The empire strikes back: Disney readies a major Hollywood Studios expansion at Walt Disney World

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Published: June 13, 2013 at 3:43 PM
The Walt Disney Company invested a reported $1 billionremaking its under-performing California Adventure theme park, and was rewarded with an attendance surge of 23% last year, following the debut of the remake's centerpiece Cars Land. After that, the president of the Disneyland Resort, George Kalogridis, was reassigned to Florida, where he's now overseeing the Walt Disney World Resort.

Get ready for history to repeat itself. It looks as though Kalogridis and his team have gotten the green light for a project to remake the Disney's Hollywood Studios park on a scale similar to what Disney just finished at California Adventure.

Disney's Hollywood Studios
The projects will share one very large component -- Cars Land, the highlight of the California Adventure makeover, will come to Florida as part of the Hollywood Studios revamp, according to multiple insider sources. But it won't necessarily be the highlight of the changes coming to the park.

That's because Disney's Hollywood Studios is also getting…
Star Wars Land.

Yep. Multiple sources have told me the long-awaited dream of theme park geeks everywhere is actually happening. Disney's moving ahead with both Cars Land and Star Wars Land at the Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.

From what I'm hearing, Cars Land will replace the Lights, Motors, Action auto stunt show as well as Catastrophe Canyon on the southern edge of the park, providing a logical extension to the existing Pixar Place. The demise of the Backstage Tour also would free up space for an additional attraction in Pixar Place (Monsters Inc? Incredibles?), but I've not yet heard any chatter about that happening in this phase of the park remake.

So what about Star Wars Land? The logical places for that expansion would be on either side of the existing Star Tours ride. From what I've heard, it appears that the expansion would take out the area between Star Tours and the auto stunt show stadium, including the Muppet theater and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area. But I've also heard of consideration of going in the opposite direction, which would place the new land on the site of the Backlot Express restaurant and Indiana Jones stunt show theater. Given that the Indy theater's used for several other events throughout the year, and that both the Muppets and Honey I Shrunk the Kids attractions long ago passed the height of their popularity, I'm hearing more forceful arguments for the first option.

This appears to be a five-year project, putting completion in 2018, though Disney could choose to throw money at it and accelerate it by a year.

Imagine a future Disney's Hollywood Studios with Star Wars Land, Cars Land and Pixar Place anchoring the southern half of the park, with Sunset Boulevard, featuring Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Roller Coaster, anchoring the north end. After many months of Universal Orlando pummeling Disney with one popular new expansion after another -- Harry PotterTransformers,Springfield, and more Harry Potter -- it appears that Disney might, finally, be ready to strike back.

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