Disney chief Bob Iger told Wall Street analysts that there’s “a fair amount of design and development (taking place by the company’s Imagineers) to greatly increase ‘Star Wars” presence in multiple locations around the world,” shortly after the Mouse House announced another strong financial quarter. “The plans are ambitious, so it’s going to take some time for them to be built and opened.”
While Iger said specific plans would be announced “later in 2015,” the executive already had announced “significant” plans for the franchise for which it paid George Lucas $4 billion in 2012. He also has said whatever new attractions are announced, they will be based on future films in the series, as well as its spinoffs. Several Disney parks currently include an updated version of the “Star Tours” attraction.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg Television, Iger said, “Fairly soon, I’m sure we’ll be ready to go public with some specifics. But it’s safe to say that you’ll see a lot more ‘Star Wars’ at Disney and at Disney parks in the near future.”
Disney knows there’s anticipation for all-things “Star Wars.”
A teaser trailer released for J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” has been viewed more than 123 million times since November, Iger said on Tuesday.
And while that film won’t open until Dec. 18, various divisions at the company are likely to try to capitalize on that rabid fan interest.
Disney XD already has launched the animated “Star Wars Rebels” TV show. And an early wave of products is expected to hit store shelves that’s tied to “The Force Awakens.” Just how much it could boost sales for Disney’s consumer products arm is still in question.
“I don’t know if there will be a ramp-up to buying for ‘Star Wars,'” Iger said, with most merchandise tied to a film typically selling around its release. “We’re likely to see some buying in advance of the movie in consumer products.”
Either way, “Star Wars” will join 11 franchises that will generate $1 billion in retail sales this year, as they did last year, Disney said. That includes “Frozen,” which was a major moneymaker during the holidays.
“The consumer products business has a lot of breadth,” said Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo during the same call with analysts. “We’re only beginning to see this year what the overall Marvel franchises are going to deliver (with ‘The Avengers’ sequel and ‘Ant-Man’), and we will add ‘Star Wars’ to that pantheon in a very significant way.”
Disney already has a number of high-profile events happening this year — all prime platforms it could use to announce its ambitious “Star Wars” plans.
First up is “Star Wars Celebration,” which will take place April 16-19 inside the Anaheim Convention Center. There’s May 4, long embraced by the franchise’s fans as “Star Wars” Day. And Disney’s version of Comic-Con, the D23 Expo, is set for Aug. 14-16. It also will take place in Anaheim. Of course, there’s Dec. 18, when “The Force Awakens” bows in theaters, but it’s likely Disney will have announced its park plans for “Star Wars” by then.
There also are a number of theme parks where Disney is preparing to make room for new attractions.
The largest is Shanghai Disneyland, which will have its grand opening in spring 2016. After breaking ground, Disney committed another $800 million to significantly expand the size of that park with new rides and attractions.
Outside of “Star Wars,” Disney already is building an “Avatar”-themed land at its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando. That land is set to open in 2017.
It’s considering how to promote its other franchises inside the resorts.
“There is still a great opportunity to mine these franchises across Disney’s parks,” Iger said.
Disney has enjoyed a considerable uptick in attendance after the introduction of new rides and themed lands designed around its popular film properties. The “Cars”-themed land at California Adventure, which was part of a $1 billion overhaul of that park, has been a major draw since it opened; an expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom had guests lining up for hours to ride the “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train” ride in Orlando last year.