Disney is planning Star Wars-themed parks at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. (Photo: Disney)
When I look back, it probably was repeated childhood viewings of Star Wars that first sparked my interest in travel and seeing lands “far, far away.” So I could barely could barely contain my excitement when Disney announced at this weekend’s D23 EXPO that it is building 14-acre Star Wars mini-parks at both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Yes, Disney already features other Star Wars attractions at its theme marks, not to mention Disney Cruise Lines’ Star Wars Day at Sea. But this announcement is Disney’s boldest foray into the Star Wars universe since it bought the franchise, and other Lucasfilm properties, from George Lucas for $4 billion in 2012.
The plans for Disney’s Star Wars-themed parks look terrific. The new parks will include re-creations of some of Star Wars famous space battles and even allow visitors to take the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission.
We like the concepts Disney’s announced for its Star Wars parks, but we have a few suggestions. (Photo: Disney)
Still, though, if Disney’s going to shell out $4 billion for Star Wars, it should go big. We’re talking Death Star-big. So I came up with a wish list of things I’d like to see in Disney’s new Star Wars-themed parks. Yes, I realize that telling Disney how to build a theme park is as foolhardy as telling Luke Skywalker how to swing a lightsaber. Whatevs — I’m doing it anyway. This is too important a task to leave to chance… and to corporate whiz kids who may not even be Star Wars fans. So, Disney, listen up: heed these suggestions if you want your new theme parks to be as epic as the Star Wars movies, instead of some kind of Mickey Mouse operation:
Princess Leias Everywhere!
The coolest Disney princess ever. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Disney parks are full of actresses dressed as various Disney princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, etc. So as Disney brings Star Wars to life in its theme parks, we should see the Beyoncé of all the Disney Princesses: Princess Leia.
Disney actresses can be decked out in all of Leia’s signature looks: the sidebuns she rocked in A New Hope; her booty-kicking snowbird ensemble in Empire Strikes Back; and her forest-chic camo get-up from Return of the Jedi.
Girls will be lining up to take pictures of this role model of a Princess… and their dads will be lining up to take pictures with bikini-clad Leia from Jedi.
A Mos Eiseley version of “It’s a Small World”
The dangerous cantina from A New Hope is perfect for a new twist on “It’s a Small World.” (Video: You Tube)
Disney already has announced its new Star Wars-themed lands will include an attraction patterned after the Mos Eisley cantina featured in Star Wars: A New Hope. That’s great, but we think they should pattern it after Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride. In this Mos Eisley version, you ride a slow-moving landspeeder through this “retched hive of scum and villainy,” and past different Star Wars aliens and creatures, as you listen to different versions of that killer “Cantina Band” jam from the movie. Best part: unlike the song “It’s a Small World After All,” we can listen to that cantina band song for 15 minutes without wanting to shoot someone under a table Han Solo-style. Speaking of Solo…
Smugglers of the Corellian
When Jack Sparrow met Han Solo: Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford talking captain-to-captain this weekend gave us an idea. (Photo: Getty Images)
Seeing pics of Harrison Ford buddying up with Johnny Depp, who was in full Capt. Jack Sparrow costume, at the D23 Expo gave us another idea for Disney’s upcoming Star Wars attraction: a Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired tribute to Ford’s iconic character, Corellian smuggler Han Solo. Riders will rejoice as their Millennium Falcon-shaped vessel rolls past Imperial-patrolled sectors of the galaxy. They’ll experience the adrenaline rush of dumping cargo while being boarded. And, of course, they’ll make their very own Kessel Run.
Han Solo’s Frozen
Who knew that getting frozen in carbonite could be so much fun? (Photo: Getty Images)
Yes, another Han Solo mashup with another hot Disney property, this attraction will commemorate the moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Solo gets frozen in carbonite. What was a tear-jerker in the movie will be great family fun at Disney; visitors have themselves dunked in “carbonite” (maybe it can be chocolate or something) as animatronic Stormtroopers sing “Freeze Solo” to the tune of “Let It Go.” And as visitors walk out saying, “I love this ride,” Disney workers can respond with a Solo-esque, “I know."
