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Start Wars: Galaxy's Edge was the most ambitious project ever undertaken by Walt Disney Imagineering. The new land created an entirely new planet in the Star Wars universe so that guests could live out there own Star Wars adventure. Various people involved in the project on both the Disney and Lucasfilm sides had previously talked about the fact that creating a known Star Wars location in the parks, had been considered, but now we know that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was very nearly made to be Tatooine, and we know why that plan was changed.
Nearly everything about Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World was different during the initial design phase. Former Walt Disney World VP Dan Cockerell appeared on WDW Radio and discussed the fact that, rather than being part of an expansion to the park, originally, the new Star Wars land was going to take over the part of the park called Echo Lake, meaning the land would have replaced existing attractions like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. In addition, familiar places from Luke Skywalker's home would have been part of the land. According to Cockerell...
So we did it for a couple of years. And we had the Epic Theater, the Indiana Jones theater, that was going to be the heart of the Star Wars land. That was going to go away and we were going plug it right in there. The Mos Eisley Cantina was going to be right across from Star Tours. We had all kinds of great concepts for that.
Certainly, a lot of this design makes some sense. Putting the Star Wars land in Echo Lake allows Star Tours, the existing Star Wars attraction in the park, to connect to the new land, becoming part of it. Now, at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the ride sits by itself and now feels a bit out of place by not being part of Galaxy's Edge.
These ideas were worked on for two years and then, everything took a major turn. Dan Cockerell says that the shift to something entirely new for the land came from Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy following a meeting with Bob Iger. Cockerell goes on...
They said, ‘Well, yesterday Bob Iger met with Kathleen Kennedy’, who as a lot people may know was sort of George Lucas’ protege and headed up Lucasfilm. And they had a conversation. They had a meeting. And Kathleen Kennedy, her point of view was, there are way more Disney Star Wars stories ahead of us than behind us. So we really should think about do we want to build a Tatooine, and build what all the fifty-somethings remember Star Wars is or do we want to build something else which is going to appeal to all the upcoming generations who are going to know the new stories. And that day Tatooine was killed at the Studios. And all of those concepts were put on a shelf and I’m sure they are sitting in a vault, and I’m sure they’re going be shown someday about what that land looked like and what the attractions were going to be.
Dan Cockerell says that these sorts of changes happen a lot with Walt Disney Imagineering, so, while many were frustrated that day with the fact that two years of work had to be redone, they came back into work the next day just as excited to get started on all the new concepts this change would create.
And it's hard to argue with Kathleen Kennedy's logic. Disney has created almost as many Star Wars movies in the few years since buying Lucasfilm as George Lucas made in decades previously. Eventually, the original and prequel trilogies will be but a small part of the larger Star Wars universe, so building a theme park land, that will, one assumes, last for decades, that is dedicated to the oldest part of the franchise, isn't necessarily the best long term plan.
Still, it would be great to see what some of the original plans for the land were. As Dan Cockerell himself says, unused ideas often find their way back into the parks one way or another. While we might not see exactly the concepts from the first two years of the Star Wars land design, we could very well see basic concepts and ride designs used in new ways.