Rumors Abuzz, Disneyland and Star Wars

I’m not sure whether it was my Facebook feed or Twitter feed, but I stumbled across this gem of an article from MiceAge today. It speaks of the newest news rumors abuzz before this weekend’s D23 event all revolving around one high level topic: Disneyland.

As you all may or may not know, I am a huge Disneyland freak. From my early visits when I was a kid, to today where I’m focused on making Xavier (and now Lexan) as big, if not bigger Disney freaks, I sometimes feel like I live and breathe the Happiest Place on Earth. Does that make me a horrible consumerist, bow down to the mouse, Disney-phile of a dad? Hell yes, and I’ll take that any day.

Here’s the thing, I’m a sucker for park updates. Any news on expansion efforts, closures, new restaurants, whatever, I’m all ears. Heck, when it was announced Starbucks would be going into the parks a few years ago, I was eagerly excited by the idea of sipping a white chocolate mocha Americano while waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I haven’t done that yet, but you get my point.

Referencing the article above, published on my birthday of all days, MiceAge discusses the recent buzz around Disneyland expansions focused on some of Disney’s newest acquisitions, Star Wars and Marvel. Ever since Disney CEO Bob Iger made mention of such juicy, albeit minimal, nuggets of anticipated hysteria, I’ve been a little nonchalant about the entire matter. “Call me when you have some real information,” I said to myself as I knew it’d someday come. I don’t think today is the day, but we may have some official word, or at least banter, with this coming weekend’s D23 event. Actually I think it starts tomorrow. I just wanted to give you my few thoughts on MiceAge’s findings.

Star Wars Land

We knew this was coming. Disney has made a name for itself in turning stories, themes and characters into undying brands even today’s generations love. From the Muppets, all the way down to Mickey Mouse himself. You ask Xavier who his favorite Disney character is, it’s Mickey. Mickey Mouse is 86 fucking years old! You want to talk about name recognition and success in the rebranding of something, take a lesson from Mickey. Can Disney do this with Star Wars? I’m 100% confident they can.

As far as a Land though? That is difficult. Right now MiceAge talks about a section of land in the northern area of the park along with some backstage acreage. The logistical side of me says that’s a no brainer. There is room to grow and Toon Town, at least in my books, is a worthy sacrifice for whatever it is that is to come. From a flow perspective though, that’s difficult. One of the best tricks Imagineers have perfected is making lands flow from one theme to another.

Disney Theme Transitions

Think of the transition from Main Street U.S.A. to Adventureland. What once was the Plaza Pavilian, is now Jolly Holliday Bakery and Café. Pulling from architectural themes along Main Street, the café was originally built in a Victorian style. That made it perfect for retrofitting under a Mary Poppins theme a few years back. So what about Adventureland? Adventureland gets its primary look and feel from tropical/Polynesian type buildings, flora and fauna (think Jungle Cruise). Imagineers decided to instill a sense of tropical plantation architecture to help smooth the transition between these two vastly different themes.

Back to Star Wars, a transition between the north side of Fantasyland and the Endor Forest Moon sounds plausible. Think big tree houses along the outskirts of Casey Jr. Railroad and the Fantasyland Theater. This could be a definite transitioning device, but is still a stretch. How then do we incorporate the vast amount of other ‘worlds’ within the SW universe? Speaking of SW universe, is a whole land really worthy of a single franchise?

Franchise Themed Lands

Disneyland has always been pretty universal in their choices of ‘lands.’ Rides and attractions could take on individual characters or movies, but lands were never questioned. Cars Land and before that, a Bugs Land in DCA broke this mold a bit, but that was an entirely different park. To theme a whole land AT Disneyland after one franchise seems almost sacrilegious. I’m not saying it’s impossible or should be impossible, I just don’t want to see my Happiest Place on Earth turn into Universal Studios, Disneyland. Now if the plan was to put this in DCA, that’d be a totally different story. That’s probably why I have no real concerns about the proposed Marvel Land. While I may be a little concerned over this small matter, I really have no alternatives. Tomorrowland could be rethemed to incorporate more Star Wars in it, but then you start to encroach on the main purpose and idea behind Tomorrowland, let alone you’ll need to rethink every single Tomorrowland attraction. You could put the land in DCA, but if you need more space for Marvel, I guess they’d be better tenants of that real estate anyways.

Maybe Toon Town and north Disneyland is the perfect spot for something Star Wars themed. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I just have my own personal opinions.

Disneyland Crowds

With that, I have one final thought on the inevitable Star Wars Land, how much more crowded do they feel the park can get? When you’ve got your COO talking about the “best quarter ever for Disneyland Resort in terms of attendance and profitability,” you have to wonder what that means in terms of crowds, lines and dare I say, yearly price increases for passes? It seems like every year, we hear the story that Disneyland passes are x percentage more expensive. Everyone then heads to social media explaining why they’ll never go there again and that they can’t afford it anymore. Well apparently enough people can still afford it to make it the “best quarter ever”. What will a Star Wars Land do to lines at Space Mountain? How will Fantasyland’s teeny tiny ques make up for even more people? That said, I have one single request should a Star Wars Land be built… make a non-stopping Peter Pan loading and unloading ride system. I bet you could increase ridership by 20-30%, which is a lot when you consider a 60 minute wait for a 2 minute ride. WDW does it, so can you!

Final Thoughts

Star Wars Land is going to be amazing no matter where it’s going. You can be sure I’ll be waiting in line for whatever rides they come up with and eager to try some blue Bantha milk from Mos Eisley Cantina: please make that happen. In the end, whatever the guys over at WDI decide to do, I’m sure it will probably be much more crazy and spectacular than what any of us can conjure up today. Considering the time it took to refurbish New Fantasyland and DCA a few years ago, and knowing Episode IX is scheduled for 2019 – I’d say we may start seeing rolling launches and unveilings around 2020. Is that too eager of an estimate? I think it’s just my new hope.

Until then, we’ve got Pandora to look forward to over at DAK.