'Star Wars' Theme Parks Coming to Disneyland, Disney World

It may take place "in a galaxy far, far away," but George Lucas' "Star Wars" franchise is coming to Earth thanks to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, which this weekend announced plans to open "Star Wars"-themed lands at Florida's Walt Disney World and California's Disneyland. The lands will transport guests to "a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port, and one of the last stops before wild space where 'Star Wars' characters and their stories come to life." At 14 acres each, they represent the largest single-themed land expansions ever by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

"I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and 'Star Wars,'" Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Co. -- which acquired Lucas' Lucasfilms in 2012 -- said in a statement. "These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new 'Star Wars' planet, including an epic 'Star Wars' adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance."

Along with the battle adventure, among the lands' major attractions will be a Jedi Training Academy; a ride that puts guests behind the controls of the famed "Star Wars" ship, the Millennium Falcon; and, at Walt Disney World, a "Star Wars"-themed fireworks show on weekends.

Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel teased the new "Star Wars" attractions to Successful Meetings last week. "Not surprising, there's all kinds of conversation now about an expansion of 'Star Wars' at Hollywood Studios [at Walt Disney World]," Aguel told Successful Meetings.

Commenting on the upcoming release of the latest "Star Wars" film -- "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," scheduled for release in December -- he continued: "It's predicted to be the biggest movie in history ... When you see the previews and you see Harrison Ford and Chewbacca back, and Harrison says, 'Chewie, we're back,' you just get emotional ... It's incredible. It's amazing. I can't wait."

Han Solo and Chewbacca won't be the only new arrivals at Disney, however. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek also announced 11 acres of new "Toy Story" rides at Walt Disney World; details of the new "Pandora -- The World of AVATAR" attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, also at Walt Disney World; "Iron Man Experience," Disney's first Marvel Comics-themed attraction, opening in 2016 at Hong Kong Disneyland; and "Soarin' Around the World," a new version of Disney's popular Soarin ride that will debut next year at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

"From Disneyland's 60th anniversary celebration to the anticipation of Shanghai Disney Resort, we're in the midst of unprecedented growth and expansion around the globe," Chapek said. "With these new announcements, we continue our legacy in creating innovative attractions, worldwide entertainment, and magical lands that take our guests into the worlds of stories they love."

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