Disney to Reveal ‘Ambitious’ Theme Park Plans for ‘Star Wars’

Most Anticipated Movies of 2015

The big tease of what Disney has planned for “Star Wars” inside its theme parks continues 11 months before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” flies into theaters.

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.”

See More: ‘Star Wars’ Theme Park Attractions to Be Based on New Films, Not Old (EXCLUSIVE)

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.

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  1. DPrice says:

    Disney should open a farmers market type facility that would specialize in gourmet foods from different countries. They could sell Wines from different continents as well as beer. Have a tapas restaurant inside. Different cheeses, chocolates, gourmet meats.

  2. WPrice says:

    I think a Lord Of the Rings theme park would be really cool.

  3. Gus says:

    Anything less than a full-blown Star Wars theme park is shortsightedness by Disney.

  4. Stefan Dee says:

    I was hoping for a hint what they are exactly planning :(

  5. Jacques Strappe says:

    All the Disney “haters” commenting here apparently don’t own Disney stock. Yes, it shot up to record highs after the release of their quarterly results. Frozen, Marvel films, Star Wars, theme parks, merchandise licensing, ESPN…Disney is a badly run corporation for sure.

  6. CoMiGa says:

    The article fails to mention Star Wars Weekends happening at Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World starting on May 15 to June 14.

  7. cxg says:

    Cannot wait to stand in line for hours and hours to experience mickey mouse’s star wars. *eye roll

  8. If any of you think Walt wouldn’t, and didn’t, “mine” his companies products you’re out of your mind. Walt had a basic premise…if you build something people enjoy, something of quality, the profits will follow. Walt was not some altruistic saint…he was a pretty cut throat businessman, as was his brother, who just so happened to be a creative genius. Iger is not doing anything Walt wouldn’t have done or said…its just that in Walts day there wasn’t a 24/7 media presence and a core of internet addicted,rabid cynical fanboys to critique his every friggin word.

    Trust me…what they come up with will be quality. We didn’t spend 4+ billion dollars on Lucas Films to create things people won’t enjoy or need to see and do again and again, and Igers track record in impeccable in regards to letting the Creatives Create. So put your snark away and see what comes out of Burbank before you start whining about it.

    I swear…some people could find a way complain about a steak and a BJ.

    • Charles says:

      I disagree. Shrewd? Yes. Cut throat? No. It was Walt’s throat that got cut over and over again. Bad experiences with Alice’s Wonderland, the loss of Oswald and employee rabble rousing were all part of building that shrewdness. And that’s a good thing, because otherwise Walt probably would’ve been simply squeezed out of Disney Productions without having the resolve to negotiate the beginnings of WED, which gave us animatronics and eventually Disneyland & Disney World themselves…which led to even more.

      How would Walt react to WDW today? I’m sure he’d have mixed feelings. The best of which would be for nighttime spectaculars like Fantasmic & rides like Soarin’. The worst: Epcot. It’s so little of what he envisioned…not even an acronym anymore.

      Look up the video on YouTube for Walt’s visions for EPCOT if you haven’t seen it. Truly inspiring.

  9. MickeyMad says:

    Based on Iger’s theme park investments over the last 5 years, “significant plans for the franchise” will likely be exciting character meet and greets and new merchandise shops. Perhaps a Star Wars hotel that looks like a Ramada with Disney’s name plastered on the outer wall. He’s not big on building rides, so no-one should get their hopes up. But heck, we’ve got till 2021 before any of these “announcements” will actually be built. So there’s lots of time to lower our expectations.

    • Bob says:

      Iger’s “not big on building rides”? So…Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Mania, Mystic Manor, Grizzly Mountain, the new Ratatouille ride in Paris…none of those count?

  10. SC says:

    How magical – ‘mine the franchise’.

    • MickeyMad says:

      I know. I can just see Walt Disney making the same comment. Coming from the head of what was once the most creative company on the planet, it’s a discouraging statement. Accountants rejoice!

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