On Nov. 9, Disney followed up its D23 Expo news that an expanded “Star Wars” presence is coming to the domestic theme parks by announcing the debut of several new, smaller experiences coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“Star Wars” Launch Bay, perhaps the most significant in this round of additions, will open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios starting Dec. 1. This attraction will provide guests with a look at the saga, including the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” with exhibits and behind-the-scenes peeks. Located in the park’s Animation Courtyard, the area will also feature character meets with Chewbacca and Darth Vader as well as special merchandise and food available for purchase.
“Star Wars” Launch Bay will join other new “Star Wars” experiences scheduled to open at the park in December. These openings, well in advance of the 14-acre “Star Wars” themed lands to be built at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disneyland Park in California, will help maintain interest in and build anticipation for these lands during the construction periods.
- The existing simulator ride Star Tours – The Adventures Continue will add a new adventure inspired by “The Force Awakens. Disney Parks Blog confirmed that all guests who ride Star Tours will experience the new experience during its opening months, providing a video preview of that addition.
- Also opening in December will be a new twist on the Jedi Training Experience for children. Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple will showcase “the secret site of an ancient Jedi temple where they will face Darth Vader along with the Seventh Sister – a new villain from the Disney XD series ‘Star Wars Rebels.’”
- For Disney guests who may unfamiliar with this far-away galaxy, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will offer an introduction to the “Star Wars” saga via “Path of the Jedi.” This experience offers a compilation of scenes from the films.
Disneyland Park has already opened “Star Wars” Launch Bay. Disneyland’s version opens with Season of the Force, the branding of these experiences, on Nov. 16. Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ own Season of the Force will include a fireworks spectacular set to a score of the “Star Wars” movies; the fireworks are expected to debut January 2016.
While Disney’s Hollywood Studios is adding several “Star Wars” experiences, one popular event will not return in 2016: the park’s long-running “Star Wars” Weekends. Disney characterized the decision as tied to construction for the “Star Wars” expansion, slated to begin next year, but also suggested the change might well be permanent:
“With construction underway, unfortunately, we won’t be able to offer ‘Star Wars’ Weekends. While ‘Star Wars’ Weekends has been a great way to enjoy the saga for a few days every year, now the Force will be with Disney’s Hollywood Studios every day.”
“Star Wars” Weekends was first held in 1997 and became an annual event in 2003. The fan festival includes appearances by stars and filmmakers involved in the “Star Wars” films and televisions series, behind-the-scenes shows, special entertainment, and “Star Wars” themed parades and fireworks. Guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters, and Disney characters themselves also appear in “Star Wars” costumes.