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Are George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company getting ready to expand their (Rebel) Alliance

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Are George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company getting ready to expand their (Rebel) Alliance

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Roger A. writes in to ask:


Bravo on your two recent articles on the Disney-MGM name change. After hearing the news, I was thrilled to find your very-informative articles on the subject. One thing you mentioned really intrigued me, and begs for more info:

"We'll have to wait 'til "Disney's Hollywood Studios" has gone ahead with its new 'lands' scenario (i.e. Where specific areas of this theme park will then be dedicated to the celebration of the Playhouse Disney characters, Pixar's films, the Muppets and George Lucas' movies & TV shows)."

Does this mean that there are MORE Lucas, Pixar, and Muppet-based attractions in the planning stages? Typically, it takes more than one (MuppetVision) or two (Star Tours and Stunt Spectacular) attractions to make a "land." Is Disney finally going to expand MGM, er -- Hollywood Studios into a full-blown park? Is there any chance we may finally get Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

I, for one, sure am hoping !


Dear Roger A.

First things first: You can pretty much forget about Disneyland's "Indiana Jones Adventure" ever being built at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Why For? Well, for starters, "Dinosaur" makes use of the very same enhanced-motion-vehicle system that you'll find rolling through both the Anaheim & Tokyo DisneySea versions of this "Indiana Jones" -based thrill ride (And according to what several Imagineers have told me, this Animal Kingdom attraction has the exact same track layout as Disneyland's version of "Indy." So if WDI were to ever replicate Anaheim's Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Central Florida ... Well, the similarities between these two attractions would become pretty obvious fairly quickly).

 Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Then when you factor in all of the lawsuits that the Walt Disney Company has had to settle over the past 12 years (All because a certain number of Disneyland guests claim to have suffered brain injuries while being bounced around in those troop transports) ... I guess you can understand why Mickey's attorneys have continually put the kibosh on the Imagineers' plans to swap out "The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" for the "Indiana Jones Adventure."

That said, there are indeed plans in the works right now to significantly increase George Lucas' presence in Disney's Hollywood Studios. To -- in effect -- create a "Lucas Land" that stretches from the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost all the way to Tatooine Traders.

Right now, the engine that's driving this plan is Star Tours 2.0. Which will feature a brand-new 3D ride film as well as elements from Disney's Living Character Initiative. Look for this redo to officially be announced in 2008 and then go live in 2009. Just in time for the studio theme park's 20th anniversary.

 Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

Mind you, just about the time that "Star Tours" will be going down for its rehab, the Backlot Express is also slated to receive an extreme makeover. During which all of the generic props that currently decorate this cavernous eatery will supposedly be replaced with replicas of well-known costumes & vehicles from various Lucasfilm productions. The way I hear it, the dining room closest to "Star Tours" will (of course) be "Star Wars" themed. While the dining room that's closest to the Stunt Spectacular stadium will then feature props & costumes from the "Indiana Jones" films.

Speaking of the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" ... There has reportedly been some talk between Disney & Lucas about possibly cutting out a scene or two out of this now-18-year-old stunt show and then replacing that older material with brand-new sequences that would be based on memorable moments from the now-shooting "Indiana Jones IV."

That said, I guess I should mention that -- back when George Lucas & Steven Spielberg were taking part in a press conference for the opening of Disney-MGM Studios theme park -- these two said that they hoped that the Imagineers would eventually fold material from the then-just-about-be-released "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" into the Epic Stunt Spectacular. But that never happened. So just because Disney & Lucas are now reportedly talking about possibly dropping scenes from "Indiana Jones IV" into the studio theme park's stunt show doesn't mean that this is actually going to happen this time around.

Copyright 1989 Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

And speaking of things that may not happen ... Remember that live action "Star Wars" television series that Lucas has in the works? You know, the one that's supposed to start shooting in 2008? Well, guess who's reportedly in talks with George about possibly acquiring the broadcast rights to this program?

You guessed it. Disney.

Let me stress here that these talks are allegedly at a very preliminary stage. More importantly, that no decisions -- pro or con -- have been made at this point. But what's kind of intriguing about these negotiations is that Lucas is supposedly looking to avoid what happened with his last foray into television, "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles."

For those of you who don't remember: This high profile project originally debuted on ABC back in March of 1992. And while "Young Indy" was recognized for its outstanding production values, this edutainment program didn't exactly wow viewers. Which is why it ended production after only 44 shows were shot. Which wasn't really enough episodes to syndicate. Which made it next to impossible for George to recover the tens of millions of dollars he'd allegedly plowed into production of this program.

 Copyright 1992 ABC / Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

So this time around, Lucas reportedly want to shoot 100 episodes of his new "Star Wars" -based television series. With a deliberate eye toward getting a massive return on his investment through DVD sales as well as digital downloads of individual episodes. Mind you, in order to make as big a splash as possible with this program, George is going to need a network that's really willing to get behind this new "Star Wars" show.

