More details have dripped out about the two Star Wars Lands — one in Anaheim, California, the other in Orlando, Florida — and they seem to confirm that Disney is pulling out all the stops to make the place an immersive parks experience like no other.
First up Wednesday is a new story in Bloomberg on the Disney empire’s attempt to strike back against the hugely successful and creatively impressive Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at Universal Orlando. It contains a brief behind-the-scenes look at Star Wars Land’s development team.
As we’ve come to expect from the skittish and secretive team of Lucasfilm luminaries and Disney Imagineers, there’s nothing in the way of photos and little in the way of fresh details beyond what we heard at Star Wars Celebration on Saturday.
But we do learn a few choice nuggets about its layout. Firstly, you’ll enter Star Wars Land via a door to a tunnel through an embankment, and that you’ll see a range of mountains in the distance. In other words, there’s no outside world view to spoil your imagination. As far as your line of sight is concerned, you’ll be in that galaxy far, far away. (Even Harry Potter world, where you can see other Universal attractions from Hogwarts, doesn’t offer this.)
Exit the tunnel and you enter a souk-like marketplace “filled with stalls where you can buy fragrances and spices and clothes and toys and equipment from all across the galaxy, sometimes from the black market, but don’t ask too many questions,” winks Scott Trowbridge, leader of the Star Wars Land creative team.
Following the marketplace you enter a cantina filled with exotic animatronic aliens. And then comes your first choice in what promises to be a fully interactive experience:
Beyond the bazaar, the attraction will feature a First Order spaceport and an ancient forest compound where members of the Resistance can be found. Trowbridge says visitors will meet some favorite characters, choose between the light or the dark sides, and wait in line for either of two anchor attractions—one of which is a ride that will involve “a very epic battle, everything that makes Star WarsStar Wars.”
Does that light side-dark side choice simply involve the act of visiting the First Order spaceport or the Resistance compound? Or is there some other factor at work here? The Star Wars Land team has said that your choices will have consequences and will follow you around. Perhaps that will happen via the NFC wristbands that Disney has introduced to its parks for contactless payments.
For the more well-heeled intergalactic traveler, there are other plans afoot. Reports began to circulate Tuesday that Disney is asking its guests, via third-party online questionnaire, whether they’d pony up $1,000 to stay in a Star Wars resort that effectively simulated a starship.
First revealed by the blog Walt Disney World News Today, the survey shows off concept art and wants to know if you would
hand over an arm and a leg pay $900 or more for a 2-night Star Wars role-playing experience.
The resort would feature “Story-driven entertainment that unfolds over the course of your stay, including live character chance encounters, and the opportunity to watch or engage in … personalized secret missions, flight training, starship exploration, and lightsaber training.”
The amenities sound incredible: robot butlers and guest cabins with screens designed to look like you’re staying on an alien planet. Everyone would have the same set check in and check out time, so that the story can unfold the way it might on a murder mystery weekend.
Indeed, it sounds like there’s only one thing in all this that could ruin the illusion that you’re actually in a Star Wars movie: the guests themselves. Flip flops, T-shirts, crying babies and constant smartphone usage are hardly redolent of the Skywalker saga.
But if Disney can persuade its guests to change into special Star Wars-y robes as part of the experience, and maybe take photos for them so they can leave the phones behind, we’re into it.
We’ll find out when the Star Wars Lands open for business sometime in 2019.