There are few things I love as much as going to a theme park and nobody does it quite as well as Disney. (Full disclosure: I’m a former Disney World intern and I’m terribly biased, but c’est la vie.) Since Disney now owns all the things we love, it wasn’t a big surprise when CEO Bob Iger announced that Disneyland and Disney World would be adding Star Wars-themed lands. Although there isn’t a firm opening date for the 14-acre expansions, construction is already underway.
What may surprise you is how far Disney has already gone to incorporate Star Wars into Tomorrowland. I recently visited Disneyland and was thrilled by the changes since I’d last made the trip to California.
When you enter Tomorrowland you’re greeted by massive signs welcoming you to the Star Wars: Season of the Force, a holiday holdover from the December run up to the release of The Force Awakens.
The tracks that housed the defunct PeopleMover trains are lined with banners depicting Dark and Light side character silhouettes.
Star Tours, a 3D flight simulator, has been revamped with characters and locations from The Force Awakens and renamed Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
New and old friends (and foes) make appearances in this all-ages adventure ride. There are multiple versions of the tour and it’s well worth multiple viewings. Star Tours also has one of the most entertaining lines at Disneyland, with full model shuttles and animatronic droids.
Space Mountain has been transformed into Hyperspace Mountain. Admiral Ackbar requests your assistance in flying a reconnaissance vessel, accompanied by an X-wing squadron, to check out reports of a Star Destroyer near Jakku. The rollercoaster ride is wonderful with its dogfighting X-wings and TIE fighters, soaring music, and perfectly timed sound effects.
When you exit Hyperspace Mountain, you’re in The Star Trader, one of the biggest Star Wars stores in the world. You want it? They have it. Custom lightsabers, clothes, homewares, and even the latest Star Wars books and comics. I spotted a few personal favorites: Star Wars: Aftermath (Chuck Wendig), A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farmboy (Alexandra Bracken), and Marvel’s excellent mini-series Star Wars: Chewbacca (Duggan, Noto, and Caramagna).
Wanna-be Jedi Knights (younglings only, but it’s a lot of fun as a spectator) can sign up for Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. The padawans receive training and then get to cross sabers with Darth Vader or Star Wars Rebels villain the Seventh Sister Inquisitor.
Once you’re exhausted from your lightsaber battle, you can kick back and watch The Path of the Jedi. It’s a masterful supercut of the first six Star Wars movies leading into footage from The Force Awakens. This takes place in the old Honey, I Shrunk the Audience theater, so be aware that the entire audience can be jolted around and there are light effects.
Perhaps my favorite part of the transformed Tomorrowland is the Star Wars Launch Bay. There are photo opportunities with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren (where’s my Rey/Finn/Poe, though, Disney?).
There are exclusive behind-the-scenes clips of The Force Awakens (and as far as I could tell, they’re different from any released special features). You can try out the latest version of the Disney Infinity video game with an exclusive area built just for the Launch Bay. But most exciting is the vast array of props, models, costumes, and artifacts from the movies.
You can see everything from model weapons or ships to full costumes. If you have a few grand to spare you can even pick up museum quality replicas of Stormtrooper armor or Darth Vader’s costume. Just FYI.