And this (of course) is where Mickey comes in. The way I hear it, Disney has offered to throw all of its marketing might behind the launch of this live action "Star Wars" television series. Key components of their plan reportedly include introducing the show's cast at next year's "Star Wars Weekends" as well as agreeing to give up primo timeslots on both ABC & ABC Family. Just so this live action program can then reach as wide an audience as possible right from the get-go.

Mind you, the Mouse isn't the only media giant that's supposedly currently wooing George. My understanding is that News Corp reps have also met with Lucas and mapped out a similarly ambitious marketing campaign. With both Fox and FX being offered up as possible distribution channels for this new "Star Wars" show.

Copyright 1977 20th Century Fox / Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

"So who's going to ultimately come out on top here?," you ask. At this point, I'm not even sure that Lucas knows. From what ILM insiders tell me, George is still months away from making a final decision about who gets to air his show. What with production of "Indiana Jones IV" taking up much of his time these days. Not to mention getting all of those teleplays ready for the start of shooting next year.

But Disney officials ... Well, they hope that -- if the Imagineers do a really good job with "Star Tours 2.0" -- this will somehow put Mickey back in George's good graces. Which is why you see the company making a real effort these days to "plus" the area around Disney's Hollywood Studios' "Star Tours" -themed attraction. Like by building that permanent version of the "Jedi Academy" stage.

Anyway ... That's a brief overview of what the Walt Disney Company reportedly has in the works regarding a significant expansion of George Lucas's presence at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. Please keep in mind that -- over time -- these plans can change. More importantly, depending on whether or not Disney lands the broadcast rights to this new "Star Wars" television, these plans could be significantly built up or scaled down.

 Copyright 2007 Lucasfilm, Ltd. All Rights Reserved

But would any of the stuff I've mentioned in today's article make it that much more likely that you'd visit Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in the future? And if not ... Why For?

Your thoughts?

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  • Please please please Jim you NEED, no MUST, do more articles like this, please follow up on this,k? Also, maybe an article about the upcoming Halloween Horror Nights 17? :)

  • "Well, for starters, "Dinosaur" makes use of the very same enhanced-motion-vehicle system that you'll find rolling through both the Anaheim & Tokyo DisneySea versions of this "Indiana Jones" -based thrill ride"

    I have heard this argument before and quite frankly it makes little to sense to me.  Who cares if the technology is the same?  Or if the track is the same layout; can't they change the track a little if its really that big an issue?  The ride experiences are totally different.  What about Body Wars and Star Tours?  Same technology there.....or the many 3D films or spinny Dumbo rides...Magic Kingdom has THREE in the same park.  It's a weak argument......

    As for these lawsuits...again a weak argument.  Whether there are 2 IJA rides in North America or one these lawsuits will mostly likely continue.  So unless you are planning to shut down the DL ride....why not build one in Fla that 99.9% of guests will enjoy?  That will draw MANY guests to the park...Again weak argument..... again if its that big a deal...tone it down a little...

    I dare say the IJA is the one Cali attraction that WDW fans have been hoping for, for years....come on WDI....build it down there already!!


  • These sound just like the same cast member rumors that have been floating about the ether for the last 20 odd years. There's gonna be a new Star Tours any day now, no really. Believe it when I see it, Yoda. George is making a new TV show and ABC is in on the bidding - isn't that true of just about any new TV show? George, 'ol buddy 'ol pal, make sure you stay in Disney's good graces. Otherwise all that vaunted Disney marketing will turn out to be the marketeers they keep in the back warehouse to ignore the Pixar projects. "We don't know how to advertise Star Wars - we didn't approve it."

    Best for George would be to go with Fox. Fox showed during the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release, they can pull out all the marketing stops. At that time, there was a mini bidding war for George's favor - Fox won. George would get preferred show placement on Fox and relentless ads during American Idol. Meanwhile over on Disney Channel, they can tie-in with the latest Star Wars promotion IF they actually build new rides. If the rides don't materialize - the safe historical bet - then Disney gets no benefit from new Star Wars shows.    It's the circle of galactic life.

  • Thanks for the info Jim.  I don't see any of these changes / makeovers having much significant impact on the park.  Startours 2.0, from what I have read so far, still lags behind the nearly decade-old Spider Man.  A ride that might have made a difference...like a proper Indy ride...doesn't seem to be on the boards.  

  • somepirateguy said:

    "again if its that big a deal...tone it down a little"

    I agree...I enjoy the Indy show at WDW, and I've participated in it, but I'd love a ride.  Many people got sick on Mission:Space, and Disney toned that down (well, toned half of it down); I'd take a tamer ride than no ride!

    I think that it'd be beneficial if Disney could air the new "Star Wars" show.  Especially with a Lucasland at MGM/Hollywood Studios, there would be great cross-promotion.  

  • Hope Disney gets the show, but I actually think Lucasfilm will choose for Fox on this one. Disney will pull out everything to get it, but Fox will just pull out even more. And in some way I think Fox is a better distributor for it, seeing they've got previous "Star Wars" experience and all.

    That it is the same ride shouldn't really matter. Nobody is going to ride an attraction and pay attention to the exact track.

