Star Wars and Toy Story lands coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios

By Christie Zizo, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT
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Disney is dipping into its bag of franchises to remake Hollywood Studios with new immersive lands.

Disney officials announced a major "Star Wars" expansion at D23 Expo  in Anaheim earlier Saturday, and now "Toy Story" will get the themed land treatment.

"Toy Story Land" will be an 11-acre area that takes guests to Andy's backyard. Officials compared the area to Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure park.

Among the attractions mentioned will be a new family-friendly roller coaster featuring Slinky Dog and a saucer attraction featuring the Little Green Men. The land will also include "Toy Story Midway Mania," which is currently being expanded.

 Disney CEO Robert Iger announced the "Star Wars" land expansions during the live action film panel, calling it the largest expansion of a themed land in Disney parks history.

Iger is promising a 14-acre land expansion that will completely envelope the world of "Star Wars" at both Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and at Disneyland in California.

A whole new world awaits "Star Wars" fans in a new immersive themed land expansion coming to Walt Disney World and Disneyland.(PHOTO/Disney)

"It will be the first time that our guests will truly be emerged in the world that is Star Wars," Iger said.

Disney says the "ambitious plans" will transport guests to a new planet and a remote trading port.

"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,” Iger said, referencing the new "good guys" and "bad guys" featured in the upcoming "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens."

The new expansion will take guests to a remote trade port that will include two new signature attractions. (PHOTO/Disney)

Each land will have two new "signature" attractions, including one that will put guests in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. There will also be a cantina.

While the expansion will take years to build, Disney also promised new "Star Wars" experiences coming in the next year.

"Star Wars Launch Bay" will open at both parks later this year. The area is being called an "interactive experience" that will take guests through the new "Star Wars" film with character meet-and-greets, props and displays and other "Star Wars" items.  The "Star Tours" attraction will also get a new adventure that includes locations and characters from the new film.

Then early next year Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios will get a new season event called "Seasons of the Force." The event will include a new fireworks show at DHS on the weekends and other unnamed "new experiences."

In what is sure to cause an uproar among Disney purists, Space Mountain in California's Disneyland will get a special overlay during "Seasons of the Force" that turns the ride into "Hyperspace Mountain," putting guests in the middle of an X-wing Starfighter battle.

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Continued from above:

Other Walt Disney World parks will get upgrades as well.

Disney will change up the program for "Soarin'" at Epcot. The new attraction will leave California and take guests on a trip around the world over "some of the world's most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders." Soarin' Around the World will debut next year.

Also expected next year is the new "Frozen" themed ride at Epcot's Norway pavilion, which is replacing the Maelstrom ride. Disney showed new renderings for that attraction and meet-and-greet area, which will expand the current pavilion. Construction is currently going on.

On Friday officials announced that Jungle Skipper Canteen, the Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant being built at Magic Kingdom, would be open in late 2015, in time for the holidays.

Artist rendering of Jungle Skipper Canteen, revealed at D23 Expo Friday. (PHOTO/Disney)

According to the Disney Parks blog, the Jungle Skipper Canteen will allow guests to experience world-famous "Jungle Cuisine" in unique dining rooms, including a crew mess and a secret meeting room for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Jungle Cruise Skippers will also staff the restaurant.

The Jungle Skipper Canteen will be based in the Adventureland Veranda, which was a restaurant when the park opened in 1971 and continued to operate until 1994. It's since been used for character greetings.

By the way, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers should make a lot of old-time Disney fans happy. The fictional society was based off Pleasure Island's Adventurers Club, and is now part of attractions' backstories throughout Disney parks worldwide, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and at Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.

Disney also offered new details for Pandora - the World of AVATAR at Animal Kingdom. Imagineers are giving attendees a closer look at Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the Walt Disney Parks Pavillion. Detailed models, props and other preview items are on display.

A detailed model of Avatarland, currently being built at Disney's Animal Kingdom. (PHOTO/Disney)

A Na'avi model on display at D23 Expo in the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion.(PHOTO/Disney)

The panel leaves park enthusiasts with more questions than answers. The "Star Wars" and "Toy Story" projects will amount to a 25-acre upgrade to Hollywood Studios. Disney did not say what will close or be torn down to make that happen.

Over the last year Disney has closed a number of attractions at Hollywood Studios, including:

Another announcement that did not happen that we were expecting was a name change for DHS. Iger hinted at the change at a shareholder's meeting earlier this year.

The Disney Parks Blog is promising more details in the coming days.