A few weeks ago, it was reported that Disney is making preparations to once again revamp Tomorrowland and turn it into Star Wars Land. The Star Wars lover in me hit the roof with excitement, while the deep, deep rooted lover of Disneyland started to cry. To really work through the huge disparity of emotions I felt upon hearing this news, I’ll have to take a brief look at each of the warring fandoms that threaten to tear me dramatically in twain.
4 Months and Beyond
I’ve been a resident of California my entire life. My mom grew up in Pasadena, California, and because of the close proximity to Disneyland, she grew up going to Disneyland at least once a year. Fast forward a couple decades to 1979. I was four months old when my parents took me to Disneyland for the first time. Granted, I don’t have a single memory available from that first visit, but my parents continued to make the drive from the Bay Area to Disneyland every summer thereafter.
I have several very fond memories around Disneyland as a child. I remember my siblings and I sitting up late, no sooner than month before we were scheduled to make the trek, pouring over last year’s Disneyland map and plotting out what we would do first, and discussing at great length what worked well the year before and what didn’t. Even geekier than that, we would even sing our favorite songs from certain rides, attempt to recite the Spanish warning phrase instructing us to “remain seated please,” and of course, seeing who could say the Thunder Mountain Railroad intro the fastest. If memory serves, I won.
As adults, that feeling of being a kid in a place of constant joy, music and fun is still part of who we are. My brother takes his son almost every year, usually around his birthday. Lucky for them his birthday is near Halloween, so they’ve been able to do Mickey’s Halloween Party, and of course, ride the Haunted Mansion Halloween style.
I’ve not only had the joy of passing my families tradition to my wife, but after years of showing her “the Carr way to do Disneyland” we’ve not only carved our own style to tackling the two parks, but started several new traditions with our first daughter, and now with our youngest as well. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my new favorite family traditions is the Princess Lunch at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure. Seeing my girls’ faces light up when Cinderella, Snow White and the rest of their favorite princesses stop at our table, all but makes the sometimes difficult journey from Fort Bragg beyond worth it. Being able to sip on a ice cold IPA is another bonus to this meal.
Another one of our favorite family traditions is to take our pictures as Star Wars characters. Yes, the cheesy digital “facelift” of new and traditional Star Wars images with our faces Photoshopped in. I’m still waiting for the day when my girls get over their fears and watch the Star Wars films with me. (My oldest is even too scared to watch an entire episode of The Clone Wars!) Only then will they be ready to make their geeky father proud on stage at Tomorrowland’s Jedi Academy.
For the Love of the Wars
My love for Star Wars hasn’t been as ever-present as my connection to Disneyland but it’s pretty damn close. I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back at my grandmother’s house when I was five or six years old. One of my first memories was the scene where Yoda is giving sage advice to a young, stubborn Luke Skywalker. From that point on I was sold. I’ve made my love of Star Wars part of who I am. Although I didn’t own many Star Wars toys, every day I’d go to my neighbors house and play with his massive collection. I was so jealous of his Millennium Falcon toy carry case and countless action figures. Not too long after I got a Nintendo, so I eventually got to see his face wrinkled in jealousy.
Like most other Star Wars fans, I waited in line for the midnight showings for the prequels and re-releases of the original trilogy, I get several Star Wars collectibles and toys for Christmas each year, I’ve listened to almost every unabridged Star Wars Audiobook, and I have played just about every Star Wars video game ever created. Currently I spend my nights playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although I no longer write for them on a consistent basis, I’m one of the longest running contributors to TORWars.com, and help them cover community events near the Bay Area and San Diego Comic-Con.
When I heard that Disney was going to revamp my favorite land in the park, at first I was stoked. The ever hungry Star Wars fiend within was more than ready to consume more from the a galaxy far, far away.
Then, I started to think about what that meant. What people are forgetting is that there will be no more Tomorrowland! I’ve watched that land change several times over the years. Off the top of my head: The re-imagining of Space mountain, the removal and return of Captain EO, decommissioning the Skyway to Fantasyland and the People Movers, and of course, the overhauling of Star Tours.
It’s this last point I want to address because it directly relates to how I anticipate feeling when Tomorrowland becomes Star Wars Land. When I heard that Disney was going to change Star Tours I immediately felt upset. Not only was I going to miss the ride completely during the construction period, but changing the ride meant changing the nostalgic feelings that go hand in hand with visiting the park every year. For me, a huge part of my yearly visits to Disneyland are that many of the things I love have never changed. The Jungle Cruise, The Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain have seen few if any changes since I was a kid. When I ride these attractions, I feel fully engrossed in how the child version of me felt the first time I rode it.
As most Star Wars fans know, the franchise seems to be synonymous with change. At least in the hands of George Lucas. When the new Star Tours ride debuted, I felt a mixture of “Whohoo that was awesome!” with “Aww what happened to Pee Wee Herman?” I knew the original ride by heart, and this new one changes every time. After a couple years I got over my nostalgia and fully embraced the awesome that is the new Star Tours attraction.
As far as the changes to Tomorrowland, I imagine my ability to walk through the Millennium Falcon, and ride speederbikes instead of Autopia cars will out weigh the part of me holding onto the Tomorrowland I’ve always known…eventually. I still have years to enjoy the most recent incarnation of Tomorrowland so hopefully, with this much time to let change sink in, I’ll be ready to get my Star Wars on for real in 2017.