Above: Disney CEO Bob Iger with actor Mark Hamill. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
Walt Disney Co. said it will build an immersive “Star Wars” hotel at its resort in Orlando, Florida, as part of a flurry of investments announced Saturday by the company’s theme-park division.
Disney revealed the two “Star Wars” themed lands it is building will be called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, with the one at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, set to open first in 2019 and the Orlando one opening later that same year.
Disney parks and resorts division chairman Bob Chapek made the announcement Saturday at the company’s D23 Expo, a biennial event for fans held at the Anaheim Convention Center, near the company’s Disneyland and California Adventure parks. Theme parks are Disney’s second-largest division after television. The company has been investing heavily in the business on the premise that park attractions can’t easily be copied by competitors or made obsolete by new technology.
“There’s no virtual-reality experience in the world that’s going to replicate what you get physically by walking down that Main Street,” Chapek said earlier this year in reference to one of Disneyland’s signature features.
The theme-park business is betting heavily on its own characters, much as Disney’s movie division began to rely more on company-owned intellectual property following the acquisitions of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012.
A ride based on the film “Tron” that has been a hit at Disney’s new Shanghai resort will be replicated at Orlando’s Magic Kingdom park. The Paradise Pier at Disney’s California Adventure park in Anaheim will be revamped with a Pixar theme. That same park will get Spider-Man and Avengers attractions in a new Super Hero land.
Epcot, the Florida park that opened in 1982 as kind of a permanent world fair, is getting new attractions designed to turn it into more of a traditional amusement park. An attraction based on the Pixar film “Ratatouille” will be built near the base of the Eiffel Tower and a new thrill ride tied to the Marvel franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy” will be added.
The Burbank, California-based company announced a new cruise ship, the Disney Riviera hotel in Orlando, and a gondola-based transportation system that will connect its Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks with some of the nearby Disney hotels.
Disney is experimenting with ways to shorten wait times for popular rides. Starting on July 19, the company will allow Anaheim park guests to reserve a time to jump on its shorter “FastPass” lines for an extra $10 a day. Parkgoers in Orlando have already had that ability, although without an additional charge.
Elsewhere at the D23 Expo, Disney gave fans a sneak peak of a new augmented reality game that features a lightsaber and a headset made by Lenovo Group Ltd. It will allow players to conduct virtual sword fights in their homes. The latest installment of the series, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” hits theaters December 15.