Yes, Disney may balk at having two Han Solo-themed attractions. But we respectfully remind them that you can’t have too much Han Solo; the three Star Wars prequels didn’t have him at all and look how THEY turned out.
The Lake on Naboo
The “Naboo” line made us wince, but the ride will make us scream. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
This is Disney’s chance to have a little fun with the most derided line in Star Wars history: Padmé’s ultra-cheesy plea to Anakin "Darth Vader” Skywalker to “hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo."
Now, The Lake on Naboo can be Disney’s newest water ride. We envision a Star Wars-themed mashup of Disney’s other water attractions — maybe even include a "Naboo River Rapids” or a new version of "Splash Mountain.“ While the mention of Naboo inspired groans in the movies, it can inspire squeals of delight at Disney.
The Haunted Mansion… with Jar Jar Binks
Jar Jar Binks may (or may not) be dead, but his ghost can haunt Disney’s newest “Haunted Mansion.” (Video: Yahoo Movies)
As long as Disney’s owning up to the less-than-loved parts of Star Wars history, they can update Disney World’s classic "Haunted Mansion.” While the original had us screaming in terror at “The Haunted Mansion’s” intricate ghost effects when we saw it back in kindergarten, Disney can have grown men weeping in agony in this new version simply by playing the sound of Jar Jar Binks’ annoying voice. Seriously, George Lucas — what the heck were you thinking?
The Hall of Jedi
Now’s the chance to see Samuel L. Jackson get his Jedi on once again. (Photo: Getty Images)
Disney has “The Hall of Presidents,” which features wax figures of our nation’s commanders-in-chief reciting inspirational words about America. Disney can have a similar attraction, where dearly departed Jedi Masters recite their inspirational words of wisdom and Force-using. We can have a wax Obi-Wan instructing us to “use the Force”; a Yoda telling us to “do or do not; there is not try”; a Qui-Gon reminding us to “trust your instincts”; and a Mace Windu threatening to “strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers” (yes, we know that’s from another Samuel L. Jackson role. But as we said, this is our wish list).
Magic Pods of Anakin
Inspired by Disney’s “Magic Carpets of Aladdin,” this flying ride will give kids the chance to channel young Anakin Skywalker as they pilot their own pods in this re-creation of the race scene in The Phantom Menace. The ride will give proper tribute to the only action sequence from the Star Wars prequels that’s worth watching again.
Disney: you gotta have Ewoks! (Photo: Getty Images)
Disney World’s Epcot Center is nice and all, but Ewok Center is where the money is. If the folks at Disney — which built an empire on cute, cuddly characters — fail to fully exploit these cute, cuddly Star Wars characters in their new parks, they’re guilty of licensee malpractice. By making the furry, cub-like Ewoks, and their forest home of Endor, a part of the Star Wars-themed attractions, Disney has a chance to have a vibrant park-within-a-park-within-a-park.
At Ewok Center, visitors can fly through the trees on speeder-bike rides. And little Ewoks can teach the kids how to sing their catchy Ewok songs (Disney’s talented team of songwriters should have no trouble cranking out an Ewok-language ditty).
Fun for the whole family!
The Galactic Senate Nap Area
Shhh… they’re listening to a debate on intergalactic trade before they hit Magic Mountain. (Photo: iStock)
During an entire day of traipsing through all the exciting, wonderful attractions Disney undoubtedly will bring to its Star Wars-themed parks, people (and their tired, cranky children) are going to need time-out to rest. For these visitors, Disney should build a nap area patterned after the legislative body depicted in the Star Wars prequels. We know from the movies that listening to those blowhards drone on and on about trade is enough to lull even the most restless child and anxious parent into a deep and satisfying nap — from which they’ll emerge ready to tackle the rest of Disney’s Star Wars fun!