we learned the studio-resort synergy will encompass far more than a cantina and Millennium Falcon simulator. In fact, it stretches beyond Star Wars to the company’s other acquired brands, Marvel and Pixar.
To tide over fans during construction on the Star Wars Land — which will eventually feature stores and eateries based on iconic scenes from the space saga, a population of alien races, and two rides, including the aforementioned Falcon flight — Disney World and Disneyland will be seeing new attractions coinciding with the arrival of The Force Awakens. By the time the film hits theaters in December, the parks will have Star Wars Launch Bay, featuring costumes, props, and behind-the-scenes information from the J.J. Abrams-helmed movie, along with costumed characters from the entire saga.
Additionally, the Star Tours ride will incorporate elements from The Force Awakens beginning in the fall, while the Jedi Training Academy experience geared toward kids will be revamped with characters from the animated TV series Star Wars Rebels.
Beginning in early 2016, the two U.S. parks will roll out Season of the Force, which will bring even more Star Wars-themed content. Space Mountain will be rechristened Hyperspace Mountain and feature an X-wing battle against the Imperial Navy. And Orlando’s Hollywood Studios will feature a weekend fireworks displayed synchronized to John Williams’s film score.
The Marvel presence will also be increasing at Disney parks. Adjacent to the Star Wars Launch Bay will be Super Hero HQ, where fans can hang with Captain America and Thor. Also coming: the self-explanatory Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries. Both debut this year.
Farther afield, Hong Kong Disneyland will open the Iron Man Experience in 2016, featuring a meet-and-greet with the armored Avenger.
Citing the popularity of Cars Land at Anaheim’s California Adventure — and no doubt with a nod to the upcoming Toy Story 4 (didn’t we mention studio synergy?) — Disney is developing Toy Story Land for Hollywood Studios in Florida. The 11-acre site puts visitors in Andy’s backyard, making guests feel like they’re one of the toys.
The development will include a kid-friendly Slinky Dog roller coaster, a flying-saucer ride with the little green aliens, and an expanded Toy Story Mania! target-shooting attraction.
Finally, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando is getting a new section based on Pandora, the forested planet of James Cameron’s Avatar, surprisingly not a film produced by the House of Mouse (it’s a Fox release). The World of Avatar’s star attraction will be called Flight of Passage, a simulator that puts guests on a Banshee to soar over the alien planet — and puts wads of cash in the Disney and Cameron coffers.