Yesterday's blockbuster announcement that the Walt Disney Company was acquiring LucasFilm and its library of films, most notably Star Wars, was a pretty big shocker to fans of both companies. And as Disney Parks fans, the announcement piqued a lot of imaginations with the possibilities. In terms of Disney's Hollywood Studios, this deal can only mean good things.
Considering Disney's Hollywood Studios already has a LucasFilm presence in the form of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, what this deal can mean is Disney's Imagineers can take advantage of everything the Star Wars galaxy has to offer in terms of possibilities for attractions, restaurants or other experiences.
The smart money definitely seems to be for Disney to utilize the Star Wars library rather than the Indiana Jones library (or any other stories they've acquired). Star Wars is what has proven to be popular and while there's an Indiana Jones attraction in both North American parks, it just seems like Star Wars is the no-brainer, easiest to take advantage of property.
Nearly as soon as the deal was announced, speculation ran rampant that Disney was doing this deal in lieu of the Avatarland project that was announced last year. The Disney fan community never seemed to embrace the idea but more importantly there were rumors that Disney was having trouble with director James Cameron, who owns the rights to the Avatar film. Frankly, the idea that a Star Wars themed land will be coming instead of Avatarland may be a little too much wishful thinking but clearly anything is possible considering this merger wasn't exactly seen coming either.
So what's the future going to hold? Specifically, will we see a Star Wars land in Disney's Hollywood Studios? There are indicators that you could look to that say yes and there are indicators that tell me no.
It's hard to ignore the rumor mill, which has cited plans that are on their way. Plus, we already know that Star Wars attractions work well in the parks, so there's not much risk. And considering there's buildings and venues near Star Tours to work with, it makes a lot of sense when you start looking at a park map.
On the other hand, Disney chief executive Robert Iger has said that following the Carsland and Fantasyland expansion, capital investments in the North American theme parks would be much less in the coming years. Many have to come to interpret this to mean we aren't going to see expansions or refurbishment on the scale of those previous projects and thus, a Star Wars land expansion would be more than Disney is willing to spend at this time. Then again, did anyone think Disney would spend roughly $15 billion since 2005 to acquire new companies (Pixar, Marvel and now Star Tours)?
I do believe the most likely thing to be impacted by this deal is Star Wars Weekends, which has been very popular and the news that Disney is producing three new Star Wars sequels means this annual event will have a lot going for in the next few years. Looking back on the prequel films, they brought an amazing level of enthusiasm to the event and I have no doubt that the sequels will do the same. And with LucasFilm now part of Disney, I have hopes that there will be less "red tape" for the companies to have to deal with, which will hopefully mean new changes to Star Wars Weekends.
There is no question the LucasFilm acquisition is great news for Disney fans. It seems like it's been a long time coming and the possibilities for the theme parks seem to be greater than before the buyout. Will Disney's Hollywood Studios see the fabled Star Wars land? Or is this deal more about the film side of things?