Home » 3 Things from Star Wars: Episode VII to Expect in Disney’s Parks Soon

3 Things from Star Wars: Episode VII to Expect in Disney’s Parks Soon

Curious as to what you can expect to see in both Star Wars Land and Star Wars: Episode VII? We’ll give you the rundown on all the rumored happenings of both major developments.

The lowdown

The Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm, the production studio that owns the rights to Star Wars and Indiana Jones (and Willow, in case that’s more your thing), back on October 30, 2012 for $4.1 billion. Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger politely pressed George Lucas for the deal in the full knowledge that anything that would broaden and deepen Disney’s vault of characters and intellectual properties would only make the company stronger in the long run (the same exact rationale behind his earlier acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel Entertainment).

Of course, the release of a whole new slew of Star Wars films – there’s going to be the sequel trilogy, comprised of Episodes VII through IX, as well as “spin-off” installments, making for one new SW movie a year for at least the next five years – was also a major draw, but perhaps an even bigger one was the promise of lining up even more potential encounters with that galaxy far, far away for theme park guests. As Iger and Lucas were sitting down to sign that now-infamous contract, Walt Disney Imagineering was already hard at work envisioning just what Star Wars Land would look like.

But then they were forced to stop, toss their designs, and start all over again.

Star Wars Land, version 1.0

Star Tours The Adventures Continue

Although they were never fully leaked to the public, all who have seen the very first proposals for Star Wars Land have been, to be diplomatic, unanimously unimpressed. Many, in fact, have compared it to WDI’s handling of Harry Potter, which left author J.K. Rowling so cold, she took her business to Universal instead (and Disney ended up expanding its Magic Kingdom with New Fantasyland in place of the Boy Who Lived).

What did Disney’s mini Potter land consist of? Two attractions that were, more or less, clones of other rides, such as Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin being redressed as a wand-shooting Defense against the Dark Arts lesson; a rather “generic” gift shop that they both would empty into; and a quick-service restaurant that more than likely would have been lightly themed as the Leaky Cauldron.

The Star Wars equivalents of these smaller, more timid Harry Potter plans included an indoor, more-fully-fleshed-out, audio-animatronic-equipped Jedi Training Academy (at Hollywood Studios in Orlando) and a Millennium Falcon walk-through, replete with Chewbacca meet-‘n-greet, and speeder bike makeover for the PeopleMover (at Disneyland in Anaheim).

All of this was scrapped, however, when a series of behind-the-scenes delays started to buffet the project. The first interruption came from within the company itself, as all Parks and Resorts resources were rearranged in the mad scramble to try and get Shanghai Disneyland back on track for its Q4 2015 opening (in addition, if you believe the rumors, to Iger’s sudden cold feet over spending on new theme park projects when he realized just how exponentially over-budget Walt Disney World’s NextGen initiative [the parent program of the now-ubiquitous MagicBands] was).

The next halt came, interestingly, from newly-acquired Lucasfilm, as writer-director J.J. Abrams and executive producer (and Lucasfilm head) Kathleen Kennedy issued an edict that no one, not even other internal Disney departments, would be allowed to see the script or any of the pre-production designs from the also-behind-schedule Star Wars: Episode VII (hey – they take secrecy to the ultimate extreme). And since pressure was mounting from the very top of the Disney corporate hierarchy to put the company’s full weight behind marketing the upcoming film – meaning that a fair share of the characters and locations utilized in the parks would have to come from the sequel trilogy – the Imagineers had no recourse but to simply wait once again.

The final nail in the coffin of what can now be called Star Wars Land 1.0 came in the form of Universal Studios Florida’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, which took fidelity to source material and overall immersion to a degree never before thought possible. As Disney executives toured the new land just a few weeks after its July opening, they realized that their only recourse would be to make their SW attractions even more detailed, compelling, and mind-blowing – something which would require a significant amount of effort more than simply retheming older rides and giving pre-existent show buildings a facelift.

What to expect in Episode VII


Before one can stop to speculate just what elements from the upcoming Episode VII, which is due to hit theaters on December 18, 2015, will be making this grander, more expensive appearance at either Hollywood Studios or Disneyland, one must first know just what those elements are.

Official word from Lucasfilm has been scant, at best (but of course), but that, needless to say, hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from restlessly and inexorably churning out what we’re all fairly certain is the basic premise of the film.

Potential basic spoilers follow. If you don’t want to know anything about the upcoming movie, stop reading now.

The still-untitled Star Wars: Episode VII is set roughly 30 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (which, incidentally, will be 32-years-old by the time the sequel premieres). Contrary to the common belief, fueled by 20 years’ worth of (non-canon) novels, comic books, and videogames, that the New Republic would have started up immediately after the Galactica Empire’s defeat at the end of the original trilogy, the heroes of the Rebellion have been endlessly stalled in their quest to reinstate interstellar democracy; some type of threat, more than likely related to the now-extinct Dark Lords of the Sith, has somehow been smothering the inhabitants of the galaxy.

