Poster for Star Wars Resort at Disney World Released

Earlier today, the Disney Parks Blog released the poster for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel. Unsurprisingly, it looks pretty amazing:

Star Wars: Galatic Starcruiser Poster

The blog post also included a few details about the poster that preview some stuff about the experience, including:

  • There are four people at the center of the poster – a youngling wearing Jedi robes and wielding a lightsaber, an adult dressed in the uniform of a First Order officer, a Twi’lek adult, and another youngling who appears to be holding a piece of technology of some sort. These figures are meant to represent you, the travelers, because Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is about your choices and how you live your personal Star Wars stories
  • In front of those central figures is an R-series astromech droid – but one that seems to have a few extra bells and whistles. Hmm … I bet there’s a story there, too.

But the one I am most excited about is:

The image in the lower right is something I’m incredibly excited for – lightsaber training! That’s right, as part of your experience, you’ll face off with a training remote similar to how Luke Skywalker once did and learn the lightsaber’s ancient ways.

I imagine this will involve the new lightsabers Disney previewed earlier this year.

I cannot wait for this place to open.

The Mandalorian Returns this Friday, October 30

One of my favorite tv shows of the last year, The Mandalorian, returns to Disney+ this Friday. As a lead up to the show, I have re-watched Season 1 (it is at least my fourth re-watch, and it is still great), but I have not completed my rewatch of Star Wars Rebels. Why Rebels you ask? Because of the Darksaber. (See also, Wookiepedia.) I am really interested in seeing how they tie The Mandalorian in with Dave Filoni’s animated shows. There are already the strong (confirmed?) rumors that Rosario Dawson will be playing Ahsoka Tano and that Katee Sackhoff will be playing Bo-Katan (along with the reports that Timothy Olyphant will be “wearing Boba Fett’s armor” and Temuera Morrison will be playing Boba Fett), so how about we get an appearance from my favorite Rebels character, Sabine Wren. (And, no, I do not think Sasha Banks is Sabine.)

I guess we can all see what happens starting this Friday (October 30) and every Friday through December 18th.

Sabine with Darksaber
Sabine with Darksaber

Rosario Dawson has been Cast as Ahsoka Tano in the Mandalorian

Update: I am taking the “developing” tag of this because Variety has not confirmed it.

Original post:

This would be amazing news if true.

https://www.slashfilm.com/rosario-dawson-ahsoka-mandalorian/

Additional thoughts:

This is such great news. I was watching the newest episode of Clone Wars this morning and seeing Ahsoka back on the screen felt so great. It brought a smile to my face in these troubling times.

I know some people think it it’s a “slap in the face” to Ashley Eckstein, but I hope she doesn’t see it that way. I also hope that there was some discussion with Ashley about who she thought would be good for the role. Related to that, Rosario has been campaigning to play the live action Ahsoka for years:

I think she’s going to be great.

Disney Releases Star Wars Narrative Timeline in Advance of Clone Wars Season 7

With Clone Wars Season 7 set to release this Friday (February 21, 2020), Disney has released the following timeline graphic to show where Clone Wars fits into the Star Wars storyline:

Star Wars Narrative Timeline - Copyright Disney

As you can see from the timeline (and what you would probably expect from the title), Clone Wars falls between Episode 2, Attack of the Clones and Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.

I’m really excited to see what they do with Season 7, especially because Season 6 was kind of a monkey’s paw revival of the series that lacked my favorite character.

If, for some reason, you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is:

Save the Date! – Galaxy’s Edge (Phase 1) to open at Disney World on August 29, 2019

They did. I didn’t believe they would, but Disney made announcement about Galaxy’s Edge opening date at Disney World, AND IT’S OPENING ON AUGUT 29, 2019 !?!?! The “catch” with the opening is that the Millennium Falcon attraction (known as “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”) will be running at that time, but that the Rise of the Resitence attraction will not open until “later this year”.

Part of why I didn’t think Disney would open Galaxy’s Edge as early as October, was I didn’t think that the attractions would be ready in that time frame. In hind sight, the phased opening approach Disney is doing makes total sense, as it addresses the issue of attraction completion, while also letting people experience (and test for Disney) the new immersive land prior to the holiday season. Disney will be able to track and tweak the immersion aspects of the land and (to a lesser degree) the crowd flow, without having to also support (what people have been saying) is one of Disney’s most ambitious attractions ever created. Again, once I read the announcement, it made total sense that Disney would do things this way.

Disney has also made the decision to not offer Fastpass+ for the Galaxy’s Edge attractions (even Rise of the Resistance when it initially opens.) Again, in hindsight, this makes some sense. Instead of rewarding people who are able to quickly make a time selection 60 days out, it will reward people who are willing to make the time investment to enter the land (either in early arrival or waiting in the queue). This also alleviates the need to manage the crowd in a way that accounts for Fastpass+ reservations on the attractions (e.g., someone who has a 2:00pm Fastpass+ reservation would need to be able to end the land with enough time to make it to the attraction, possibly requiring them to skip the overall entrance queue to the land). Universal handles that kind of “entry” queueing on busy days by giving people a reservation time to return and enter Harry Potter-land (i.e., a Fastpass for entry to the whole land). I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney uses the initial opening phase of Galaxy’s Edge to determine if the better approach for Fastpass+ is actually a Fastpass+ for entrance to Galaxy’s Edge instead of Fastpass+ for one of the attractions. (And, of course, I am sure there will be plenty of hard-ticket / add-on options available for people who are willing to pay to experience Galaxy’s Edge without as much waiting.)

