There was big news in the theme park world this month. Big enough, in fact, that it very nearly transcends the category of ‘theme park news’ and becomes simply ‘news.’
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is coming, and it will be open to the public on May 31 in California and August 29 in Florida.
Or at least some of it will.
Of the two attractions located in this 14 acre land,1 only Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run — a scripted, teamwork-based flight simulator — will be ready to ride on those announced dates. Meanwhile, the bigger, more ambitious Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which is being sold as Disney’s most immersive and advanced ride ever (and which, unlike the Falcon, actually moves guests through a physical space) will roll out “later in the year.” Some rumblings indicate that this secondary wait could be as short as three weeks, but Disney is hedging their bets and keeping things vague.
A few different theories and rumors have emerged to explain this staggered opening. Disney’s official press release frames “phase one” as a sort of special preview to satisfy tremendous fan demand as soon as possible, implying that the project as a whole is on schedule, with some of it simply being done early. At the same time, there have been (admittedly unsubstantiated) whispers that Rise of the Resistance is giving Imagineers more trouble than they anticipated, and that making the ride’s unprecedented number of different effects work in tandem is proving to be nearly impossible.
I have no real horse in this race, so I’m prepared to believe either story. To be honest, I only brought it up so that I could segue into discussing a similar situation from the past that I care far more about:
New Orleans Square is my favorite place in Disneyland. It might even be one of my favorite places, period. This is in no small part due to the fact that New Orleans Square is also home to my all-time favorite Disney attraction: the Haunted Mansion. The Mansion began construction in 1962, along with the rest of New Orleans Square, and its now iconic facade was completed by 1963.
At which point all work on it just… stopped.
The Mansion didn’t actually open until August of 1969, more than three full years after the grand opening of New Orleans Square itself. That left a staggering six-year stretch during which guests at the park could do nothing but stare through the wrought-iron gates at the creepy old house up on the hill2 and wonder what the heck was in there.
The Haunted Mansion was the subject of far more rumors than Rise of the Resistance will ever be, and unlike the situation today, that kind of publicity was almost entirely positive. (After all, a mysterious house with unknown contents generates intrigue, which is exactly what a ride like the Mansion benefits from. A tie-in attraction for a multi-billion dollar franchise that we’ve already gotten a full set of ride details for… that’s not particularly intriguing.) With the benefit of hindsight, however, we know that the Imagineers in charge of the project did spend those six years grappling with major problems, both logistical and creative. The initial plan for the attraction to be a walkthrough created major hurdles in the number of guests-per-hour it could handle, the storyline for the ride changed nearly a dozen times before essentially disappearing entirely, and without Walt Disney to act as a tiebreaker — having passed away in 1966 — major disagreements arose regarding just how scary the experience should actually be.
In the end, the Haunted Mansion turned out to be a huge success despite its rocky start, and to this day, many die-hard fans (like me) consider it to be the crown jewel of the Disney parks. Which is all to say, even if Galaxy’s Edge has hit a snag or opens late, that will hopefully have no bearing on how friggin’ cool the final product ends up being.
Feel free to use this thread to discuss any and all theme-park related news, or your own comings and goings from them!
Optional Discussion Topic: What ride or attraction were you most excited to finally experience, and did it live up to your expectations?
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