Disney Imagineers resume work on new Star Wars theme park attractions, to be a “blend” of new and old films, says Iger

in Disney, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Movies, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

As the trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” grows close to becoming the Internet’s most watched movie preview of all time, there’s no doubt that Disney made a grand choice in purchasing Lucasfilm.

But in addition to anticipating many more “Star Wars” movies to come, fans eagerly await Disney to announce plans for more theme park attractions based on the franchise.

Today, Disney CEO Bob Iger shed a little light as to what’s taking so long behind the guarded walls of Walt Disney Imagineering. In an interview with Variety, Iger admits the massive project was halted as they awaited details to emerge from director J.J. Abrams’ highly secretive Episode VII sets. Even Imagineers were being kept outside Abrams’ famed “mystery box” – until recently.

J.J. Abrams on the Episode VII set

Iger didn’t want to move forward on building new Star Wars-based attractions without being able to include the new trilogy and upcoming stand-alone films, fearing the new entertainment would be out of date before it even opened if it only relied on the films of the past.

Indeed, insiders familiar with the “Star Wars” project – code named “Orange Harvest” – confirm Iger’s actions. A massive plan for more Star Wars in the parks, based almost entirely on the original trilogy, was nearly ready to get the green light when Iger stepped in to put it all on hold as the new films were developed. Likewise, leadership changes on the project also took place earlier this year, bringing new eyes to oversee the “Star Wars” theme park portfolio.

But work has now resumed and the new “Star Wars” attractions will certainly feature plenty from the new films. But Disney isn’t leaving behind the old.

Contrary to many attention-grabbing headlines rapidly circulating the ‘net, including Variety’s own, plans are for future Star Wars theme park attractions to include elements new and old.

In the interview Iger stated, “…what we come forward with will have a blend of the past, present and maybe the future.” The most important word in that statement is “blend” – a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar, the classic and contemporary. And we’re not just talking about Star Tours representing the older films.

Lucasfilm has opened its secret files to Disney, with Iger adding that Imagineers are not only familiar with “The Force Awakens” now, but also its sequel – the eighth “Star Wars” – and even some of the standalone, character-focused films, all of which will be used to design more “Star Wars” attractions for the parks, including pieces of the original trilogy.

Imagineers are not abandoning the original trilogy, no matter how much one wants to read into Iger’s recent comments. It’s not set in stone yet, but work continues on concepts that incorporate all parts of the “Star Wars” cinematic story, including past films.

It’s clear from the trailer for “The Force Awakens” that the new trilogy aims to tie in directly to the original trio of films. And there’s no doubt Disney will do the same, ensuring longtime “Star Wars” fans and newcomers alike will have plenty to get excited about when their plans are finally announced.

So when will Disney announce its new “Star Wars” attraction plans? And what exactly are they developing?

Next year is a likely bet for finally seeing some of what’s coming. With the massive Star Wars Celebration convention headed to Anaheim, Calif. in April and the D23 Expo packing Disney fans into the very same convention center in August, followed by the release of “The Force Awakens” in December, 2015 will have ample opportunities for Disney to capitalize on synergy to make their theme park announcements.

Star Tours 2.0 announced at the 2009 D23 Expo

But it’s not yet clear – even to Imagineers on the project – just how much of the existing “Star Wars” plans will get the green light to break ground. Will fans get to walk through a full size Millennium Falcon? Or interact with intergalactic creatures while enjoying a drink at the Cantina? And will a Star Wars Land end up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disneyland in California, or be built overseas first?

The only sure answer we have now is that 2015 will be an excellent year for “Star Wars” and Disney fans. The Force is strong with this project.

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