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Monday Mouse Watch: Is Disney getting ready to send in the "Clones" ?

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Monday Mouse Watch: Is Disney getting ready to send in the "Clones" ?

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Okay. Let's start your Monday morning off with a funny little Disney-related story from the September issue of "Star Wars Insider" magazine. Which alludes to a particularly bizarre moment during the production of "Episode IV - A New Hope."

It seems that -- with the hope that they might be able to score an atmospheric establishing shot for his new movie -- George Lucas made arrangements in March of 1977 to send a film crew down to Guatemala. Where they were to then shoot the Mayan ruins that tower over Tikal National Park.

However, when executives at 20th Century Fox learned of Lucas' plan, they immediately tried to talk George out of it. Arguing that -- if all Lucas wanted to do was establish that the rebel base on Yavin 4 was located on this remote jungle planet ... Well, there was really no need to send an entire film crew down to Central America. Lucas could get the exact same sort of shot by sending a single cameraman out to Anaheim. Who could then get some footage of one of those fake temples that rises above the treetops in Disneyland's Jungle Cruise.

Copyright 1977 Lucasfilm, Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Lucas, of course, nixed this rather unique cost-savings idea. Over the objections of those Fox executives, George did send a team from ILM down to Guatemala. Where they got the exact sort of shot that Lucas was looking for.

I bring up this story because I think that it's important to establish how far back "Star Wars" ties to the "Happiest Place on Earth" actually do go. More importantly, that these ties could be getting a whole lot stronger over the next few years.

To explain: George Lucas is currently scheduled to meet with senior officials at Walt Disney Imagineering in late September. Reportedly to review the work that's been done to date on "Star Tours 2.0" as well as to talk about how Lucasfilm's presence at Disneyland could be expanded.

Copyright 1987 Lucasfilm, Ltd. / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Yep, much in the style of the "Lucas Land" project that's now in the work for Disney's Hollywood Studios, Mickey allegedly wants to turn a large portion of Tomorrowland over to George Lucas. So that a set of new "Star Wars" -themed shops & restaurants (And -- more importantly -- at least one new major attraction) can be added to this side of the theme park.

Of course, over the past year or so, the "Star Wars" characters have been enjoying a much higher profile at "The Happiest Place on Earth." Thanks -- in large part -- to the October opening of the park's new "Jedi Training Academy" show. Which -- truth be told -- was actually a clone of a very popular portion of Disney-MGM's "Star Wars Weekends," an annual event that debuted at the studio theme park back in May of 2000.

And speaking of clones ... There's a reason that the Mouse is suddenly so eager to get George's input regarding how his "Star Wars" characters can best be used in their theme parks. As an executive on the ABC Studios side of the house recently explained this situation to me ...

Copyright 2006
Lucasfilm, Ltd. / Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

... Disney still wants to cut a deal for the broadcast rights to Lucas's live-action "Star Wars" TV series with an eye toward airing this program on ABC and ABC Family. But that show is at least a year away from officially going into production. The last he heard, George's people were still interviewing writers and looking for a showrunner.

Whereas that computer-animated "Clone Wars" series ... That's in production right now and could be available for airing as soon as the Fall of 2008. And that's the sort of show that Mickey could easily cross-platform at ABC, ABC Family, the Disney Channel and Toon Disney.

And given that Lucas absolutely loves the Disney theme parks (He and his family actually visited Disneyland back on July 19, 1955. The second day that this theme park was open to the public) ... What Mouse House management is hoping is -- if they invite George to be much more hands-on about how his "Star Wars" characters are used in the parks from here on in ... Well, that might be enough to give their company an edge when it comes to acquiring the broadcast rights to "Clone Wars" and/or that "Star Wars" live-action series.

 Copyright 2007 Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

Now please keep in mind that this is far from a done deal. The way I hear it, Disney has some very stiff competition when it comes to that "Clone Wars" TV series. With both Fox and HBO having allegedly already put in extremely competitive bids for the broadcast rights for this show.

And before all of you Disneyland purists start posting comments about how George Lucas is going to absolutely ruin Tomorrowland ... Please keep in mind that that several popular attractions on this side of the park are supposedly going to be exempt from "Star Wars" retheming. These reportedly include Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the Autopia.

But beyond that ... Should this plan actually go forward, it could possibly undo a lot of the damage that was done during the "Tomorrowland 1998" redo. With one of the very first items to be moved / removed being the Astro Orbitor. Which -- while it brought some much-needed kinetics to Disneyland's Hub -- has been disrupting guest flow patterns in this part of the park for almost a decade now.

