When Walt Disney acquired Lucasfilm (for a few billion dollars), the film rights and the television properties were just the tip of the iceberg of the number of plans that Disney had for Star Wars, as a brand. The plans are continuing to surface, and to see how this universe will expand, one must look to the Disney theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim. There, attractions for the Marvel movies (like Guardians of the Galaxy) and the Star Wars films (like Star Wars: The Last Jedi) are attracting patrons by the bus load. And considering what we recently learned, the expansion of these endeavors has only just begun.
Last week, CinemaBlend ventured to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando to ride the theme park's Star Tours ride. The ride isn't new (it was added to Disneyland in 1987, with this new one opening in Hollywood Studios in 2011). But footage from Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi is new, having been added for riders in recent weeks. It was on this ride that we learned about a new Star Wars planet: Batuu (read more about it here). And it was during this visit that we learned a lot more about what the Walt Disney Theme Parks offer Star Wars fans... now, and in the future.
What did we see? Well, if you haven't ridden Star Tours before, you are a "tourist" riding on a ship piloted by C-3PO and R2-D2 who gets swept up in the action on an interactive roller coaster. You don't move so much as your chair does, and the images in the screen make it look like you are racing through familiar Star Wars locations and movie scenes.
We rode it twice, and each time, we received communications from Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) sending us to a new battle on the salty planet of Crait. After flying through a spaceship fight, then soaring under and over some towering AT-ATs, we eventually drift to Batuu, where we meet up with the Rebellion. They are fantastic additions to the Star Wars experience at Hollywood Studios.
But it's just the beginning.
While at Hollywood Studios, guests can book a Star Wars Guided Tour, which includes stops at two key locations in the theme park. Star Wars: Path of the Jedi is a 10-minute montage of Star Wars footage that traces the journey of several key characters through the Prequels, the Original Trilogy and the new films (the ones that are part of the Saga). It's a fun refresher course for casual fans, but a little too light for die-hards.
Those fans will want to head, instead, to Star Wars Launch Bay in the park's Animation Courtyard. This larger space is loaded with fantastic exhibits for fans to tour, seeing props and costumes from actual Star Wars movies (on loan from Lucasfilm) and characters with which they can interact and get a photo. Like I did.
These exhibits have been added to Hollywood Studios over the years, and their presence has increased drastically since the acquisition of Lucasfilm. But it's all leading to a MASSIVE theme park area that Disney will add to Hollywood Studios in 2019. Dubbed Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, the new park will bring a huge corner of the Star Wars universe to Florida, promising full immersion in the land that Lucas envisioned several decades ago. It's being built alongside a Toy Story land that will arrive in the park. In time, it's expected that the Star Wars land will be near a Star Wars hotel, though dates on that structure are unknown at the time.
Want to get a good look at these fantastic Star Wars displays? The park will once again host one of its Star Wars Galactic Nights on Saturday, December 16, in conjunction with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Head over here for details, pricing, park hours and more. And make sure that you have reserved your advance ticket to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, because the good showings are going fast.