Overall, I’m glad to see Disney in a place where they can open Galaxy’s Edge as early as they are, and I hope this extra time can be used to make sure Galaxy’s Edge is running smoothly by the holidays. Regardless, it should be pretty interesting to watch.

We're so ready for Galaxy's Edge
We’re so ready for Galaxy’s Edge

Rumors of an Earlier (Than Originally Anticipated) Galaxy’s Edge Opening

From the earliest Galaxy’s Edge announcement of a “late Fall” opening at Disney World, everyone seemed to assume that the actually opening date would be in late December 2019. Then, about a month or two ago, Disney changed the opening date to “Fall” of 2019. Still, I think most people still assumed this meant November.

Things really started to change last week, however, when Robert Niles at *Theme Park Insider” predicted an October 1, 2019 opening for Galaxy’s Edge . At the time, I thought it was a bold prediction, but I didn’t put much stock into it. Yesterdat, WDW News Today joined the chorus predicting an earlier than originally anticipated opening date of “September / October” and claims the official opening date might be announced at Disney’s shareholder’s meeting on Thursday, March 7.

Personally, I still think September seems too early for an actual opening, but maybe late October is workable. Of course, hurricane season is still months away from hitting Florida and that always has potential to cause some constructions delays. I guess we’ll know more (maybe?) on Thursday.

Construction foreman at Galaxy's Edge are not to be messed with.
Construction foreman at Galaxy’s Edge are not to be messed with.

Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge – The First Tours

There’s a ton of Galaxy’s Edge news out today, but I want to focus on this article from Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch that is one of the most comprehensive pieces I have seen. On some level, it’s the type of analysis that I would think friend of the site Wes would give if he was given access to land while it’s under construction (and, honestly, that’s about the highest compliment I can give.)

If just the concept of Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t get you excited, maybe this information will:

At risk of being too susceptible to marketing speak, I’d have to agree with this particular statement. What is being built here has little parallel in terms of immersion and ambition in an amusement park or out. And it’s going to blow Star Wars fans, casual and involved, away.

Though all of Panzarino’s article is worth a read, here are some standout parts for me. First, why Disney elected to set the land on a “new” planet:

“Why not make a place that is very familiar from the classic Star Wars films, a Tatooine, a Hoth, or one of those places? The answer really is we know those places, we know those stories that happen there, and we know that we’re not in them,” said [Disney Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Scott] Trowbridge. “This place, Black Spire Outpost, is an opportunity. It’s designed from the very get‑go to be a place that invites exploration and discovery, a place that invites us to become a character in the world of Star Wars, and, to the extent that we want to, to participate in the stories of Star Wars.”

“I want to walk into this land and be in the same level as everyone else, from the really hardcore Star Wars fan to someone who knows nothing about Star Wars,” Managing Story Editor at WDI Margaret Kerrison recalls saying in the first pitch meeting she attended for Star Wars land. “I want to have that urgency to explore, to discover, to run around every corner, and to meet every single droid and alien in this land. I want to not feel like I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t know all the nitty‑gritty details as a hardcore Star Wars fan would know.”

Next, is the explanation of how involved people from all part of Disney and LucasFilm were in creating the land:

People from props, set dressing, construction, merchandising, food, ride systems and technical departments all worked together from ideation onwards. On a normal production, they are typically brought in at various phases — but for Batuu, everyone had to be on the same page from the very beginning

and how the land will work to feel alive while you’re there:

“Our world, where guests are this close to something, it’s got to be that next level. A good example of that is, droids move through our land. That’s part of the story that we’re trying to tell. We got access to one of the original Kenny Baker, New Hope, 1976‑1977 era droids. We took rubbings of the bottom of the droid feet. We turned that into a set of three files, which then, we turned into a set of 3D wheels. We built a little droid trolley, which Kirstin [Makela, Art Director] and team used.”

“I’ll set the scene for you,” says Makela. “You’re on a busy construction site, there’s lots of people around. There’s some people pouring hardscape concrete, all dirty and all their tools and their stamping. Then all of a sudden, one of them just jumps on this little trolley and someone else pulls them through the concrete, leaves a little trail of droid tracks.”

On that front, I can’t even fathom this description of the animatronic Hondo Ohnaka:

The animatronic figure itself is around 7 feet tall and uses the latest in electric motors instead of hydraulics. Hondo’s figure includes around 50 functions (movement points) total and is the second most complicated animatronic in Disney parks. The most complicated, for the record, is the Na’vi Shaman … which has 40 functions in its face alone, not to mention the rest of the body. We had the Shaman at our robotics event a couple of years ago, it’s incredible to watch. Hondo isn’t far behind, with fluid movements, smooth facial contortions and believable interactions between himself and his R5 droid.

