Disney reveals plans for ‘Toy Story Land’ and ‘Avatar’ and more ‘Star Wars’
More “Star Wars” (yes more). More “Toy Story.” Lots of “Avatar.” A little bit of “Iron Man.” That was the take-away from Disney’s discussion of the its parks and resorts at the D23 Expo today.
The big news out of the Anaheim Convention Center came in the morning, when during a discussion of live action film slate Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said that 14-acre “Star Wars"-themed areas would be coming to Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
But that wasn’t the only “Star Wars"-related news for Disneyland. What follows is a run-down of some of the changes and additions planned for Disney parks and resorts around the globe.
Ground isn’t slated to break on the full “Star Wars"-themed area of Disneyland for a bit yet. A Disney spokesperson says construction will begin by the end of 2017. But in the meantime, plenty of “Star Wars” additions will be coming to Disney parks on both shores.
FULL COVERAGE: D23 EXPO
In Anaheim, look for a seasonal event beginning in 2016 in Tomorrowland called “Season of the Force.” A key component of the Season of the Force is a re-imagining of Space Mountain as Hyperspace Mountain, in which “guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle,” according to a Disney release. Space Mountain tends to get a make-over for Halloween, when it becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.
Coming to both coasts is “Star Wars” Launch Bay, an interactive experience dedicated to this winter’s “Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens.” Look for new merch, characters from the new film and behind-the-scenes peeks at the work from J.J. Abrams. At Disneyland, Launch Bay will be located in Tomorrowland, and in Florida Launch Bay will take over the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
There’s more. Also coming this fall to both U.S. parks is another update to “Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.” The ride will include a new experience that features locations and characters from “The Force Awakens.”
No opening date has been set for either Launch bay or the addition to Star Tours.
TOY STORY LAND
Disney Imagineer Kathy Mangum later introduced at the parks panel a new “Toy Story"-inspired land coming to Florida’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The 11-acre area will feature a family coaster inspired by Slinky Dog and a spinning alien saucers attraction. Early concept art of the Slinky Dog coaster seemed to indicate that the ride would be of substantial length and would include numerous characters from the “Toy Story” films.
“It’s going to zip and zoom and plunge and coast on a thrilling toy-filled adventure,” Mangum said.
Mangum cited Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim as the bar for the “level of immersion” that the “Toy Story” land will attempt to convey.
As for the saucer ride, Mangum said that “little green aliens will pull you around for a spin on your own flying saucer.”
The ride will have a light sense of danger. The “claw,” said Mangum, will “loom over you,” a reference to the toy crane that took on ominous overtones in the films.
Disney at the D23 Expo already unveiled a detailed look at the “Avatar"-inspired land coming to Animal Kingdom at Florida’s Walt Disney World.
On Saturday, the Burbank-based company confirmed its name and the attractions it will hold. Pandora -- The World of Avatar will be home to two rides, the thrilling “Avatar” Flight of passage, which will allow guests to pretend that they’re riding an alien banshee character, as well as a more serene boat ride.
“The water-based ride is this very fluid, very romantic, very lyrical journey into the bioluminescent forest, which because of where it is on the planet is in a permanent state of bioluminescence,” Imagineer Joe Rohde said.
Rohde said the land will attempt to convey realism. Guests will witness mountains that appear to be floating, glowing plant life and plenty of greenery, but it won’t necessarily look fantastical. “I don’t just mean realistic detail,” Rohde said, adding that he wants guests to walk away believing that “this thing that happened to you was real, a transformational experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.”
The challenge, Rohde said, will be making sure guests truly believe they are looking at, say, floating mountains. Whereas in a film a glimpse of the world will be fleeting, Rohde noted that guests should be able to stare at the mountains for an hour and continue to believe that they are floating.
“Avatar” director James Cameron guested on stage and joked that Disney Imagineers are “crazier than us.”
“We thought we were the most ambitious guys out there in terms of trying to do fantasy imagery and create an alternative universe,” Cameron said.
Disney didn’t announce any major Marvel additions to U.S. theme parks, but it gave an update on its Iron Man Experience ride at Hong Kong Disneyland, the first Marvel attraction at a Disney theme park.
Looking heavily simulated -- guests appear to enter a fully enclosed vehicle dubbed the Iron Wing -- the ride will take guests on a journey with Tony Stark’s Iron Man around the streets of Hong Kong. The ride is being made in conjunction with Marvel and Industrial Light & Magic, said Imagineer Ted Robledo.
The ride will be situated in Tomorrowland and begin at the Stark Expo and then take guests on a flight around the city. Soon, guests will find themselves in a battle against the villainous Hydra and fighting alongside Iron Man.
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