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Fans of Star Wars – and Disney theme parks – must continue to wait for concrete details regarding the company’s plans to feature the Star Wars franchise in its entertainment meccas. The anticipation of the latest episode in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, continues to build ahead of its theatrical release, due to occur in 11 months, causing all things Star Wars to be eagerly devoured by devotees of the pop culture phenomenon, which was purchased by Disney in 2012 from the film’s creator, George Lucas, for $4 billion.
The chairman and CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, confirmed this week that the company is currently undertaking “a fair amount of design and development” in their effort to place the franchise in “multiple locations around the world.” The statement by the Disney head came after the company posted another successful quarter of strong earnings, backed by the success of merchandise tied to the Frozen movie and revenue from theme parks.
Iger cautioned Wall Street analysts that the new Star Wars attractions are “ambitious,” and will require a significant amount of time to both build and prepare for opening. More detailed plans will be forthcoming later this year, but the studio head had previously described them as “significant.” Whatever the end result of the planned new attractions, Disney has said that they will revolve around any future movies and any spinoffs of the franchise. An already-open version of “Star Tours” operates in multiple Disney parks.
In an attempt to reap the rewards of their billion-dollar expenditure as the anticipation of the new movie’s opening date of Dec. 18 grows, Disney is beginning to offer various products relating to the franchise. An animated TV show called Star Wars Rebels has already begun to air on the Disney XD channel, and engineers at Disney are hard at work on merchandise that will tie into the new movie. While the bulk of sales of products which accompany movies occur when it is released, the anticipation of the new movie, coupled with the popularity of the franchise itself, leads Iger to believe that the new merchandise will sell well before the release of The Force Awakens.
Disney has no shortage of available space on which to build new attractions. In addition to their already-operating theme parks worldwide, a new park in Shanghai, which broke ground in April 2007 and will cost $4.4 billion, is scheduled to open in spring 2016. The acquisition of UTV Software Communications opened the markets of India and Asia to the company in 2012. Other films owned by Disney which have corresponding theme park attractions, such as Cars and Snow White, have proven fruitful in drawing consumers – and their money.
Several upcoming events would be suitable for Disney’s final announcement as to the specifics of new Star Wars attractions. A “Star Wars Celebration” is scheduled for April of this year while the D23 Expo, a Disney convention modeled after Comic-Con, is slated for August. The company could even take advantage of the holiday celebrated only by Star Wars fans, May 4. Given the substantial planning said to be taking place at Disney headquarters, a later date for the announcement is more likely.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Image by Shin – Flickr License