 Copyright 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

So what do you folks think ? Would you welcome a "Star Wars" themed redo of much of Disneyland's Tomorrowland ? Particularly if it would bring about the closure of "Innoventions" as well as the West Coast version of "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" ? Not to mention allowing the Mouse to send in the "Clones" to do battle with all of ABC, ABC Family, the Disney Channel and Toon Disney's rivals?

Your thoughts?

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  • I thought that this was supposed to be TOMORROWland. Not FANTASYland by way of A LONG TIME AGO in a Galaxy Far, Far Awayland... I'm just sayin'.

  • I never thought the Astro Orbitor was disrupting the flow of tourists. It never seemed like that whenever I went to Disneyland.

    Anyway, I'm okay with the retheming, as long as they don't get rid of the good attractions. It might turn into a miniature STAR WARS land, but as long as I'm getting what I want and enjoying it, then I'm fine. Besides, HONEY, I SHRUNK THE AUDIENCE is getting outdated and not a lot of people go to Innovations (not that I have anything against the attraction, because its pretty interesting).

    In some ways, the retheming may be profitable. Universal Studios will have a HARRY POTTER land. Disneyland might as well have a STAR WARS land. Both are big franchises.

    Now, what's going to happen to that little ride called Rocket Rods?

  • Jim, sorry to rain on your parade but I've got it on extraordinarily good authority that this is all just very wishful thinking and there's no truth to any of this.  No idea where the rumours started but there are no plans for Lucas to expand his presence at the parks ....  The sources come from both the Disney and the ILM sides ....

  • It is next to impossible to navigate around the Astro Orbitor on even a semi-busy day. Don't even try to walk through when there is a parade going on. I would love to see some Star Wars touches but certainly would not like to lose the whole concept of "Tomorrowland". I really enjoy some of the elements that WDW gained during there rehab of TL several years ago.

  • Even STAR TREK gets two rides, a themed restaurant, a museum, and a gift shop. (Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas).

    It’s about time Star Wars gets something a little more than a flight simulator ride from 1986.

    I really hope this happens.... I’m not saying change all of tomorrow land into Star Wars land ... but why not have a section and some other rides, shows or attractions.

    I think the area where innovations is would be just large enough. While I love the carousel building ... there is no reason to keep it if there are absolutely no plans to do something like America Sings again.

    I also agree with the post on Tomorrowland ... Disney really needs to find something that makes the place FEEL like tomorrow. Having a Star Wars section won't fix it all ... but it won't interfear with it.

    And they need to do this regardless of who gets the TV deal.

  • Lets do it!

  • "   RenePalum said:

    Jim, sorry to rain on your parade but I've got it on extraordinarily good authority that this is all just very wishful thinking and there's no truth to any of this.  No idea where the rumours started but there are no plans for Lucas to expand his presence at the parks ....  The sources come from both the Disney and the ILM sides ...."

    I agree,  EVen Innoventions is being looked at for another attraction which has no connections to Star Wars.

    If any of this was to come true it would most likely only affect Star Tours and Honey i shrunk the audience and maybe pizza port.

  • ANYTHING, ANYTHING replacing 'Honey' and Innoventions would be an improvement. On top of that, the thought of actually expanding the Star Wars stuff is awesome. Seeing the star wars world expand on from star tours into star trader/starcade/HISTA would be a great move for tomorrowland.

  • Why not change Autopia? :-)

    You could turn all those cars into landspeeders like the one from Star Wars: IV A new hope (the original one rode on wheels anyway) The way the design is, you could easily integrate the bumpers without losing anything. And you could even have R2 and C-3PO in the back with C-3PO making cute remarks when you get to close to other 'cars' - Okay. I'm sorry. Back to my day job now.

  • Jim - any chance of completing the Star Tours series of articles?

    A long time ago (June 2005) in a website not too far away (http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2005/05/18/607.aspx) Jim started a series of the Star Tours saga - which generated a ton of responses.  On July 3, 2005, re-edited and expanded version of the series began under the new heading of "By George! The Star Tours Saga: Episode __", with three installments presented before the series stopped in mid-story on July 5th.

    Is this some sort of tribute to George Lucas - Jim plans to wait 16 years between the first three installments and rest of the series?  Oh well - only 13 years, 9 months to go...

