Disney awakened the Force Saturday afternoon in Anaheim with a barrage of Star Wars movie news, but even Harrison Ford’s surprise appearance was eclipsed by confirmation of rumored plans to bring a huge Star Wars-themed land to Disney’s parks.
Not one, but two 14-acre theme park expansions are in the works in Orlando and Anaheim, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced at D23 as concept art of TIE fighters soaring over planetary vistas were projected onscreen behind him.
“We’re going to transport guests to a whole new planet,” he vowed. “The land will be real, authentic, and every encounter will bring new life to the Star Wars experience.”
And yes, there will be a Cantina.
Iger also teased two new flagship attractions: one in which visitors can “take control of the Millennium Falcon on a customized secret mission,” and “an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you right in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
Theme park employees in this galaxy not so far away will be dressed in character from the Star Wars-verse and will interact with guests accordingly, Iger said, hinting at a RPG-style immersive experience. Stores and restaurants will be run by “locals,” and fans will be able to interact with the humanoids, aliens, and droids that inhabit their particular sectors.
Disney also seized the opportunity to remind fans of its upcoming Star Wars Cinematic Universe slate, which begins with J.J. Abrams’s Christmas release Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Abrams, joined by stars Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, and Ford, is still finishing the film, which he and Iger revealed is currently sitting at a 124-minute runtime.
Meanwhile, Disney’s top execs big-upped the Star Wars Anthology stand-alone that LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are directing from a script by Lawrence and John Kasdan—“sort of a Han Solo origin story”—and showered praise upon Episode VIII writer-director Rian Johnson, who is currently scripting the 2017 release.
They also confirmed that Jurassic World helmer Colin Trevorrow will direct the new trilogy-ending Star Wars: Episode IX, which is set for a 2019 release.
After playing the briefest of taped messages by Star Wars: Rogue One helmer Gareth Edwards, who appeared on camera on a nondescript rocky hillside literally between shooting his first and second scenes of the 2016 Anthology stand-alone, the Mouse House dropped a first look at the Felicity Jones-led cast of Rogue One, about a band of resistance fighters who come together to steal plans for the Death Star.