It’s a whole new world …
The Star Wars attractions at Disney’s theme parks will be set on a never-before-seen planet, separate from galactic history in the films.
The goal, according to the Disney Imagineers developing the rides, shops, shows, and activities, is a blank slate for guests, something unconstrained by existing stories.
The Star Wars lands at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, are currently being constructed and aren’t scheduled to open until 2019.
But a few new details were revealed at the Star Wars Celebration event in Orlando, where tens of thousands of the Force-faithful came to spend Easter weekend.
Basically, Imagineers are trying to create an original narrative within the parks, featuring the Millennium Falcon, Stormtroopers, droids, and other familiar elements of the universe — just in a new context.
“It would be easy to think we should revisit some of our favorite places. But if we were to go to those places, — Hoth, Tatooine — we know the stories that happened there, we know whose stories they are, and we know we’re not in them,” says Scott Trowbridge, who’s leading the Imagineering team on the projects. “That’s not what we wanted to do.”
The goal is immersion for guests, a chance for them to suspend disbelief and feel like the attractions are active and involving rather than passive, watching a story they’ve already heard play out again.
“We wanted to build new Star Wars stories, new destinations, but this time you can be in them,” Trowbridge told the audience gathered for the theme parks panel. “We want you to discover your own Star Wars story, not just remember somebody else’s.”
There are a number of different eras to choose from, and the parks have settled on the most recent — the universe of The Force Awakens and this December’s sequel, The Last Jedi. That means Darth Vader is a bad memory, the neo-Imperialist First Order is now menacing the galaxy, and the Resistance is fighting for freedom against this oppressive new power.
The name of this “theme park world” wasn’t revealed, but Trowbridge offered a few details that made it sound like the sci-fi version of the Old West — a once bustling city, struggling between civility and lawlessness — that has become someone forgotten within the galaxy. Polite society mingles with the underworld.
“It’s a new planet,” Trowbridge said. “A remote frontier outpost somewhere on the edge of wild space.”
New concept photos feature the Mediterranean-like city with the Millennium Falcon in the background (we already know one of the rides will involve piloting it in battle) and another with a shopping area that looks like a flag-draped alien bazaar.
The keepers of Star Wars lore have been involved in making the theme park worlds consistent (if not canon). Pablo Hidalgo, a member of the Lucasfilm story group, said the team has been devising mythology for the unnamed planet that will make it feel part of the whole.
“I’ve often said the appeal of Star Wars for me, personally, is that Star Wars is a destination,” said Hidalgo. “Every new Star Wars story is like coming back home but finding a new corner of that place you’ve never explored before.”
Eventually, we’ll find out just where this realm is on the map — and what it’s connection may be to the smugglers, Jedi, scavengers, warriors, and creatures of the broader Star Wars universe. “The story team is working to not just figure out where this place is on the galactic map, but what its history has been.”
When they finally open in two years, park visitors will know enough to be able to say: “Chewie… we’re home.”