    (If you're interested in (re-)reading the series, typing "Star Tours" in the search field brings most of the articles up on the first page, although in the wrong order)

  • I agree with GreatAndoski...PLEASE ANYTHING...If your a purist for Tomorrowland to stay as is no ifs ands or buts then your not a real fan of the park...I mean to say that if your rooting for Outdate-o-Ventions, "Honey I dissappointed the audience--who just wanted air conditioning" and really truly believe that Tomorrowland "98" is perfect as is...then please stand in the corner... I believe that ANYTHING would be a VAST improvement to this once awesome land where Captain's fought evil with the power of music, People traveled through inner space, traversed from land to land by way of the sky, and moved with other people in a constant  people eating flow...now it's a non-static graveyard of misconceived ideas, bad theming... forced Pixar tie-ins and a dead-dry fountain sphere as the cherry on top...

    SO PLEASE do Something...  I truly believe that ANY change toward a better defined Lucas presence in the park would be a major improvement from what we've been shown so far... any purists who want nothing done need to be smacked in the face like WDI needs to be for not having these "Lucas-talks" sooner... And don't get the misconception that I don't love the parks with the nostalgia they bring, because I do... and star wars is old enough to bring a LOT of very welcome nostalgia into the parks and I believe that at this point any change is welcome...

  • Huh. I really like "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience." I didn't realize how in the minority I was, although I won't miss it too terribly if something better took its place.

    I'm really rooting for this to all be true, as much for Disney to get the two Star Wars TV series as for the park. What a powerful asset it would be. And a cluster of Star Wars themed attractions wouldn't bother me at all, but I agree with others that it shouldn't take over Tomorrowland, for obvious reasons.

  • Disneyland is simply the wrong park for a Star Wars takeover. Maybe a Lucas Ranch section over at California Adventure. It starts as a tour of Lucas' studios and then something goes horribly wrong. :) That was a joke, if you couldn't tell.

    I agree with everyone that HISTA and Innoventions must go. HISTA is dated, and it's pretty much been proven that 3-D attractions don't hold up as well as dark rides or coasters. There are exceptions, but for the most part, where are the long lines for HISTA, Muppets, It's Tough to Be a Bug (although I love that one), and others? Philharmagic is the only attraction like that I've actually waited in line for (and not because we were waiting for the next film to start). Innoventions is a great idea, but it doesn't seem to draw in the crowds. That building is pretty big and could house a great attraction.

    But yeah, how about that Rocket Rods track?

  • There will never be anything running on that old Rocket Rods / People Mover track as long as people can't seem to undertand the phrase "keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times" ... or the ever popular... "please remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop".

    Blame your neighbor for this one.


    1.  Star Wars is played.  Enough is enough.  The last trilogy (or is it the first trilogy) was lousy.  It has devolved into something that is simultaneously childish and self-important.  It's time for George to put it all to bed AND MOVE ONTO SOMETHING NEW.  He was once an exciting new filmmaker; now he's just a Star Wars-maker.  Except for going to the well on Indy again.

    2.  Tomorrowland is supposed to be Tomorrow Land.  Yes, the last re-do didn't really cut it.  But either decide that that theme doesn't work anymore and bulldoze it in favor of something new, or reach deep into the well of Imagineering creativity and come up with new rides that FIT Tomorrowland.

    3.  Tomorrowland has been accumulating attractions that aren't about Tomorrow.  Let me repeat something I heard from Woody about Buzz Lightyear:  "HE'S A TOY!!!!!"  Disneyland is supposed to transport us  to another time and place.  The problem with putting Pixar stuff in the park is that it's all here and now.  The Buzz Lightyear attraction, fun as it is, doesn't belong there.  Nor does "Honey".  Nor does "Innoventions" (a pre-show and post-show without a show).   To be fair, this is not a new problem.  Can someone tell me what the heck a stuffed bear from the imagination of an English schoolboy is doing in the American frontier!!!!!!.  Makes me want to scream.

    4.  I don't want to see more Star Wars in Disneyland, I'd rather see it gone.  It works perfectly fine in a movie-themed park. But at Disneyland it just crowds out what I go to the park for, to see some DISNEY magic.  It's time to close out Star Tours and give Imagineering the challenge of putting those simulators to a new and better use.

    5.  Why is Disney sucking up to Lucas so that ABC can get the Star Wars TV series?  Whoever broadcasts the series is going to have to give him an extraordinary guarantee for probably two seaons of the show.  The problem with this is, if the show fails it will be clear in the first ten weeks.  There's a good chance the network could get stuck with a major albatross.  I know; people think Star Wars is a can't miss franchise.  Nothing's can't miss.  And the Young Indy Chronicles was a mixed success at best.

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