(Though the biggest selling point will obviously be the Nien Nunb animatronic.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a theme park without stellar attractions. Based on Panzarino’s description, Disney seems well aware of that as well. I only skimmed over the description of the Rise of the Resistance ride to avoid “ride through” style spoilers, but I had to read the description of the Falcon:

Approaching the Falcon from one of the entrances to Batuu for the first time is a surreal experience. This is a full-size 110-foot version of the ship as you’ve seen it in the movies. It’s meticulously detailed and acts as a center-piece for the area. The ship will periodically vent out gas and Hondo’s tinkerers are constantly working on its engines. It’s a living thing inside the land, a character.

Entering the cockpit was an out-of-body situation for me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s wild how right it feels. The six seats all feature belts and the familiar weathered look. More importantly, each of them has a wide array of buttons either to the side or in front of them if you’re one of the pilots. Every square or rectangular button has a light up ring around it which will indicate which of them you need to press for the best result during your moments to act during the ride. The toggles have small LED indicators built into one end that do the same indicating job. I am happy to report that the large, satisfyingly chunky toggle switches and satisfyingly clicks buttons have been very well chosen and require enough force to push without stress but with satisfaction. They’re the right switches.

I cannot be more ready to give that a shot.

Overall, Panzarino’s observation that–in hindsight–Pandora seems like it was a test run for Galaxy’s Edge is something that I have felt since we started hearing about the immersive aspects that are now currently found in the Valley of Mo’ara. If Disney can accomplish that level of immersion in a universe that people have a much stronger connection to, than Galaxy’s Edge is going to be really, really special.

Maybe I missed the reference to this particular character

Disney Parks Related Thoughts from Disney’s Latest Earnings Call

NOTE: You can view the transcript from a number of places online, but this is the one I used: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4238411-walt-disney-company-dis-ceo-robert-iger-q1-2019-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single. Also, the quotes below are from Bob Iger.

The first quote will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following Disney Parks, Disney has tried to get more money from each of their guests (and, apparently, it has):

Growth in operating income at our domestic parks business was driven by higher guest spending at the park and higher occupied room nights at the hotels. Attendance at our domestic parks was comparable to the first quarter last year. However, per capita spending was up 7% on higher admissions, food and beverage and merchandise spending. Per room spending at our domestic hotels was up 5%, and occupancy was up 3 percentage points to 94%.

Again, no surprise to anyone that follows this stuff.

This next quote talks about how Disney feels that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is, essentially, going to market itself:

And I would say, by the way, on the marketing expense side, don’t expect much. I’m thinking that maybe I should just tweet, “It’s opening,” and that will be enough. I think we’re going to end up with incredibly popular and in-demand product with these two new lands.

They’re large. They’re beautiful, and they’re extremely innovative. And they obviously leverage the popularity of the Star Wars brand. And I think that we’re going to have absolutely no problem gaining attention for them or to them, and it’s not going to take much marketing to do that. That’s a signal that I just sent to our parks and resorts people to keep that budget really low.

Iger says that now, but I can’t imagine we’re not going to see a decent amount of advertising as the opening of the land gets closer. Maybe not for the holiday season (which would be popular anyway), but leading into 2020 and the “slower” periods of January and February.

This next quote combines pricing with everyone’s (no one’s?) favorite topic: IP in the theme parks. For better or worse, Disney seems to be saying that part of the reason for the increased popularity in the parks is the additional IP that Disney has been adding to them. Relatedly, Disney is using this increased popularity to raise prices:

Steve, on the first part, we’ve been witnessing, over the last few years, a substantial increase in the popularity of our parks. A lot of that has to do with how well they’ve managed and the kind of investments that we’ve made not just operationally but in expansion and the use of IP that’s extremely popular.

In doing so, what we’re also trying to do is to use that popularity to manage guest experience a little bit better in the sense that – and we know that crowding can be an issue, and that when our parks are the most crowded, the guest experience is not what we would like it to be.

And so we’re leveraging the popularity to obviously increase pricing and to spread demand, to get much more strategic about how we’re pricing. So the parks are still accessible, but in the highest peak periods, we’re trying basically to manage the attendance so that the guest experience isn’t diminished by the popularity.

And I think, because of the nature of the investments we’re making, we’ve been fairly vocal and transparent about those investments, the two big Star Wars, Toy Story Land that just opened up in Florida, the work that’s going on in Hong Kong and in Paris and Shanghai and in Tokyo and all the great expansion and IP that we’re putting in. That popularity is going to continue, and with that’s going to come the, I guess, enviable task of balancing that popularity with guest experience and price elasticity.>

Again, for better or worse, new attractions at Disney parks are going to based on popular IP while the current crew is running things. That seems pretty clear.

