Disney World got another one of its Limited Time Magic events correct this past weekend. On the surface of things, much of the celebration of May 4th — the so-called Star Wars day — was crassly commercial and opportunistic. But there was also some clever thinking finally about how to properly do a Limited Time Magic event. And was that a trial balloon I detected for a potential Star Wars land?
So far this year, Disney World has been eager to isolate the minor holidays and build an “event” around each one, usually something pretty small and minor. The celebration for Cinco de Mayo is typical of what Disney usually does: a few characters out for photo opportunities and that’s about it. The stink of it is that these are characters we used to see all the time. A few years ago this would have been Regular Time Magic. Disney has managed to turn what was once a standard offering into something the paying public feels grateful for even when they only get to see it once instead of on a daily basis. The Ministry of Truth has nothing on Disney.
May the Fourth Be With You is a pun on the famous phrase from Star Wars, and of course takes place on May 4. This was no mere addition of two characters for photos. Disney must have known that the event would be highly popular, and they planned accordingly. There were characters, but easily more than a dozen rather than just two. There was a special dance party hosted by another character, and there were special fireworks. But the part they got the most right, I decided by the end, was something I was a little skeptical about when I first heard of the concept.
The Jedi Training Academy is normally just for little kids. The cuteness of the experience stems from the fact that all the little kids are on stage together trying to do something grown up. Over time, I’ve become somewhat immune to the Jedi Training Academy and have regarded it as background noise. But it remains popular with visitors, and it made sense that they would offer a show almost every half-hour on Star Wars day. But the real twist was that this time one adult could accompany every child on stage and perform the experience. This was a neat idea that became neater still when I saw it happening in front of me. It was mostly boys on stage, and the parent they brought along was mostly the father. So what you had was a lot of father-son bonding over the Star Wars mythology, which I found sentimental and fitting until I realized that relationship was also the subject matter of the films, and then it became all but prophetic.
The longer I thought about it, the more fitting this promotion became. It does all sorts of things that one normally associates with the Disney brand, chief among them the chance for parents and children to have fun doing the same thing together. It also allowed adults to live out something of a fantasy that normally is reserved only for children — this really was Limited Time Magic. This led to the question in my mind why they couldn’t do this all the time. Certainly it was popular enough to justify. And it wasn’t hugely expensive from the company perspective.
I think Disney must have received a signal loud and clear that Star Wars is popular. This event was almost like a miniature Star Wars Weekend, but without special guest stars or the parade. Both would’ve been nice, but the event drew crowds even without them, although some of that may have been due to the unusual fireworks display.
It’s a no-brainer that Disney is investigating a Star Wars Land for this park. It’s a fit thematically, and the public already associates Star Wars with this theme park because of Star Wars Weekends. It’s also obvious that Disney would seek to leverage its new Lucasfilm acquisition. It furthermore is logical that Disney would keep its options on the table while the Avatar project chugs along slower and slower. And finally, Disney has new Star Wars movies coming out. It is not a left-field prediction to claim that a Renaissance is coming to the series, and a grand scale theme park land designed around it would finally be Disney’s effective answer to Harry Potter.
Cars Land is coming to the area now home to the Backlot Tour and the LMA theater. Any Star Wars expansion would need to go closer to the side of the park where Star Tours is now. They could take out the Echo Lake area and even the Indiana Jones theater to create some space, but if they wanted to go big they would need to change the park’s boundaries.
It would be a costly undertaking, but they could change the entire road into the parking lot and move it a lot closer to Osceola Drive. Depending on how they did it, this could yield enough space to build a Star Wars Lland 2 or 3 times larger than Cars Land.
That’s a lot of space, especially if they created attractions that used up less real estate than the Radiator Springs racers. What if they built an X-wing simulator? Perhaps it will come as no shock that recently Disney patented a new ride system called Twister. The diagrams look like airplanes, so it’s possible Disney is considering an attraction based on the upcoming Pixar movie Planes. But that would be a pretty big gamble since the movie is not finished yet, so no one knows what reception will be like. Star Wars, on the other hand, is a known quantity. Might we see a Twister simulation at the heart of the Star Wars expansion? Will we finally get to attack the Death Star?
The swarms of people who turned out for a single day Star Wars celebration give testament to the enduring popularity of the series. I think it’s a foregone conclusion Disney will get around to a Star Wars Land. And then the Force will be with it indeed.
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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:
- UltimateOrlando.com – Kevin’s personal blog for daily WDW updates
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