Star Wars planet in new theme park

Star Wars: Rogue One's first official photo showing (from left) actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.
Star Wars: Rogue One's first official photo showing (from left) actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.PHOTO: LUCASFILM FACEBOOK

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA • Sorry, Mickey: The next decade at Disney's theme parks in the United States will largely be about Luke Skywalker.

Disney last Saturday unveiled plans for two huge Star Wars theme parks adjacent to existing US venues in Florida and California.

With star Harrison Ford on hand, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said that, after Disney's US$4- billion (S$5.6 billion) purchase of Lucasfilm three years ago, "we wanted to bring Star Wars to every corner of our company... Not only on screens but also in real life".

"We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever," he said. "These new lands at (California's) Disneyland and (Florida's) 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."

In addition to that battle experience, visitors will be able to drive "one of the most recognisable ships in the galaxy", the Millennium Falcon, on a secret mission, he said, without disclosing a construction timetable.

The Star Wars parks will be in Orlando, next to Disney Hollywood Studios, and in Anaheim, next to Disneyland.

The 6ha sites will have their own staff and restaurants will be staffed by wild creatures from the space saga.

"You'll have a chance to run into all the droids and fantastic beasts," Mr Iger added.

It is the first time the entertainment giant is trying the Star Wars theme at its parks.

The three-day D23 expo at the convention centre in Anaheim - home to the original Disneyland Park - ended yesterday and drew fans and media representatives from around the globe.

Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said that, on the heels of Colin Trevorrow's smashing success with Jurassic World, the director would helm the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. The movie is due out in 2019.

The cast of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, which opens in December, drew a massive round of cheering, particularly for Ford, known for playing Han Solo.

As part of its strategy to squeeze the most out of the Star Wars universe, Disney plans to release one film a year until 2019.

After Episode VII will come Star Wars: Rogue One, on Dec 16 next year. Rogue One's first official photo was also released, showing Hong Kong's Donnie Yen and Chinese star Jiang Wen in it. Being filmed with Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) directing, it also stars Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker.

Johnny Depp wowed the crowd decked out as his popular Jack Sparrow character from Pirates Of The Caribbean. Its next instalment comes out in 2017 starring Orlando Bloom and Javier Bardem.

Disney and its subsidiary Pixar also announced animated movies coming down the pipe, including a love story in the fourth film of the Toy Story series between the characters Woody and Bo Peep.

"It's the 20th anniversary of the original Toy Story, said Mr John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, "I'm sorry to make you feel old."

A modern take on Jack And The Beanstalk, entitled Gigantic, is set for release in 2018 and will feature music from songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who penned the hit Let It Go from the movie Frozen (2013).

"We're taking parts of the story we all remember and adding twists and turns, emotion and humour," director Nathan Greno said. The film follows the adventures of Jack and Inma, an 18m-tall 11-year-old girl.

Disney is planning to keep turning animated favourites into live-action blockbusters.

Receiving a raucous reception was Jungle Book, based on the Rudyard Kipling book, which features realistic-looking talking animals. Ben Kingsley plays black panther Bagheera, Neel Sethi takes the role of Mowgli and Lupita Nyong'o is cast as wolf Raksha. Star voicings also come from Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Idris Elba.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'Star Wars planet in new theme park'. Print Edition | Subscribe