As to using pricing to “manage attendance”, I think the unique nature of Disney parks, specifically destination parks like Disney World, undercuts that argument. As I’ve said (and heard others say) since Disney went to seasonal / surge pricing, some people can only take vacations during “peak” Disney times. For those people, the pricing isn’t a discouragement, it’s just an increased cost for their trip that they have no choice but to pay. People with the flexibility to travel when they want were alredady factoring in the crowd levels when making their travel decisions, but people who are constrained in their travel choices by their kids’ school or their jobs may not have those options. Though I doubt Disney would ever admit it, I bet the increased pricing over peak periods has done nothing to crowd levels, but has simply increased Disney’s profits for those periods. That’s “fine” if that’s Disney’s goal, but to say the goal is to “managed attendance” seems disingenuous.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I added in the two sentences above that are in italics to help clarify my original point, namely: some people are constrained by their life circumstances into when they can travel, and, frequently, those constraints force people to travel in Disney’s “peak” periods. For those people, they are forced into paying the extra cost of a trip, without any real option to travel at a “less expensive” time.

This last quote comes from earlier in the call, but ties the theme parks into Disney’s upcoming streaming service:

As I mentioned earlier in my prepared remarks, we have an event on April 11 when we’re not only going to demonstrate the app, but we’re going to talk in great detail about our strategy, the impact of our current businesses and the impact on our bottom line. And so I think we’ll answer a lot of the questions then.

But what we’re basically trying to do here is invest in our future. And the investments that we’re making in both the technology side and in creating incremental content are all designed so that long-term this business will become an important part of Disney’s bottom line and long-term strategy So I think you have to look at this.

It’s almost the equivalent of deploying capital to build out our theme parks when we could have deployed the capital in a variety of other directions. This is a bet on the future of this business. And we are deploying our capital basically so that long term, the growth of this company is stronger than it would have been without these investments.

It seems like Iger is saying that the build out on theme parks was a bet on the future (which seems to have paid off so far) and the build out on the streaming service will be much the same. Personally, I’m interested to see what the whole Disney+ experience will be like, especially initially when Disney still has content deals keeping some of its in-house content on other services. Of course, if Disney’s original content is ready then the service might really hit the ground running.

With all that money, can we get a night time parade back?With all that money, can we get a night time parade back?

A Price Increase and D23 Expo Japan – A News Nuggets Special Edition

This weekend was a big weekend for Disney World news, since Disney decided to drop its latest prices increase on the same day as its parks presentation at D23 in Japan.

Starting first with the price increase, Disney has increased prices by around $4 a day (depending on the type and length of ticket you are buying). This is generally in line with previous price increases, and probably doesn’t change many people’s calculatioons as to whether or not they will actually visit Disney World, but—that said—having to spend an extra $100 in tickets for a 5-day trip for a family of four is not insubstantial. What could really impact people’s travel behavior, though, is if the rumors of seasonal pricing for multii-day tickets come true.

As an added note, Disney also increased the price of parking $2 to $22 per day (and $5 to $45 a day for preferred parking), and increased the price of its Minnie Van Service to $25 per ride.

On a more “positive” note, Disney made a number of Disney World related announcements at its D23 Expo Japan. These include that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway railway will open next year (2019) and that the Guardians of the Galaxy Roller Coaster will be one of the world’s longest enclosed coasters. Most interesting to me, though, were the announcements about the new Star Wars hotel that will be “seamlessly connected” Galaxy’s Edge at the Studios. Here is Disney’s blurb:

This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy.

At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience.

I know I’m biased, but it sounds pretty awesome (even if there aren’t a lot of details in that blurb).

Well, that covers a big weekend of Disney World related news. I hope you enjoyed this extra helping of News Nuggets!

Rendering of the Star Wars Hotel - Copyright Disney

Talking about The Last Jedi with the Mighty Men of Mouse Gang

This week, Elyssa and I were fortunate enough to be invited onto the Mighty Men of Mouse Podcast to discuss The Last Jedi. As you probably know (if your follow our Twitter streams), Elyssa and I are huge fans of the movie, but Mighty Men of Mouse host Dutch Lombrowski has more mixed feelings. Known defender of the Star Wars prequels, Matt S was a wild card going in (so I’ll let you listen to see how that plays out.)

As always, it was fantastic being on MMoM and I hope everyone enjoys listening!

Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi
Us with a Secondary Character from Last Jedi

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

If we’re doing our non-comeback, comeback, we have got to post a new edition of News Nuggets. As I mentioned before, there’s a an “in progress” set of News Nuggets that will be lost to the Patreon-only support realm forever (posting news from early September doesn’t seem particularly helpful now.) That means, these News Nugget are much more cutting edge, including: Dates from next year’s Flower and Garden Festival (scheduled to run Feb. 28 – May 28)..

I kid (mostly), the biggest news relates to some of the upcoming changes to The Studios, including learning that Galaxy Edge is located on the planet Batuu and bunch of news / rumors concerning Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, including:

It’s about that time of year...

That said, there were still plently of other News Nuggets over the past few day, so let’s get to it:

That’s it for this helping of News Nuggets. It feels good to be back. Let’s end this with a little transformation into Christmas from the folks at Inside the Magic:

A Big Day for Star Wars and Disney Media

Yesterday was Disney’s quarterly earnings call. From a financials perspective, it wasn’t the greatest result. From a Disney media fan (especially a Star Wars fan) perspective, however, it was pretty interesting.

