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Disneyland sets closing of attractions to build Star Wars Land

Disneyland sets closing of attractions to build Star Wars Land
An imagining of the new Star Wars Launch Bay coming to Disneyland. (Disney Parks)

The biggest and most anticipated expansion of Disneyland will begin Jan. 10 when the park will permanently close several attractions, including Big Thunder Ranch, to begin construction of a new Star Wars Land.

In addition to the latest details about the expansion, Walt Disney Co. announced that it would overhaul several existing attractions to include new Star Wars characters and scenes, possibly to give guests a peek into what is to come in the new land.

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Besides closing Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, Disneyland will permanently close Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree at the close of business Jan. 10.

Nearby attractions on Rivers of America -- mainly Fantasmic, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes -- will close temporarily, along with the Disneyland Railroad.

The closures are no surprise since Disney Chairman Robert Iger announced last month that the new 14-acre Star Wars Land would replace Big Thunder Ranch and take over several backstage buildings not accessible to the public.

Disneyland purchased two large office buildings and a hotel a few blocks away from the resort to house some of the offices and warehouse facilities that will be removed by the expansion.

Disney also said it would launch new Star Wars features Nov. 16 in Tomorrowland, an area that fans have long complained is in need of a makeover.

Those new features include a Star Wars Launch Bay, where guests can see clips of the upcoming Star Wars movie, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Parkgoers also will be able to see Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader and Chewbacca.

Separately, the existing Star Tours and Space Mountain rides will be upgraded to add new scenes and features inspired by the new Star Wars movie.

Disney has yet to announced dates for the opening of new Star Wars attractions at its Hollywood Studios in Florida.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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