Kevin Yee returns with a look at the upcoming Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s a fun bit of speculation involved in this discussion and we’d love to hear your thoughts on where everything is going and what you’d like to see at the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has long had a reputation as a park that struggles to find its identity, and for some visitors, it also struggles to be more than a half-day park. That goes double for today’s version of the park, with many acres now behind construction walls.We visitors will have to endure a couple of years of this kind of pain, but then eventually DHS Version 2.0 will be ready for the public. Today’s exploration is the scale and scope of that expansion.
Let’s set the stage by first looking at what’s closed recently: Lights Motors Action, Backlot Tram Tour, Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playset, Streets of America / Osborne Lights, and a series of smaller things (Studio Catering Company, ACME store, High Octane Drinks, Jack Sparrow / Meet Mickey, Meet Monsters Inc, Watto’s Grotto, Herbie’s Drive-In, Premier theater, Meet Lightning/Mater, Joffrey’s Coffee, and Youse Guys Moychindice). The list may seem long, but most of those things were not top-draw attractions. In fact, arguably none of them were “must-do” experiences by the time they closed.
And what’s coming that’s new? Disney has announced a Star Wars land (Disneyland is getting one too), and they have announced Toy Story Land as well. To some extent, we have gotten details about what the attractions will be, but today I’m going to focus less on the attractions and more on the lands themselves–partly because I squint and skip over such details, as I avoid spoilers and indeed don’t watch movie trailers.
Oh, and while we’re pondering the park’s future, we have to mention that there’s also one not-confirmed rumor that nevertheless has many insiders convinced: The Great Movie Ride sponsorship will not be renewed, and the ride will be gutted and replaced with a trackless “Great Mickey Ride” (think Ratatouille or Tokyo’s Pooh)–supposedly while keeping the Chinese Theater facade. Let’s table that one for today and focus just on the new lands coming.
While Disney tells us some details about what the lands will have inside them, they haven’t been very specific about WHERE they will be. At first the suspicion was that Toy Story Land would push out from the existing Pixar Place into the former Backlot Tour area. It makes sense; just continue down the path that’s already created.
But look closer at the concept art.
What are those grayed-out buildings in the bottom-left corner? That’s the existing Toy Story Midway Mania ride. In other words, the new land is going BEHIND Midway Mania, in what was until recently backstage areas and a small portion of the Backlot Tram Tour. Put another way, the new land is going between Midway Mania and the main WDW artery, World Drive. That reddish structure near the middle of this image is presumably the new entrance to Midway Mania, on the backside of today’s attraction. The rumor is that the current Pixar Place will become a walled-off area, a “backstage island” for things like Cast break rooms, and the Guest flow will divert where the Jack Sparrow attraction was, and turn left into the land you see in concept art above.
If all that is correct, then more of the LMA and Backlot Tour area will be given over to something else, not Toy Story Land. At one point early in the expansion plans, the designers were considering DCA’s Carsland and Radiator Springs Racers for this area. That rumor has been dead for a long time, though. Some argued in online forums that you can’t have two slot-car attractions on the same coast, but I’m not sure I buy that reasoning. There are plenty of Omnimovers and bateaux rides on both coasts, for instance.
So if not Cars, is THIS the area where Star Wars is going? I suppose that could be it. It would mean no likely connection between Star Tours and this back area (since the Muppets are the in way, and they are not going anywhere now that they’ve gotten an expanded presence with the pizza place being re-themed to Rizzo). Disneyland will have separated Star Wars areas; the new land is pretty far from Tomorrowland’s Star Tours. So maybe something similar is happening in DHS.
But here we need to pause and talk about parking. Specifically, there was a rumor that a Cast Member parking garage is going to be built across the street from DHS, and the workers will walk over a bridge to get to work. At first the rumor claimed a spot across World Drive, but this is contradicted by construction permits. Maybe across Osceola? There is no hard evidence yet of a cast parking lot coming.
One parking-related bit of news that is actually confirmed by construction permits is that the front entrance to the parking lots is moving. New flyovers and cloverleafs are already under construction near the Osceola/Victory Way intersection (the spot where the ESPN Wide World of Sports sign can be seen).
This means even more land near today’s parking entrance and that road in can be cleared, and if you visit the parking lot today, indeed you see them clearing a ton of land. There’s a canal here which won’t be moved, and the forest lands south of the canal are still zoned for wetlands, so that’s not part of the expansion. But the rest is fair game.
In the image above, the red zone is today’s park. The yellow zone is the new Toy Story Land. And the blue zone is the expansion zone to include Star Wars. Let that sink in for a second, comparing the current (red) and the addition (blue). If all that were developed, that would mean almost doubling the size of the park. Wow!
The purple zone is one of today’s parking lots, currently used exclusively for Cast Members. If that rumor is right that a Cast garage is being built, that means you could maybe use the acreage of this purple zone to add to Star Wars. Indy and Star Tours are very close by, so it would make sense to have the new land wrap around. Then again, parking has always been an issue at this park, and after its renovation it will attract so many visitors they are likely to be strained, so maybe they intend to start using this surface lot for visitors. They can’t build more surface lots in the wooded area by Victory Way, as that is set aside at wetlands.
The green zone in the image above is also marked for construction – could be more surface lots, or maybe a more streamlined way to exit the parking area (it’s a nightmare now when everyone leaves at once). Or maybe even a parking garage for Guests. That would be nice!
Star Wars Land could be massive even without that purple zone. It’s unclear exactly how much of it can wrap around the Muppets to rejoin Star Tours, but I hope they find a way, since the theming would fit so well. Muppets might end up somewhat enclosed by Star Wars on multiple sides.
A photo taken last weekend near the dead-end of today’s Pixar Place shows something unusual: all the buildings in Streets of America, LMA, and Backlot Tour area are gone, razed, erased…. except one.
Why is the courthouse still here? It hardly looks accidental. Everything on all four sides of it was removed, yet this stays intact. It has to be meant to be included in whatever comes here next.
Let’s look closer at the corner of that Toy Story Land artwork. This is a close-up of the art hanging on the construction wall (which shows a different angle of the land than the one distributed by Disney and shown earlier in this article):
As Toy Story Land ends in the concept art, this structure begins. It does look a little like the Star Wars Land photos, in that you’ve got tall stone pillars in both.
But it’s not a very good COLOR match for Star Wars. It does kind of look like a color match for… Radiator Springs Racers. And that courthouse COULD be a fit maybe for the town of Radiator Springs?
Wishful thinking, right? The rumor is dead, dead, dead. We’ve said that earlier. So, maybe the courthouse will be part of Star Wars. Or, maybe there’s yet another land coming here, and the blue expansion zone is meant to be Star Wars plus some other land we don’t know yet. Guardians of the Galaxy? It might make some sense (Disneyland is converting its Tower of Terror to Guardians), but then again, Ellen’s Energy Adventure is rumored to be a home for Guardians at Epcot, so it’s not automatically convincing fit.
Obviously, we don’t have all the puzzle pieces yet. But it’s certainly fun to pick them up and try to fit them together.
This is where you jump in folks. Let the speculation about Star Wars land at DHS begin . . .
Kevin is the prolific author of nearly two dozen books (mostly Disney related). You can find most of them on AMAZON HERE.