The biggest news out of the event is that director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, will be writing and directing a whole new, Skywalker-less, Star Wars Trilogy. This is great on a number of levels. We’ll be getting more Star Wars (which, of course, is awesome), but, as friend of the site and Mighty Men of Mouse podcast host Dutch Lombrowski pointed out: Disney must think Last Jedi is good. In fact, Disney said as much in the press release:

As writer-director of The Last Jedi, Johnson conceived and realized a powerful film of which Lucasfilm and Disney are immensely proud. In shepherding this new trilogy, which is separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.

Disney’s “never before explored” comment seems to suggest this won’t be a “Knight of the Old Republic” based trilogy (though that would be awesome), so I guess we’ll have some time to speculate on what will be coming from Johnson and Disney in the future.

In other Disney media news, Disney announced that it’s new streaming service will be priced “significantly lower than Netflix. With Netflix running about $11 a month (depending on your plan), there’s not a lot of room to make things “signifantly” lower. ($7?). To add to buzz around the new streaming service, Disney also announced that a live action Star Wars show would be coming to the service as well as a new Marvel show. (The existing Marvel shows on Netflix will be staying put on Netflix for the time being.) A streaming service with a robust Disney catalogue, including Star Wars and Marvel shows that are only available on that service, but help drive people to add Disney’s streaming service to the ever growing mix of streaming options. (Let’s ignore “ESPN Plus” for now.)

Those are the highlights from a big day in Disney media. Now, let’s just continue the countdown to Last Jedi. (34 days as I write this…)

In case Rian is looking for any ideas for his new Star Wars Trilogy...

(NOTE: The above image was Elyssa’s and my wedding “save the date” card, done by fantastic Robert Wilson IV.)

Walt Disney World News From D23 – A Recap

As readers of this site probably know, this past weekend was the 2017 D23 Expo out in California. Though, as a Disney fan, I was interested in a lot of the goings on from the weekend, I was most interested in seeing what Disney was going to announce related to Disney World.

Here’s what happened:

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Information about Star Wars Land starting coming out early at D23 when Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek unveiled a detailed model of the Disneyland version of the new land. TouringPlans has some more detailed pictures of the Star Wars Land model, as does WDW News Today, and Disney has posted a video “fly through” of the model:

The name of the new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, was actually discovered in Disney webpage source code a day before it’s official announcement during Saturday’s Disney Parks & Resorts panel. As part of that announcement, Disney gave more details on the two two attractions that will be part of the new land:

One attraction will make you feel like you’re on a Star Destroyer inside a hangar bay. It’s an attraction built on a scale we’ve never done before.

Here is a link to WDW News Today’s look at the ride vehicle for that attraction that is supposed to bring you in a close confrontation with the First Order.

First Order Attraction Concept Art - © Disney
First Order Attraction Concept Art – © Disney

Disney describes the second attraction as

giv[ing] guests the opportunity to fly the Millenium Falcon, piloting the ship, shooting blasters or preparing for hyperspace – all while completing a critical mission. But how you perform on the mission holds even bigger stakes: perform with skill and you may earn extra galactic credits, while bringing the ship back banged up could put you on the list of a bounty hunter. End up on Harkos’s list and you may face a problem if you show up at the local cantina!

Millennium Falcon Attraction Concept art - © Disney
Millennium Falcon Attraction Concept art – © Disney

Chapek also announced that Galaxy’s Edge will feature appearances from popular characters Chewbacca, BB-8, and everyone’s favorite Star Tours pilot, Rex (who will have a new role as the dj in the cantina.)

Overall, the presentation hinted on the new “reputation” features of the land that were previously announced (i.e., your flight on the Millawnium…err…Millenium Falcon having consequences), but did not give details as to how that will be implemented. Thanfully, Inside the Magic has a fantastic interview with Imagineer Scott Trowbridge that gives strong hints as to how that system will work:

“If you do a great job flying the Millennium Falcon, you might find a few more Galactic Credits coming your way. But if you bang the ship up and bring it back all damaged […] when you roll across the street to the local cantina, you might hear from someone in the cantina that there’s even a bounty on your head because you owe more money than you have.

That’s just one quote from the interview, and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in Star Wars Land, to head over to Inside the Magic and read the whole thing.

After discussing the land, Chapek confirmed earlier reports that both coasts will get their respective Star Wars lands in the first half of 2019, with the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge opening before the Disney World version (which isn’t surprising based on the reports of the construction progress in both lands.) That said, with Star Wars: Episode IX scheduled to open on May 24, 2019, I would imagine Disney will try to get Galaxy’s Edge open in time to capitalize on the film’s advertising, etc… (and, coincidentially, a few weeks before Bob Iger’s contract expires on July 2, 2019.)

In more Star Wars news, the rumored, immersive, Star Wars Hotel was also officially announced. Chapek described the new hotel as:

“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

If I heard things correctly, he also said that every room will have a window looking out into space. If the “virtual space” windows are half as good as everyone says the “virtual portholes” on Disney cruise ships, we could be in for a real treat. I’d imagine that Elyssa and I will be making reservations as close as possible to the hotel opening.