  • Hopefully, we'll see the long-rumored American Graffiti drag racing attraction see the light of day soon. What? It would use the same ride technology as Test Track? Oh well, I guess it's a no go then.

    Actually, even though I'm being facetious, I would love it if any so-called LucasLand would attempt to incorporate AG into it in some form or fashion, but I won't hold my breath.


  • As welcome as these comments are, they indicate nothing new would be built, just a retheming of current attractions and areas.  This is not bad, mind you, as there has never been a real cohesiveness in this area of the park.  In fact, a lot depends on which side of the street you are looking.  Turn one way, and you see Gertie the dinosaur and the art deco Hollywood buildings beyond - turn around and there is the jungle entrance to the Indy Stunt Show.  So here is my blue sky additions to what Jim stated above:

    1) Retheme both sides of the street winding from Indy to Tatooine Traders (leave Gertie alone, even though her significance in animation history is mostly lost on the ignorant masses)

    2) Change 'Sounds Dangerous' to Skywalker Sound Studio and bring back the audience interactive sound effect show.  Have an intro by Ben Burtt (now the voice of Wall-E) about making the sounds and then rotate between clips from Indy, American Graffiti (OK Barnum? But,that is a universal property, isn't it? :) ), and Star Wars - making it highly repeatable

    3) Add a dark ride for the whole family - like "Yoda's Dagobah Adventure" that follows the wise old Jedi on the day he encouters Luke and R2-D2 in the swamp.

    In any event,  I look forward to the changes to come, as they must indeed be better than the changes of old.

  • Jim said:

    "But would any of the stuff I've mentioned in today's article make it that much more likely that you'd visit Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in the future? And if not ... Why For?"

    And I say ...

    What "stuff"??? An updated-to-less-outdated version of Star Tours? Wow ... be still my beating heart!!

    And ... da da da daaa da daaaaaa ... a re-themed restaurant!!!!! HOLY COW!! STOP THE PRESSES!!

    Is this really it? This is all the Imagineers can come up with? How pathetic. And to directly answer your question ... no. It won't make me any more likely to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

  • I agree with everything Moonliner said.

    And here are other thoughts, based on the article and above comments.

    1) I agree that Indy and Dinosaur sharing ride tech is not an issue. At all. For all the reasons that Pirateguy laid out.

    2) I don't want to see the stunt show go away. It is still my favorite stunt show in the Orlando area... after all these years. I have no problem with tweaking it with a new scene- I think that'd be great... just DO NOT get rid of it.

    3) As for Star Tours lagging behind Spider-Man in ride tech even with this proposed upgrade... I say "So what?". I still love Star Tours as it is now and I've been on it many times since it first opened. While the film is showing its age... I think the REAL attraction is the queue and the theming. That said, an upgrade on the film and a switch to digital 3-D is really all I think this attraction needs to remain beloved for another decade or two.

    4) I think people are perpetually unhappy and/or dissatisfied. Which is really a bummer. How are upgrades to two well loved and still popular attractions, 2 new themed restaurants (Mos Eisley Cantina anyone?) and some LIVING CHARACTER INITIATIVE (probably what excites me the most) action added to what is really just one corner of the park not considered a MAJOR plussing of that area? Sure, I'd love a new ride or two as well... but all of that sounds just peachy to me as-is.

  • It's a dream come true because I've been a SW fan since birth. (So I was born in '78. It was still big.)

    But yeah, I do think that FOX is definitely going to get the TV show.

    As for the area, I would like to see the preshow video of Star Tours redone because all I can think about is how 1989 everyone looks in their fluorescent uniforms.

    But, I wanna hear about the Muppet area! Will their crazy Planet Hollywood-like restaurant ever be made? Or their version of the Great Movie Ride? More Muppets, please!

  • I have not yet seen Rupert Murdoch not get something he really wants, so yeah, I reluctantly agree that FOX is probably getting the television series.  Murdoch got the Wall Street Journal for cryin out loud.

  • "How are upgrades to two well loved and still popular attractions, 2 new themed restaurants (Mos Eisley Cantina anyone?) and some LIVING CHARACTER INITIATIVE (probably what excites me the most) action added to what is really just one corner of the park not considered a MAJOR plussing of that area?"

    Personally, I don't care about restaurants.  Particularly not even new ones, just adding new "crazy crap" to the walls.

    And I think it's hard for most people to consider an upgrade that doesn't mention a single new ride to be a "MAJOR" one.

    Thanks for the article, good stuff.

  • I've never been a big fan of either Body Wars or Star Tours, so an upgrade to the ride's film doesn't mean doodly to me.  Ditto for the restaurant.  

    I wouldn't mind seeing an update the Indiana Jones stunt show, but I do love the show just the way it is, so that's not huge news either.

    I would love to see us get an actual Indiana Jones ride, and I'd love to see another Muppets attraction.  We can always dream...

  • What happened to creativity. Why is it so important for Disney to acquire other peoples intelectual property. The biggest thing to happen to Disney in the last few years was their own creation - "Pirates of the Caribbean"

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