Jedi Master Luke Skywalker has been sent on a quest to unearth and destroy this lurking evil. Because of his self-mandated crusade, it seems very likely that he hasn’t seen Han Solo, Leia Organa, or Chewbacca in the past three decades, making their eventual reunion in the film all the more melodramatic.

At some point in Episode VII’s opening act, Han comes to realize that Luke is in trouble and mounts a rescue operation to overturn every stone in the galaxy and bring the wayward Jedi back home. Such an undertaking, unsurprisingly, reunites him with some familiar faces from the previous three installments, but it also introduces a whole swath of brand-new characters, played by a (literally) new generation of actors, including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Gwendoline Christie (of Game of Thrones fame). Several sources claim that at least a few of these younglings will be the offspring of Han and Leia – or, if you want to get really out there, of Luke and, even, the long-dead Obi-Wan Kenobi, even though both of them are Jedi Knights and, therefore, don’t marry or sire progeny.

(A less reliable – for the time being, at least – report has the movie opening on Luke’s robotic hand drifting through space and [somehow] crash-landing on a desert planet that is more than likely Tatooine yet again. The artificial appendage is discovered by Boyega and Ridley, who ultimately bring it to the beleaguered Han, thereby kicking off the entire sequel trilogy’s chain of events.)

Star Wars Episode VII

By the end of Episode VII, it is this new wave of 19-year-olds that will have fully come to the forefront of the picture, taking over the narrative’s lead from the previous protagonists. This, rumor says, will set the stage for both Episodes VIII and IX, which will predominately revolve around the new characters and will see the likes of Luke, Leia, Han, and, just possibly, Lando Calrissian being rendered into supporting roles (just as the leads of the prequel trilogy – Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine – move to the background in the original films, allowing the fresh faces their moment in the twin suns).

What to expect in Star Wars Land 2.0

Now that we have a rough estimation of what to expect in next year’s big release, we can start to form the most basic of assumptions regarding Disney’s newly recharged and expanded Star Wars Land plans.


Jedi Training Academy.jpg

Although Abrams and the rest of the sequels’ crew have repeatedly gone on record stating that these new installments will hew much more closely to the originals’ reliance on special (read: physical/practical) effects rather than the prequels’ visual (read: digital/optical) effects, audiences should still expect to see action set pieces that have both their scope and sophistication greatly expanded by the current crop of filmmaking technology. Look for Star Wars Land’s attractions, then, to borrow heavily from the greater density – and red-hot buzz! – of Episode VII.

Is this to say that all of the newly reimagined rides will be scooped from the impending sequel trilogy? No, not in the slightest – the previously rumored attractions, such as the Chewie meet-‘n-greet and the indoor Jedi Training Academy, are almost certain to show up in some shape or form. A general rule of thumb, however, should probably be coined right here and now: if a ride has screens, it’ll more than likely draw upon the newer movies; if it’s anything else, the originals’ nostalgia will probably reign supreme.



There are several locations that will be brand-new to the SW mythos that may be more appropriate for a theme park land – assuming, of course, that Disney follows Universal’s Harry Potter lead and devotes one land to one environment – than those already spotted in the first six installments; as conceptually exciting as, say, the snow planet of Hoth (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) or the water world of Kamino (Episode II: Attack of the Clones) are on-screen, their utilitarian and claustrophobic environments leave something to be desired when rendered into actual physical locations (a fate, unfortunately, that also befalls the Death Star [Episode IV: A New Hope and Return of the Jedi]).

And even if Disney doesn’t take the Universal tack and instead sticks with its traditional “mash-up” approach, there is still the incredibly likely possibility that it will attempt to have an equal representation from all three trilogies.



This may actually be where the new installments’ impact is felt the most keenly, particularly given the tsunami of coverage that will descend from all other directions. Although the now-iconic visage of Darth Vader will more than likely be the singularly most dominating component of any marketing, don’t be surprised to see John Boyega be made the face (literally) of the theme park expansions as the Disney media machine that made the likes of Miley Cyrus famous works overtime to do the same to him.

And the odds may be even better that any model of, say, an X-Wing or Star Destroyer for sale on Disney property will be the new Episode VII rendition instead of the classic variation from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Care to have a duel with that Darth Maul look-alike in the park? You’ll have to settle for that Gwendoline Christie toy lightsaber to do it with.

When should we know for certain about just how much Episode VII will have infiltrated Star Wars Land? Iger just recently went on the record stating that Star Wars’s upcoming presence in the parks will be significantly expanded, and that it should be announced sometime soon.

Since the next “Star Wars Celebration” mega-fan event will be held in Anaheim next April, current speculation holds that it will be made the occasion for the full unveiling – it’ll have the right timing and the right location all rolled into one.