Star Wars Themed Hotel - © Disney
Star Wars Themed Hotel – © Disney

Hollywood Studios

In non-Star Wars news related to the Studios, it was confirmed that the previously announced Toy Story Land is scheduled to open in 2018.

In a more dramatic move, however, Disney also announced that The Great Movie Ride will become Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The first ever Mickey-themed ride is inspired by Mickey Mouse cartoons and Disney describes it as:

put[ting] you inside the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short where you’re the star and anything can happen. This zany out-of-control adventure features surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations that happen before your very eyes.

More concretely, Disney says this attraction

will feature a new story and a new singable attraction theme song as well as a new experience we’re calling “2 1/2 D.” No glasses required. Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty said teams are inventing new technologies that turn the flat world of a colorful cartoon short into a “dimensional display of amazingness.”

In order to make way for this new attraction, The Great Movie Ride will be closed on August 13, 2017. Though I’ve not ridden The Great Movie Ride as much recently, I have fond memories of the attraction. Unfortunately, it was in dire need of an update and a refurb, and it looks like Disney couldn’t (or decided not to) bring all the necessary parties together to structure the licenses necessary to make that happen.

No targeted opening date was given for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Epcot

Many people went into this D23 thinking it was going to be a turning point for Epcot (though, there is a definite split on whether or not such massive changes is a positive development.) Regardless of your thoughts as to whether major changes should take place, however, Disney announced a ton of new changes for Epcot. It also indicated that this is just the beginning of a massive overhaul of the park.

Chapek described the Epcot reimagining as staying true to the “original vision” of Epcot, while also making it “more Disney, timeless, relevant, [and] family-friendly.” I’m sure a lot of ink will be spilled on think pieces over the next couple of days discussing how some of these announcements relate to Epcot’s “original vision”, but, for now, I’m going to focus on what’s upcoming.

To set the stage, new concept art for Future World was shown during the presentation that featured–what looked like–a complete reimagining of Future World. Since Disney did not release that image along with the rest of its media assets, however, I view those ideas as more in the “developing” stages than some of the other items. (A lot can change between initial reimagining and the final product.) If you’re interested, though, here’s a link to a photo someone took of the concept art

As far as actual new attractions, the first announcement was a new Guardians of the Galaxy-inspired attraction that will replace Universe of Energy.. There were not a lot of details given about this attraction, with Disney saying:

Epcot’s brand new E-ticket attraction will be based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and is the next step in how guests can encounter these characters at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Previously, rumors have suggested the ride will be some kind of new coaster, but none of that has been confirmed, yet. As with the Great Movie Ride, Universe of Energy will close on August 13, 2017 to begin construction of the new Guardians ride.

The second announced new attraction coming to Epcot is a Ratatouille ride similar to the one at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.. This ride will be part of new area in the France pavilion and Disney says that in this attraction:

guests will be able to shrink to Remy’s size and scurry to safety in a dazzling chase across a kitchen with the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s legendary Parisian restaurant.

Both of these attractions are targeted to open prior to Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.

Other Epcot related changes include a new, updated Circle-Vision film being added to the China pavilion and updated films for Mission: SPACE, including “a brand new Green Mission that will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, with younger cadets joining the adventure for the very first time.” According to Disney, Mission: SPACE is scheduled to reopen this August.

Adjacent to Mission: SPACE will be a new “out of this world” restaurant. Though not many details were announced, it seems likely the restaurant will feature “windows” looking out into space (like the Star Wars Hotel will have.) The fact that it’s going to be run by the same group that runs Via Napoli and Morimoto Asia gives me high hopes.

Space Restaurant - © Disney
Space Restaurant – © Disney

Magic Kingdom

Recently, rumors had been quite strong that the TRON coaster from Shanghai Disneyland would be making its way to Disney World. Many of the rumors suggested this new experience would end up replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway. Well, the rumors saying that TRON is coming were right. It is slated to open in advance of Disney’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The interesting part of things, however, is that the attraction will “sit in an entirely new area right next Space Mountain.” This seems to suggest that the Speedway is sticking around (and, also, hopefully means that there won’t be any issues requiring changes or removal of the beloved People Mover in order to accommodate the new TRON attraction.)

Another Magic Kingdom item that had not been on anyone’s rumor radar is a new theater coming to Main Street U.S.A.. The “new entertainment venue will be based on the iconic Willis Wood Theater in 1920s Kansas City, where Walt lived after he left Marceline. ” Disney hasn’t yet announced what new entertainment will be coming to the theater, but it seems like this venue could be used to house the shows shown on Disney Cruise ships or similar like performances.

Unfortunately, there were no announcements about a new night time parade coming to Disney World. For months we’ve heard rumors about Disneyland’s Paint the Night parade coming to Disney World, but now it looks like that parade is simply moving to Disney’s California Adventure. (I’ve also heard rumors about Main Street Electrical Parade coming back to Disney World, but I’ll believe that when I see it.) Until then, it looks like Magic Kingdom will continue to operate without a night time parade (outside of the holiday parties) for the forseeable future.

