Enter Star Wars universe at 2 US theme parks

FLYING HIGH: A fan rides a Star Wars display at the Disney D23 Expo on Aug 14. Upcoming plans, including those for two Star Wars theme parks, were unveiled at the three-day event.


    Aug 17, 2015

    Enter Star Wars universe at 2 US theme parks


    R2-D2 will be rolling into Mickey Mouse's neighbourhood, Disney announced on Saturday, unveiling plans for two huge Star Wars theme parks adjacent to existing United States venues in Florida and California.

    With star Harrison Ford on hand, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said that after Disney's US$4 billion (S$5.6 billion) purchase of Lucasfilm three years ago, "we wanted to bring Star Wars to every corner of our company... Not only on screens but in real life."

    "We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever," Mr Iger said.

    "These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance."

    In addition to that battle experience, visitors will be able to drive "one of the most recognisable ships in the galaxy", the Millennium Falcon, on a secret mission, he said.

    Another new ride features the Cantina, the infamous hub of rogue smugglers and traders in the films.

    The Star Wars parks will be in Orlando, next to Disney Hollywood Studios, and in Anaheim, next to Disneyland.

    Construction will begin at Disneyland in 2017, while a start date for Disney World is not set.

    The 5.6ha sites will have their own staff, and restaurants will be staffed by wild creatures from the space saga.

    "You'll have a chance to run into all the droids and fantastic beasts," Mr Iger added.

    It's the first time the entertainment giant is trying the Star Wars theme at its parks.

    Disney also announced several other park upgrades at its annual D23 Expo. They include a 4.5ha Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    Some details on the fourth film in the Toy Story animated series were also announced. It will focus on a love story between the characters Woody and Bo Peep.

    The three-day D23 expo at the convention centre in Anaheim - home to the original Disneyland Park - has drawn Disney fans and media representatives from around the globe.

    Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said that on the heels of his smashing success with Jurassic World, director Colin Trevorrow would be at the helm for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. It is due out in 2019.

    The cast of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, the next chapter in the wildly popular franchise, drew a massive round of cheering, particularly for Ford, known for playing Han Solo.

    As part of its strategy to squeeze the most out of the Star Wars universe, Disney plans to release one film a year until 2019.

    After Episode VII will come Rogue One, in December next year. It is currently being filmed with Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) directing, and starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker.

    Johnny Depp also wowed the crowd, decked out as his popular Jack Sparrow character from Pirates Of The Caribbean. Its next instalment comes out in 2017, starring Orlando Bloom and Javier Bardem.

    Disney is planning to keep turning animated favourites into live-action blockbusters.

    On the heels of Maleficent and Cinderella, it is the turn of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book to shine with live actors next year. The film was shot using cutting-edge digital technologies and has a star-studded cast.

    Ben Kingsley plays black panther Bagheera, Neel Sethi takes the role of Mowgli and Lupita Nyong'o is cast as wolf Raksha. Star voicings also come from Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Idris Elba.