With construction of the new Star Wars-themed land gearing up to get underway, big changes are on their way to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Here’s the scoop on what’s coming (Hello Hyperspace Mountain!) and what’s going (Goodbye Big Thunder Ranch!) and when it’s all going to happen.
Changes Coming to Disneyland
Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to growas long as there is imagination left in the world.” Sixty years later, Walt’s words continue to ring true. The latest addition to Disneyland will be a new Star Wars Land.
Plans for Star Wars Land were officially announced in August at Disney’s D23 Expo. The land will be built near the north part of Frontierland. But to accommodate this expansion, there is some good news and bad news.
First, the good news
You don’t have to wait until the new Star Wars Land opens in several years to find out what it’s all about!
Kicking off on November 16 is Disneyland’s Season of the Force, when Tomorrowland will transform into a multi-faceted Star Wars experience. This move is also to promote the upcoming movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because Disney is a megastar when it comes to cross-promoting!
But more on all that in a minute.
Here’s the bad news.
Like with everything in life, change isn’t always without sacrifice. And you can’t build a 14-acre new land (Disneyland’s largest ever expansion, by the way) without having to make a few sacrifices. In this case, the sacrifice is going to be Big Thunder Ranch. Disney announced it will be permanently closing the Ranch on January 10, 2016.
Granted, this isn’t the most thrilling or populated area of the park, but it is a nice spot and has a darn good all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant. It also has a petting zoo for the little ones. During the holidays, it’s where you go to meet Santa and see real reindeer. During the fall, it transforms into a harvest-themed intricately decorated Halloween wonderland done up like only Disney can do.
One time several years ago, my son was doing some kids’ crafts there on a fairly quiet day, when who should walk over and sit down right next to him, pick up a crayon and start coloring? Our good friend Woody! It was an amazing moment and to this day one of our best Disneyland memories.
Big Thunder Ranch has even served as home to the Thanksgiving turkeys pardoned each November by the President of the United States.
Where Will the Animals Go?
When we heard about its impending closure, we were more than a little disappointed! And like any good animal lover, my first question was: What’s going to happen to the Ranch’s residents?
So here’s the deal, according to my research (aka the Orange County Register and Disneyland PR). Disneyland officials say the Circle D Ranch – where the horses are stabled in an area adjacent to Big Thunder Ranch but not accessible to park guests – and the horses will be moved to a nearby off-property location. They have not yet announced where the goats, turkeys and other animals that routinely appear in the petting zoo are going to go. But this is Disney, right? I can only assume it will be a very happy place! But you can bet I’ll be following this for more info.
All About Disney’s Season of the Force
So let’s talk more about the good news! Disney’s Season of the Force begins on November 16 and will provide visitors with a good sense of what’s coming. And it’s in Tomorrowland, which frankly makes a lot more sense for Star Wars than Frontierland – but I get it. Real Estate is limited.
Here’s what you can expect:
– Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – The current attraction will stay put but will feature a new scene inspired by the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
– Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple – Also a current attraction, but they will be adding a new twist to the experience and a new villain from the popular Disney XD series, Star Wars Rebels.
– Hyperspace Mountain – You know how Space Mountain gets transformed into Ghost Galaxy for Halloween? For the Season of the Force the ride will feature an X-wing starfighter battle on the rollercoaster.
– Star Wars Launch Bay – A brand new exhibit area offering sneak peeks into the new Star Wars Land, character greetings and more.
– Tomorrowland Theater – An opportunity to revisit favorite scenes from classic Star Wars films for you old-schoolers.
– Shopping & More – And of course, special Star Wars-themed food, beverages, merchandise and entertainment.
Other Big Changes Coming to Frontierland
Since the bulk of Star Wars Land will be constructed outside the existing park, other than the demise of Big Thunder Ranch, you will not see any other permanent changes in Frontierland.
However, to allow for construction several popular attractions will close temporarily, also beginning January 10.
The biggest change you’ll probably see is the closure of the Disneyland Railroad, which of course will impact all four stations in the park. Pretty much all the attractions along the Rivers of America will close temporarily as well, including the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia, the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes and the Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Disneyland’s nightly Fantasmic! show will also be suspended throughout the construction period.
But don’t despair. All those attractions will be back eventually. What you need to do is get on over to Disneyland before January 10 and spend a little time at Big Thunder Ranch.
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Have the barbecue for dinner, listen to some live country music, and maybe pet a few critters while you still have the chance.
And don’t forget say hi to Woody for me.
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