Overall Resort Changes

The rumored gondola system that will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts with the Studios and the backside of Epcot was given the name Disney Skyliner. It’ll be interesting to see what an increased amount of people using the International Gateway might mean for that (significantly smaller) entrance. As it stands currently, a boat full of people arriving can clog things up for a few minutes. I wonder what a steady stream of people arriving on gondolas will do.

Also on the transportation front, Disney’s rumored “Uber-like” service was branded Minnie Vans. Details on this new transportation option (such as cost) are scarce at this time.

Finally, Disney announced the new Disney Riveria Resort. This resort seems to be what people previously thought of as the “moderate” Caribbean Beach DVC (in no small part as a result of its location adjacent to Caribbean Beach). With the rebranding and gondola system, however, it’ll be interesting to see if the cost of this resort ends up being more in line with the rest of DVC options.

Other Odds and Ends

In news that made Elyssa crack a smile, Disney announced that there will be new themed dresses coming to The Dress Shop. Hopefully, Disney will be able to actually keep these in stock.

Disney also announced that the various Disney Stores around the country will be redesigned. As someone who tries to get a little bit of a Disney-fix by wandering into my local Disney Store ever week or two, I’m interested in seeing what this new redesign looks like.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see from the length of this post, the 2017 iteration of D23 Expo had a lot of Disney World news. At this point, I’m still trying to process things, but my first impression from the new announcements is pretty positive. We are getting a number of interesting new attractions, without losing things like the People Mover or Impressions de France to make way for them (for now, anyway.)

Out of all the new attractions, I’m probably most exited about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and the TRON coaster. Finally having a ride dedicated to the mouse that started it all is awesome, and I have high hopes that the Imagineers are going to give the attraction a lot of love and care. Meanwhile, the Shanghai version of TRON is that park’s highest rated attraction (and have a soft spot in my heart for the concept of little “people programs” running around in my computer.) Can I make my reservations for Disney World’s 50th birthday now?

That’s it for my recap. Thanks for reading See you at the Galaxy’s Edge!

(NOTE: If you’ve made it this far, but you still want to read Disney PR’s take on all the Disney World news, they have a press release available that talks about everything.)

Star Wars – Forces of Destiny Episodes 2 and 3 now up on Disney’s Youtube Channel

On the heels of the first episode of Star Wars: Forces of Destiny being released earlier this week, Star Wars has released two more episodes:

Episode 2, featuring more of Rey and BB-8’s Story:

and, Episode 3, which gives us first look at how Leia and the Ewoks are going to be portrayed in the series:

These episodes have been great so far. I really hope the series continues to be this good.

Talking Star Wars With MoMM – The Empire Strikes Back

Big week for Elyssa and me, as the guys at Mighty Men of Mouse invited us on to talk about one of our favorite movies of all time: The Empire Strikes Back. I felt a lot of pressure for this one, since Empire is such a great movie. I hope you enjoy our discussion starting at the mark in MMoM Episode 321.

For people who listen to MMoM for the Disney World takes, Elyssa and I also talked to the guys about our impressions of Pandora. If you like hearing / reading what we have to say, we also have a post about Pandora up here on the site. One other topic that comes up is our My Disney Experience Fastpass+ Refreshing Strategy, which we wrote about here.

Enjoy the show! (And remember, if you have any thoughts or comments about it, email Dutch!)

No disintegrations
No disintegrations

Star Wars – Forces of Destiny Debuts on Disney’s YouTube Channel

One of the things that Elyssa and I were most look forward to from this year’s Celebration announcements was the upcoming animated series focusing on some of Star Wars’ female heroes. Well, that wait is finally over as the first episode, featuring Rey, debuted today:

If you enjoyed that, here’s a sneak peak on what else you can expect from the series:

It looks like it’s going to be awesome.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s time again for a hearty helping of Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! As you probably saw earlier this week, I have already posted about the Star War related news that came out of Celebration. Of course, the biggest news since the last post was that The Rock was on the Jungle Cruise!. Talk a “plus-ed” experience.

Nuggets!!
Nuggets!!

Now, on to the rest of the News Nuggets:

That’s it for this edition of the News Nuggets! Let’s all celebrate by watching the Blue Angels fly over the Magic Kingdom:

News Nuggets Special Edition – Star Wars Celebration 2017

If you weren’t one of the people waiting 24+ hours in various lines at Star Wars: Celebration, you might have missed some of the news that came out this weekend. As a Disney World focused site (and someone who still hasn’t decided if he’s going to even watch any of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailers before seeing the movie), the coverage here is going to focus on news related to Disney theme parks. That said, let’s start with the preview video Disney put together to discuss the new “total immersion” experience:

Disney has since provided additional details about the setting of the new theme park land mentioned in the video:

[T]his mysterious destination somewhere on the Outer Rim — lying on the edge of the Unknown Regions. The remote village was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but the prominence of the outpost has been bypassed with the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer less attention, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe-haven for others intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order.

One of the more intriguing features of this new Star Wars land is the “reputation system” that tracks your movements and actions throughout the park, including while on certain attractions. Inside the Magic explains how, for example, choices made while on the Millennium Falcon attraction might impact the experience you have in areas surrouding the ride. Inside the Magic also explains how Disney is claiming to have real lightsabers in the land.

