Star Wars is being transported from a galaxy far, far away to California and Florida after Walt Disney announced plans for two theme park expansions that will bring the film franchise to life.
The 6-hectare (14-acre) Star Wars lands at Anaheim, California’s Disneyland and Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World will introduce a new planet from the intergalactic film saga, the company said, commenting on one of Disney’s largest park expansions.
The project will feature two new rides – one in which participants take control of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, and the Cantina, the infamous hub of rogue smugglers and traders in the films.
Construction will begin at Disneyland in 2017. A a start date for Disney World has not been set.
Disney announced several other park upgrades at its annual D23 Expo fan convention. They include a 4.5-hectare (11-acre) Toy Story land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
Disney did not comment on costs. The company spent $1bn to build a 5-hectare (12-acre) Cars land, which opened at Disney’s California Adventure park in 2012. It will open a $5.5bn theme park in Shanghai next year.
The announcement of Star Wars lands, made by Disney chief executive Bob Iger, comes as fans gear up for the December release of The Force Awakens – the opening film in a new Star Wars trilogy. The first Star Wars movie was released in 1977 and became embedded in pop culture.
Harrison Ford, who reprises the role of Han Solo, received a standing ovation at the fan convention and led the cast of the new film, including Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and British newcomer John Boyega.
“It’s a great thing to be here with you, who made this whole thing happen. I couldn’t be happier,” Ford told about 7,500 fans.
Promoting Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp swaggered through the hall dressed as his character, Captain Jack Sparrow, as fans were told that Orlando Bloom’s character, Will Turner, will return for the fifth instalment of the franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, in 2017.
Nyong’o was joined by Ben Kingsley, newcomer Neel Sethi and director Jon Favreau for the upcoming CGI and live-action retelling of The Jungle Book. Early footage showed scenery of Mowgli’s jungle and Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, singing the song Bare Necessities.