Iger Confirms STAR WARS Disney Rides to be Based on New Films Nov07

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Iger Confirms STAR WARS Disney Rides to be Based on New Films

In remarks given at Variety’s Dealmakers Breakfast earlier today, Disney chief Bob Iger announced that new upcoming STAR WARS attractions in Disney’s theme parks will be based on the new STAR WARS films instead of the existing six films in George Lucas‘ cinematic saga.

While our previous articles and discussions about new STAR WARS attractions — and a possible Star Wars Land to be built in either of Disney’s California or Orlando theme park resorts — contained rumors that new rides would attempt to bridge the design and storytelling gap between Episodes I – VI and the new Sequel Trilogy of films, Iger’s newest comments appear to blast those concepts out of the sky like a targeted TIE fighter.

Iger expanded slightly on Disney Imagineering’s large-scale vision for such new STAR WARS attractions, shows and even lands, per Variety’s story:

“There will be a much larger ‘Star Wars’ presence in our parks globally,” Iger said during a Q&A at Variety‘s Dealmakers Breakfast on Wednesday, sponsored by Delta Air Lines and Bank of America. “But we want to do this big, which takes time, and to do it right.”

Previous plans for new rides, rumored to include an Endor-style speeder bike ride to supplant Autopia and Innoventions at Disneyland in Anaheim, were halted in favor of waiting to see how director J.J. Abrams developed the story and production of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, the seventh episode in the STAR WARS saga set to open in theaters December 2015.

“I didn’t want someone to say, ‘I just saw the movie and there’s nothing in that movie in this (attraction),” Iger said. “We waited to see what this film would have in it.”

Igor also added this intriguing tidbit about his reasons for holding off new ride development, looking even further ahead into the future of STAR WARS films:

“I slowed it all down so what we come forward with will have a blend of the past, present and maybe the future,” referencing upcoming sequels and spinoff films. “Now we have a sense of what’s in ‘Star Wars 8,’ and what some of the standalone films will have in them.”

I suspect many Disney theme park fans will appreciate Iger’s forward-looking strategy for expanding STAR WARS adventures in the parks, even if it means delayed construction and opening of such new rides until their related films open theatrically around the world. At least these new attractions will look and feel contemporary and in sync with the most recent STAR WARS stories instead of harkening back, once again, to films long since out of theaters and in our home Blu-ray collections. This isn’t a knock against the revitalizes Star Tours attraction, which was a welcome upgrade to the classic version of the ride and incorporated the Prequel Trilogy films well along with some stunning 3D film effects. Star Tours: The Adventure Continues has done a great job keeping STAR WARS alive and drawing crowds in Disney theme parks, and effectively spanned the time gap between the end of the Prequels and production on THE FORCE AWAKENS earlier this year. It’s a great ride in its own right and continues to be worthy of multiple visits to soak up all the laser-blasting, Force-wielding fun built into this attraction.

The good news is that, in yet unknown ways, this upcoming new generation of STAR WARS attractions designed and installed under Disney’s new ownership of Lucasfilm and the franchise will mark a new, hopefully bolder and more expansive generation of STAR WARS adventures in Disney parks like we’ve never seen before. This factor likely has a huge impact on the designs, appearance and attraction content of the long rumored Star Wars Land to be built in Anaheim’s Disneyland park or Orlando’s Disney Hollywood Studios (soon to be redubbed Disney’s Hollywood Adventure?).

Were such a Star Wars Land to land in Anaheim, it would almost certainly take over the existing, always theme-challenged Tomorrowland in branding and venue design to reflect a more robust STAR WARS film presence on Disneyland’s park roster of rides. If Star Wars Land arises in Orlando, which almost seems underway unofficially with all the attraction closures surrounding their Star Tours attraction, it would likely expand outward to take over the Indy Jones Stunt Spectacular and more to give a new home to that galaxy far, far away. Typical of Disney’s own park-expanding history, odds are that a new Star Wars Land will get built first in one park and open before an opposite coast version breaks ground. It’s most likely that Orlando would get a Star Wars Land first since preparations already seem underway clearing the slate in DHS, while park managers won’t be disrupting Disneyland for anything major while the park’s 60th Anniversary looms in 2015.

Wherever STAR WARS attractions spring up, cue an additional mound of performance pressure heaped onto J.J. Abrams’ back to make sure THE FORCE AWAKENS is not only a box office hit but a quality story experience sturdy and deep enough to launch this new generation of Force-powered rides:

“I keep telling J.J. Abrams this is a $4 billion movie,” Iger said. “We need to treat this very special. It’s an unbelievable privilege and unbelievable responsibility to take a jewel and treat it in a way that is respectful of its past but brings it into the future.”

 

While it’s certain that many elements of previous STAR WARS films will cross over into Episode VII when it opens next December — the return of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, the droids and the Millennium Falcon just for starters — Abrams’ main mission is to successfully introduce new characters, heroes, villains and worlds into the saga that will assure its blockbusting, fan-gathering power for another decade and beyond. The three new Sequel Trilogy films will eventually come and go from theaters along with the undisclosed standalone films in between their releases, but new rides based on these films will be open for guests every day for years to come in the parks and they need to remain popular with parkgoers for years to come if Disney is to recoup their undoubtedly high cost of designing and installing them. Such rides, attractions and possible lands will ensure that Disney continues to create yet another new generation of STAR WARS devotees among young viewers who will get their first chance to see a new STAR WARS film in a theater next December — then “ride the movies” for years to come.

Let’s hope these new STAR WARS rides are as high quality, imaginative, emotionally engaging and thrilling as the new films can be.