That covers the major highlights for me, but If you want to watch the full panel, The DIS has posted a video.With Bob Iger’s contract set to end on July 2, 2019, there’s a lot to do if he’s going to have this all ready before he walks out the door.

On a shorter time table, Disney also announced that there would be a new scene added to Star Tours featuring one of the planets introduced in The Last Jedi. As you would expect, this will come in late 2017 (closer to the release of the movie.)

Attractions Magazine has a rundown of the Star Wars: Galactic Nights event that took place this weekend (and is almost assuredly going to be offered as a hard ticket event on an ongoing basis before too long.) For me, the highlight was the debut of a Rey face character during the A Galaxy Far, Far Away show:

Lastly, as you may have already heard, you can now meet BB-8 at The Studios.

Okay, I know I said I’d focus mostly on the Disney Parks news, but let’s end things with the trailer for Season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels:

I’m going to miss that show.

Rogue One – Now Available for Digitial Download

It’s a big day for Star Wars fans, as Rogue One is now available for digital download. If Carolina wasn’t playing this evening, Elyssa and I would probably be watching it tonight with a bowl of Ample Hills ice cream. (Yes, I’ll have a review of that whole “ice cream via Amazon process soon.”)

If you need to prep for your Rogue One viewing, there’s always these Mighty Men of Mouse shows that feature the MMoM Guys, friend of the site Wes James, Elyssa, and me discussing the movies:

Enjoy the (re-)watching the movie! It’s a good one.

Rogue One, baby!
Rogue One, baby!

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

It’s that time of year (no, not time for the annual News Nuggets post…), time for Disney’s annual attractions bracket. I’ve bought a few of these shirts in the past, but nothing stands out as “must have” for me this year. (WDW News Today has images of all the designs.)

Also, since it’s St. Patrick’s day, you might want to check out the Raglan Road Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival at Disney Springs and all the other Disney Springs St. Paddy’s day festivities.

Now, on to the rest of the nuggets:

We’ll finish things up with this video from Disney about the construction of Star Wars Land: (The AT-ATs do look pretty cool):

Enjoy the Tournament!

Target Openings for Pandora (Avatarland) and Star Wars Land Announced

 

UPDATE: For more information Pandora, check out the newly launched VisitPandora.com.

During Disney’s earning call today, CEO Bob Iger announced that Avatarland (i.e., Pandora – The World of Avatar) will open on May 27 of this year. This is (suprisingly?) in line with some of the rumors associated with the opening date, and, obviously, is just in time for the busy summer season. Disney’s press release on the opening again mentioned the major attractions coming to Pandora:

First, the family friendly Na’vi River Journey will send guests through a bioluminescent rainforest. Their journey will end in an unforgettable encounter with a Na’vi Shaman, a figure who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora. And second, Avatar Flight of Passage will offer guests the jaw-dropping experience of exploring the world of Pandora atop a Banshee.

Actually surprising, however, was Iger’s announcement that Star Wars Land would open in 2019. Most people (either joking or otherwise) seemed to think that Star Wars Land would open in 2020, so this the actual 2019 opening is ahead of that “schedule.” More surprising, however, is that Iger made an announcement at all. Clearly, Disney is confident (or willing to spend extra to ensure–if necessary) that Star Wars Land will be completed in 2019. I’m sure there are people out there waiting to come down hard on Disney if it doesn’t make this date.

*Not* Coming to Star Wars Land :-(
*Not* Coming to Star Wars Land 🙁

It’s Rogue One Day!

Today is a day that Elyssa and I have been eagerly anticipating since we saw that first trailer: Rogue One release day!.

Jyn FTW!
Jyn FTW!

In advance of the movie’s release, we were lucky enough to join the Mighty Men of Mouse and friend of the site Wes James for a special Rogue One preview segment on this week’s episode of Mighty Men of Mouse.

As you might expect, Disney has put its marketing muscle behind the film, including at Disney World. This includes a bunch of new Rogue One merchandise that is now available, updates to the Star Wars Launch Bay (Corey Disbrow has a bunch of pictures of the new exhibits and WDW News Today has video of the new Rogue One preview film being shown there), and a special event where they turned Spaceship Earth into the Death Star (which admittedly sounds cooler than it looked during the live stream.)

I’ll end this post with the best promotional item related to Rogue One. Enjoy:

Star Wars Movies on sale on iTunes

As the release date for Rogue One quickly approaches, Star Wars seems to be on the forefront of everyone’s mind (as if it isn’t normally.)

As part of that hype, iTunes currently has the original trilogy and the prequels on sale for the nice price of $69.99.

The individual movies are also on sale for $15 a piece (so if you wanted just the original trilogy, you could get that for $45..):

(Sadly, The Force Awakens, is not part of the sale.)

Lastly, Disney has added a new exclusive Rogue One “sneak peak” to the extras associated with A New Hope. So, if you already own that (or just purchased it), you might want to give the sneak peak a look.

Enjoy the Star Wars universe! We should be getting a nice addition to it next week…

New Rogue One Sneak Peak added to A New Hope
New Rogue One Sneak Peak added to A New Hope