Disney may be ready to admit they screwed up their Star Wars land, but only because ‘The Mandalorian’ is making them do it

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios - Image via Disney
Image via Disney
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios
When Disney announced the two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands set for both their California and Florida parks at the 2015 D23 Expo, it was clear the project was in response to Universal’s two highly popular Harry Potter lands. Following Universal's lead with Potter, the Star Wars lands were to be immersive “in universe” lands set in a specific time and place within a galaxy far, far away.

The 14-acre lands were designed to celebrate the newer Disney films instead of the original trilogy — the land even features its own in-canon backstory, developed in partnership with Lucasfilm. At the time, the gamble was lauded as the future of theme parks due to the ability not just to ride the movies but to explore fully fleshed-out, timeline specific lands based on them both in person and via smartphones.

When the first of the two lands finally opened in Disneyland, there were immediate signs the project wasn’t as popular as Disney had anticipated. The West Coast version of Galaxy’s Edge saw just a fraction of the crowds the park had expected. A few months later, when Disney World’s version opened, the crowds were larger but still nothing compared to the record numbers Universal had seen when it opened its two Potterverse lands.

The lack of nearly any reference to the original trilogy didn’t help matters. The Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca were there, but otherwise, this was a land filled with lesser-known and newer Star Wars characters and references. The poor performance of film after film proved Disney didn’t have the golden touch that George Lucas had when it came to his sci-fi fantasy realms. That is, until Disney tried its hand at a Star Wars television series, The Mandalorian.

The series, exclusive to Disney’s streaming service, became an instant cultural phenomenon when it debuted in late 2019, winning seven Emmy Awards while being praised by critics and fans alike. Disney has since greenlit more than a dozen Star Wars projects.

Now Disney is rumored to be throwing out the problematic issues with the canon-specific lands, instead opting for a more generic backstory that allows for them to more easily introduce the characters of various films and series, with the first, of course, being the the fan-favorite Mandalorian and Grogu, better known as the Child. The Child, known affectionately to fans as "Baby Yoda," became an instant meme sensation and merchandising goldmine. This was buzz that had eluded the newer films for years.
click to enlarge Gift shop at 'Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Rise of the Resistance' - Photo by Seth Kubersky
Photo by Seth Kubersky
Gift shop at 'Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Rise of the Resistance'
According to industry insider and former Orlando Weekly columnist Jim Hill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has ordered the parks to find a way to introduce new characters to the lands. The backstory of the land will be abandoned in an effort to allow more Star Wars characters to be added. In a recent podcast, Hill specifically mentions hot properties like Mando, the Child, Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano.

One possibility involves changing some aspects of the Rise of the Resistance ride to better fit a Mandalorian-based timeline. However, Disney may ultimately opt to ignore the various timelines presented within specific aspects of the lands.

The Millennium Falcon ride may also see updates, with new missions being added during the company’s 100th Anniversary celebration that will take place in 2023 and 2024.

Changing out storylines on screen-based attractions isn’t new. The Star Wars motion theater attraction, which isn’t located within the land, already features multiple storylines with different aspects of each ride sequence picked via a randomized order. Toy Story Mania has also seen updates to its screen-based offerings.

Disney's move would signal a major shift in the hyperspecific in-canon themed lands that now dominate the industry. While popular with fans of the franchise it is based on, these lands can struggle long-term as a franchise, or a version of it, decreases in popularity.

Potpourri-style lands, such as Fantasyland or Adventureland, provide a broad theme for introducing various intellectual properties. This allows for an easier replacement once the franchise an attraction is based on is no longer in demand.

In recent years, this more generic style land with multiple properties has fallen out of favor. But both Universal and Disney now may be seeing the benefits of it.

At Universal, the new Super Nintendo World and the highly rumored Universal Monsters themed land both use this style, with various intellectual properties each sitting next to each other. At Tokyo DisneySea, a Fantasyland-style Fantasy Springs addition is currently under construction.

Disney has the added benefit of some Star Wars content remaining popular with fans whether or not the films the lands were originally based on isn’t.

Disney has yet to confirm when or even if the Mandalorian and the Child will be visiting Galaxy’s Edge, but it’s believed it will take place sometime after social distancing requirements are no longer needed. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian are now available on Disney+. Multiple new Star Wars series are slated to debut on the streaming service later in 2021.

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