It’s Disney’s D23 Expo event in 2 days time with the rumour mill about what announcements are coming for the parks and resorts in full flow. Over the past few days I’ve read two interesting posts from The Disney Blog and Micechat, both outlining what potentially may be coming to the original Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I’m going to talk about the west coast to begin with as things seem a little more concrete (don’t quote me on that). It would appear that Star Wars is en route to Disneyland, and it’s arriving in the form of a whole land, rather than one attraction.
As many of you know space is tight at Disneyland so to make way for the new Star Wars area it’s looking likely that its goodbye to ToonTown. Now I’ve never been to Disneyland in Anaheim so my opinion is simply based on being a fan of Disney parks in general, and having visited their Orlando and Paris offerings. But to me having one land dedicated to one franchise in a ‘magic kingdom’ style park (and I know they have done this in Hong Kong with Toy Story Playland, but that’s another conversation…) in my opinion just doesn’t feel right.
I’m much more of a fan of an original immersive land that contains appropriate attractions. An example of this would be the Indiana Jones Adventure being in Adventureland. When you think of Indy you think of adventure, you think of exotic jungle locations, and this works perfectly with Adventureland making it a great home for an Indy attraction. You could argue from a location perspective the Indy films, in comparison to Star Wars, simply don’t have as memorable locations that could be used to create a rich immersive themed lands (I’m not sure the temple of doom would go down to well…). However none of the existing lands at Disneyland are actual places, more lands that evoke a feeling of place or time. (Toon Town actually is debatable here but it’s back story and theme based on the animated cartoon characters means it get’s a pass in this context) Star Wars land I suspect is going to draw on a place or places from the film, so whilst it’s still not a real life place, it is a place that exists on-screen outside of Disneyland, and that I think will be jarring in contrast to the other lands. One minute you step off It’s a Small World and the next step foot on the Death Star.
A while back there was talk of more Star Wars being added to Tomorrowland (to sit alongside Star Tours) but this idea seems to have been vetoed. Whilst I think Tomorrowland has many issues with theme across both US parks, I do think Star Wars can belong in these lands, however I wouldn’t want the lands to be taken over outright by the franchise. Which I guess there lies the issue.
Ever since Universal created a hugely successful IOA land around Harry Potter, franchise lands seem to be the only option. A conversation about franchise lands at Disney (I’m thinking Carsland, Toy Story Playland, A Bugs Life, the upcoming Avatarland, hell even the new Ratatouille ride has its own themed Paris mini land) is to be saved for later, but I do think that in adding a whole Star Wars land to Disneyland someone takes a little bit of the magic away from the place. Don’t get me wrong, the end result and attractions will likely be fantastic, but I can’t help but feel that I’d like a Star Wars land to sit somewhere else.
Across the road at California Adventure, which already has the lovely looking but still a franchise land – Carsland, it would appear a second franchise land is about to drop by in the form of a Marvel Land. When I think of the Marvel movies, wonderful locations are not what springs to mind (unless they draw from Thor and GOTG) so I suspect what we may see here, according to the part of the map earmarked for this, is a re-theming of the current Hollywood land with added Marvel. And this in itself doesn’t bother me so much, but why not keep the Hollywood Land theme and add Marvel attractions? By calling it Marvel Land, it potentially restricts that area to only Marvel themed attractions. I know in building these franchise lands they are ultimately trying to create the most immersive environments possible, but I’ve never not felt fully immersed when walking down Sunset Boulevard towards or away from Tower of Terror, wishing that the whole land revolved around the Twilight Zone. I enjoy the fact that we have the wonderful themed street that is Sunset Boulevard and at the end of it we have the appropriately position Hollywood Tower Hotel which contains the fantastic Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (controversial statement – this is the last ever truly phenomenal attraction Disney has built). This may not have been the best analogy but I think you understand what I’m saying.
Anyway enough of the west coast and lets talk about the Magic Kingdom. It would appear that the recent New Fantasyland addition hasn’t quite set out to achieve what Disney had in mind, so with the 50th Anniversary coming up they (at long last) may be looking to install a new people eating e-ticket. Now, this may or may not astound you but the last time the Magic Kingdom receive a bona fide e-ticket was in 1992 with Splash Mountain. And the rumours are saying it’s going to be placed close by in Frontierland, perhaps meaning it’s goodbye to Tom Sawyer Island.
I have no problem with losing Tom Sawyer Island as it’s an attraction I rarely visit, however I would be disappointed if the attraction eats into the Rivers of America somewhat. However the most interesting aspect of this rumour is that we’re now going to have three e-ticket attractions all in the same area. I’d argue that the Magic Kingdoms two most popular attractions are already there, so in adding a third it’s going to mean this area of the park will be very crowd heavy. With that in mind, I know Pirates and Jungle Cruise are classics, but honestly, I’d like to see a new modern attraction dazzle in Adventureland.
At the moment it’s all just rumour but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I imagine Disney will want to do something special for their 50th anniversary and I think the Magic Kindgom deserves a new world-class attraction.
Finally Hollywood Studio’s (new name TBC) is closing attractions down like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s a widely known best kept secret that big changes are taking place, but who knows what they are yet. Could the studio’s be seeing more than just Star Wars weekends and also now a full land? Probably. Will there be a Carsland clone? Possibly. Will we get Marvel? Not likely due to Universal. But how about giving Hollywood Studios something completely original and making it a global draw for WDW. Wouldn’t that be nice?
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
All images copyright of Disney.