A detailed breakdown of how construction on Disneyland’s Star Wars expansion will affect the park

in Disneyland, Disneyland Resort, Star Wars

Image Copyright Disney / Lucasfilm

With the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” behind us and the new year right around the corner, it’s time to turn our attention to the next major event in Disney and Lucasfilm history: the construction of Disneyland’s major Star Wars expansion, scheduled to begin January 11th.

That’s right: Disneyland guests now have less than two weeks to enjoy certain attractions before they are shut down either permanently or temporarily to make way for the upcoming 14-acre addition to the northwest corner of the park.

The Los Angeles Times put together a detailed map this week showing the park as it stands today and how it will be affected by the Star Wars construction beginning in January:

Image source: Los Angeles Times graphics
Image source: Los Angeles Times graphics

With that in mind, partnered with the official information released by Disney, let’s go through each attraction that will be affected by the construction, and discuss the historical context and long-term impact the changes will have on the park.


Attractions Closing Permanently on January 11, 2016

The following attractions will be shut down permanently on January 11th (meaning that the day before, January 10th, will be their final operating day in Disneyland history):

Big Thunder Ranch

Big Thunder Ranch, located along the back side of the park between the Rivers of America and Fantasyland, opened in 1986 and is home to a walk-through log cabin, a small petting zoo with a number of different animals, and seasonal holiday theming during different parts of the year.

Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue

An all-you-can-eat barbecue experience with live stage entertainment, the Big Thunder Barbecue was also closed down from 1998 until 2009 when it reopened into its current state.

Big Thunder Jamboree

An expanded theme area adjacent to Bug Thunder Ranch, the Jamboree has been home to holiday stage shows, character meet-and-greet areas (including Santa Claus at Christmas and “villains” during Halloween time) and assorted seasonal fun and games of all types.


Attractions Closing Temporarily on January 11, 2016

The following attractions will be put on hiatus for at least a year during construction of the Star Wars area, so if you want to see any of these areas, rides, or shows, the next two weeks will be your last chance for quite a while.

Disneyland Railroad

Originally called the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, the enduringly-popular live steam railway “Grand Circle Tour” of Disneyland opened with the park on July 17, 1955. It previously closed down for over a year to accommodate the construction of Splash Mountain in the late 1980s and for five months of refurbishment in anticipation of the park’s 50th anniversary in 2005.

Tom Sawyer Island

Usually accessible via motorized rafts departing regularly from New Orleans Square, Tom Sawyer Island first opened in June 1956, almost a full year after Disneyland’s original opening date. The island features labyrinthine caves, forts, and pathways for explorers of all ages, and was extensively re-themed in 2007 to “Pirate’s Lair” as a tie-in with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise.

Mark Twain Riverboat / Sailing Ship Columbia

The two large boats that travel the same path along the Rivers of America, the Mark Twain and the Columbia have both been operating in Disneyland since the 1950s, with the former having debuted on the park’s opening day. It has been rumored (and apparently confirmed on Disneyland’s official Twitter feed) that the Rivers of America will have an abbreviated, altered course once it finally reopens sometime after 2016.

Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes

Another attraction that has survived since the very early days of the park, the Davy Crockett Canoes also traverse the Rivers of America, but do not run on a track and are propelled by guests themselves.


One of the most popular shows in all of Disneyland Resort, Fantasmic debuted in May of 1992 and makes use of both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia, in addition to an enormous 45-foot animatronic dragon Maleficent. The show takes place on the southern side of Tom Sawyer Island and guests gather to watch alongside the opposite bank of the Rivers of America. The absence of Fantasmic may be one of the most noticeable changes during this transitional period, as it will free up the usually-congested nighttime traffic in New Orleans Square.


As if that wasn’t enough, the following rides will be closing temporarily on January 11th for reasons unrelated to the Star Wars expansion (either to undergo routine refurbishment or to remove their holiday overlays): Autopia, Jungle Cruise, and Haunted Mansion. It’s a Small World follows on January 25th for its post-holiday conversion.


There are many conflicting opinions as to the major changes coming to Disneyland in the very near future. Some will be very sad to see Big Thunder Ranch go away, others are thrilled in anticipation of the eventual opening of a huge, immersive land dedicated exclusively to Star Wars. Whatever your thoughts may be, keep in mind that Disneyland has been evolving since its opening day, and that there’s always plenty more to see and do in the parks as we wait for new experiences to open or for some of our favorites to come back.


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    I’m excited that the ranch is going away, not thrilled about the different routes for the DLRR and the RoA. I’m biased against the Ranch though because when I went to the park with my HS band we had to miss out on watching Fantasmic in favor of watching a corny and boring (especially compared to Fantasmic) awards ceremony that was in the “Festival Arena” so I have been championing its closure since May 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMKJ079sS4k when I went the awards were at night after the fireworks and during Fantasmic as opposed to in the afternoon and we weren’t given the option of electing to go to the awards, we were forced to… believe me I was coming up with every possible way out and none worked (pretending I was on a ride that broke down, trying to sneak away by “using the restroom”, etc

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      So because you were forced to go to an awards ceremony instead of Fantastic you are happy the ranch is going away? SMH

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    Change may be good, but I think the “immersive environment” is such a radical shift, it will end up virtually wiping out Walt’s original park. What if Tomorrowland suddenly becomes just Disneyland’s version of Universal Orlando’s Marvel Superhero Island? The nice this about Disneyland is that it had a bit of something for everyone. Heck, several of the attractions were not even originally to any film or TV show: Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room, Matterhorn, PeopleMover, Adventures thru Inner Space, CircleVision, even Main Street USA. Disney properties were mixed in (Fantasyland aside). But these new total environments, like Cars Land in DCA, will change the face of the parks from intimate to immersive, eliminating the one clear advantage Disneyland had — precious little jewel.

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      so much same.

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    Big Thunder Ranch and the Barbecue have been a big part of my family. Every birthday, we’d go to the Barbecue, and it truly has the best food of the whole Resort! The bathroom there is also the best and always without any lines, lol, so I’ll be super sad to see that bathroom go haha!

    I am a huge Star Wars fan so of course I’m excited to see all the new stuff. But I am sad to see the Park that I do know, and the Park I’ve grown up with, leave. Who knows what it’ll look like, and lord knows how crazy busy it’ll be now that SW Land is coming. Tom Sawyer Island is another staple for me, and a part of what Disneyland is to me. I’m incredibly sad to see it change, but like Walt said, Disneyland will never be completed, and so I am going to be excited to see what the changes bring and what new adventures are in store in SW Land.

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    The Disneyland I grew up with is gone forever! I remember watching the fireworks show from our front yard until the tree grew too high. Disneyland will never be the same! Why couldn’t they build SWL IN DCA?

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    I’m glad that this BBQ ranch is going away, mostly because I saw how the animals were sad being trap in there. Instead of having all Star Wars theme lands and ride, I wish they come up with ideas of how to explode all the amazing films they already have, like that show they use to have from Huntchback of ND. But I still love DISNEYLAND LOL.

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    Nice share. Thanks for this information. I was not aware of it. The Disneyland I grew up with is gone. I wish they come up with new ideas.

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