Just last week, a MiceAge article was released discussing many behind-the-scenes things about Disney as the average MiceAge article does. In this article, the author discusses a series of plans for Star Wars Land. The author goes into details about the Stormtrooper Battle Escape attraction (code name Alcatraz), as well as the Millennium Falcon attraction (Big Bird), and the overall tone of the land. It should be noted that, while the site has a good track record, these are all currently rumors and have not been confirmed by anyone working for Disney publicly. Although these are rumors, however, that will not stop me from giving my commentary on them.
In the article, the author tells us that Star Wars land will have hyper theming and feel like a Renaissance Faire much like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While I’ve never been to a either a Renaissance Faire or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, I can’t say this interests me all that much. Of course, I need to wait and see as I have little idea as to what this would be like, but for me, when I go to Disneyland, I want it to feel like Disneyland. Although it looks like I’m in the MidWest when I’m walking down Main Street USA, it doesn’t feel like the MidWest; it feels like Disneyland.
What my concern is with this hyper realistic Star Wars land is that it won’t have that Disneyland feeling. What makes that Disneyland feeling? Beyond just the quaintness of the entire park, there’s also these imperfections in such a perfect world. The Cast Member name tags, seeing the Matterhorn from Frontierland, and modern day cash registers on Main Street. None of these things belong in those world you’re in, but yet there they are and it feels perfectly normal. Sleeping Beauty Castle doesn’t belong at the end of a small MidWestern town, but it couldn’t fit better. I fear that Star Wars land’s hyper theming will not feature these imperfections and just feel too real and therefore out of place in Disneyland.
According to the author, the Millennium Falcon attraction (codenamed Big Bird), will be incredibly plot centric and feature multiple pre-shows before boarding. While little is known about what the attraction will offer, the author does tell us that each guest will be given a task and not every ride will have a “happy ending.” From what Disney has officially announced, we already know guests will get to pilot the Millennium Falcon themselves in this attraction. From the original announcement, what many people thought, myself included, was that Big Bird would be like Mission Space; guests press buttons that really do nothing and the ride just goes on. However, if this rumor that not every ride will have a happy ending, it means that this might be a bit more like a virtual reality game.
In a virtual reality game, players place a screen over their eyes and are instantly transported into another world where they can look and move around at their will with an objective. If you fail, game over. Although I don’t expect riders will need to put on any special goggles to enjoy Big Bird, I do believe it will offer the same concept. Rather than putting on goggles, guests will step inside the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon (as we know) and the virtual world will be just outside and, much like virtual reality games, guests will control where they go in that world with a mission. If they fail their mission, ride over.
Also, as I said earlier, the rumor suggests that guests will each be given a role (pilot, copilot, gunner, etc.). If Big Bird does end up being a virtual reality simulator, and guests are controlling different aspects of the attraction, this could be quite a problem. Imagine waiting in line for eight hours, and you and your group are all being assigned roles, and the cast member in charge gives the pilot seat… to a five year old. You’re on the ride and it’s about to start with the kid at the controls. At just thirty seconds in, the kid crashes the Millennium Falcon and the ride’s over. Not only will every ride not have a happy ending, not every visit to the park will if this happens. Although I trust the Imagineers that this won’t be an issue, it’s something to consider.
On top of this, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really want to have to interact with other guests on ride. Have you ever been on Mickey’s Fun Wheel? Maybe if you’re an incredible extrovert you’ll have a lot of fun, but being stuck with strangers in a cage for ten minutes was one of the most awkward experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Personally, having to interact with other guests to have a “happy ending” on the attraction doesn’t really sound all that fun to me. It sounds kind of exhausting.
I’m sure a lot of this will not even be an issue and it’s nothing more than paranoia on my end. In fact, the concern I have regarding a child crashing the Millennium Falcon could be easily fixed by just featuring a loose track that the ship has to follow without veering off. These are only rumors and we don’t know what the actual attraction will have.
The other attraction, Stormtrooper Battle Escape (codenamed Alcatraz), will feature trackless ride vehicles, multiple levels, over 150 Stormtrooper animatronics and even more Star Wars characters, an elevator to take guests deep underground, and have guests get out of their ride vehicles in the middle of the ride to walk around. Wait, what? Get out of your ride vehicles? Well, that’s what the author says, anyway. Truthfully, I’m not sure how I feel about that. If I’m on a ride, I don’t want to have to stop and get out and then get back on in another ride vehicle.
Imagine getting out in the middle of Indiana Jones Adventure, walking around the temple, getting into another ride vehicle to continue, then getting out again, and repeat. It wouldn’t work. The storytelling would be all over the place. There would be no flow to the attraction nor would it really be all that fun to constantly have the ride interrupted.
There’s also the issue of disabled people. Getting into ride vehicles can be hard enough when you’re in a wheelchair. Imagine, then, having to get out of that ride vehicle only to get back in. Not only would that hold up the boarding process causing plenty of ride stops, but it would just be a pain for those who are handicapped.
I understand that trackless ride vehicles can’t go uphill, but the Imagineers are some of the most creative people in the world. I trust that they are able to create something more efficient than getting out of the ride vehicles to change levels.
The other rumor mentioned by the author is over 150 Stormtrooper animatronics alone and even more animatronics of other Star Wars character. Truthfully, this sounds amazing. I was under the impression this attraction would be 95% movie screens and projections. To hear there will be over twice as many animatronics on this ride as Pirates of the Caribbean is such a relief to me. If this is true, it not only gives me hope for Star Wars land, but the future of Disneyland as a whole as I’ve been fearing a Disneyland of only screen based attractions.
Also mentioned by the author, and lightly touched upon here, is the issue of capacity. The article states that both Alcatraz and Big Bird will each have a ride capacity of only 1,500 riders per hour; half of Pirates of the Caribbean. Mixed with the overall crowds of Star Wars land, the wait times will be insane. On opening day, I will not be surprised at all if the lines just trying to get into Star Wars land reach Main Street USA. On an average day, they could reach three hours. Especially with all the issues that it sounds like the Stormtrooper Battle Escape attraction will have regarding loading, reloading, break downs because it takes too long to load, disabled loading, etc.
While I do trust the Imagineers and still have high expectations for the quality of Star Wars land, these rumors do both interest and concern me. However, it is important to remember these are only rumors. None of this has been confirmed and there’s no reason to get the pitchforks out because these sound undesirable to you. We still are a while away from the opening of Star Wars land and we will have to wait and see what’s in store as such little information is really known.