NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Walt Disney has unveiled the wildly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, providing an early look on Wednesday (May 29) at the ambitious expansion of its Disneyland theme park in California.
The 5.7ha project is the largest-ever addition to the park that was opened in Anaheim in 1955, and takes its place alongside the well-known Frontierland, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
Galaxy’s Edge opens to the public on Friday and will be followed in late August by a similar expansion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Chief executive Bob Iger laid the groundwork for the debut almost seven years ago with a takeover of film-maker George Lucas’ Star Wars empire. The deal spawned a new generation of space-adventure movies, toys, TV shows and now billion-dollar park expansions.
Heavy investments typically deliver a boost to Disney’s theme parks.
Attendance at nearby California Adventure rose 23 per cent to 7.78 million the year an attraction based on Pixar’s Cars movies opened.
The Animal Kingdom in Orlando saw a jump to 12.5 million, after the addition of Avatar Land two years ago.
The company is girding for what is expected to be record crowds at the Star Wars expansion. In March, it announced its first-ever reservation system for the park, requiring Galaxy’s Edge guests to stay at one of its three area hotels or reserve spots online.
Disney is allowing guests four-hour visits to Galaxy’s Edge – after which they will be asked to leave. Coloured wristbands will identify who came when.
The company is using passes that allow those queuing up for rides to leave the line to go to the restroom. It will also have employees in costume entertaining fans as they explore the new area.
Disney is also using the opening to institute some changes: eliminating smoking areas, banning strollers over a certain size and reducing the height of kerbs to allow for easier access.