Disney Expanding ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Avatar’ Attractions
PHOTO: Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular: fireworks show. (photo courtesy of Disney)
The worlds that fans already love are about to get bigger, better and even more expansive at Walt Disney World.
As part of the park’s constant expansion and re-imagining around attractions, Disney has announced expansions to current offerings around “Star Wars” and “Toy Story” at Hollywood Studios and around “Avatar” at Animal Kingdom. The moves continue ongoing efforts by Disney to create immersive and interactive experiences involving fans’ favorite characters.
At Hollywood Studios, visitors will soon be able to stroll around a 14-acre “Star Wars” neighborhood, set to include rides, food and drink options along with brand new entertainment centered on the “Star Wars” universe they know and love. Disney has doubled down on “Star Wars” attractions since the company acquired the rights to the franchise in 2012. “The Force Awakens” was a blockbuster hit in 2015, and with new movies planned every year for the foreseeable future, demand is sure to remain high for new and inventive Star Wars experiences.
READ MORE: Summer Awakens at Walt Disney World Resort
The new neighborhood will be anchored by a ride featuring the Millennium Falcon, the iconic (yet temperamental) starship once navigated by Han Solo through the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. The announcement drew applause from the crowd at the annual “Awaken Summer” press event, as did the thought of being able to grab a drink at the infamous Cantina in which Han absolutely shot first.
Hollywood Studios already has a number of “Star Wars”-related attractions, including the flight simulator “Star Tours,” which has been a feature of the park since 1987. The ride was recently reimagined to add droid BB-8 from the latest movie as well as a new area through which the simulator travels.
Fans can also meet-and-greet with legendary Wookie hero and big softie Chewbacca. Or, if they’re feeling a little more compelled toward the Dark Side, fans can join the First Order by linking up with Kylo Ren — a character who is just as pensive and aggressively awkward as Adam Driver plays him on the big screen.
Outside, a new stage show “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” is immensely entertaining, and the fireworks show is being reimagined not only around the epic musical score of John Williams but also around a projection light show which may rival any fireworks Disney has yet put together.
For “Toy Story,” a movie franchise that has somehow been around for over 20 years — a fact that drew gasps from the assembled media forced to confront their own advancing age — Hollywood Studios will soon expand its already immersive Pixar neighborhood with a new ride called “Alien Swirling Saucers,” featuring the lovable Pizza Planet aliens (The Claw!) and a family-friendly roller coaster named “Slinky Dog Dash” imagined around Sheriff Woody’s loveable deputy.
Perhaps most exciting for park veterans, the expansion will also add a track to the incredibly fun 4-D “Toy Story Mania,” which will not only shorten lines and wait times for the popular ride but also consolidate “Toy Story” fans in an area which is suddenly perfect for meet and greets with everyone’s favorite characters.
The entire neighborhood will be set up around the theme that guests have been shrunk down to toy size in a backyard play area that Buzz and Woody’s friend Andy set up before leaving for the day. It will be yet another way to make fans feel as if they have been placed inside worlds they already love.
“Avatar” may seem like an odd choice alongside two such well-known and loved franchises. Though the 2009 film was a commercial success and visual masterpiece unlike anything before it, fans may be left wondering why Disney is investing in a world that many younger fans may not know much about. However, director James Cameron recently announced four sequels planned for 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023. With the worldwide success of the first blockbuster film, it makes sense that Disney would be proactive to tap into the universe.
However, timing is not the only good reason Pandora is arriving at Animal Kingdom.
The underlying theme of Animal Kingdom has changed in recent years to not only celebrate animals and their habitats, but nature overall and the concept of conservation. “Avatar” was a powerful voice for how humans interact with nature for an entire generation and the sequels are likely to continue along that track. From that frame of reference, it is almost as if Pandora, with its underlying fantasy and message of responsibility toward nature, was always meant for Animal Kingdom from the first time it hit the big screen.
Like a toddler inside one of Disney’s parks, the company never rests. With new attractions around these three worlds coming to the parks and some of those changes already in place, it’s clearly already time to start planning your next visit.
More by Michael Schottey
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