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Making Star Wars Inside the Magic of Disney

Star Wars Land Concept Art — Just the first three pieces under Mike Celestino’s byline at are stories about Alien: Covenant, “The Willows” Immersive Theater, and Disneyland. So, it stands to reason that his nerd-cred scan-docs are in proper order (and that writing for ITM is a pretty good gig).

However, those fans specifically concerned with happenings in a galaxy far, far away (and it’s upcoming move to a Disney theme parks near you) would do well to follow his @mikecelestino on Twitter.

“I cover plenty of other stuff, too,” said Celestino, modestly. “But I guess I’m the resident Star Wars guy.”

The Inside Scoop

Celestino at Lucasfilm
Celestino at Skywalker Ranch

Inside the Magic, which, when it first hit the web, initially focused on Disney-doings, expanded over the years to cover the gamut of entertainment topics.

Recently, Celestino and theme park guru (and site founder) Ricky Brigante headed to Central Florida to cover Star Wars Celebration Orlando.

There, they got the inside scoop on what fans can expect when Star Wars Land arrives in Anaheim and Florida.

“The panels made me incredibly excited to hear/see/participate in whatever Disney has planned for the areas,” said Celestino. “I adore the idea that the choices you make on the rides can affect how characters interact with you in other sections like the cantina or the marketplace.

“I almost wonder if the average guest is going to be thrown off by a significantly more immersive experience.”

Something for Everyone

Millennium Falcon
Disney Concept Art: Millennium Falcon at Star Wars Land

Many of Mike’s readers (and a fair number of folks partaking in fall into a “particular” category of fan, and from what Mike reports, there’ll be plenty to keep everyone–even the dyed in the Wookiee fanboys and girls–occupied.

“There won’t be a Hoth, a Tatooine, or an Endor at Disney theme parks,” explained Celestino on ITM on April 15. “But there will be an entirely new planet, designed and fleshed out by a team of Walt Disney Imagineers and Lucasfilm creatives.

“That team was at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando… to give the audience in attendance some more information on what may very well be the most highly-anticipated expansions in theme park history.”

From his view, the arrival of the “new planet” will be worth the wait.

“I have regularly seen ‘over the wall’ at Disneyland here in Anaheim, as you can get a really good view of the construction from the Mickey & Friends parking structure,” he said. “It’s great to be able to take in the step-by-step process of how the crews are putting the new land together.

“I almost wish I had thought to take one photo a week to put together a time-lapse video once the whole thing is complete. Maybe some other smarter person did think of that.

“If so, I’m looking forward to seeing it,” he added.

Now and Then

First Order Stromtroopers
“Move along…”

The chances are good that a lot of people fall into that looking-forward-to-seeing-it category. However, for now, the offerings are solid, but decidedly meager, particularly in contrast to what is coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2019.

“Right now there isn’t much,” said Mike, fresh off visits to both parks. “Star Wars Launch Bay is cool, but I just like being in that building that used to be the Carousel of Progress and Innoventions [in Disneyland].

“I also like the first room of the Star Tours queue, where Threepio and Artoo are just hanging out working on the ship [at both parks], but you get ushered through there too quickly, especially if you have a FastPass.

“I think when the new Star Wars expansion opens I’m going to want to live there, though.”

Join the club, Mike. However, asked how successful the Star Wars integration has gone thus far, Celestino said, “I think it’s too early to say.

“Obviously there are much bigger plans than what we have now. Right now you can go and see a bunch of Star Wars-related things, buy Star Wars merchandise, ride a couple Star Wars-inspired rides. If you’re a kid, you can do Jedi Training.

“But in a couple of years, we’re all going to be able to go to the parks and actually live Star Wars.

“That’s a pretty exciting notion,” he said.

Imagineering Impact on Star Wars

Celestino and Brigante
Celestino and Brigante

Writing after the Disney Parks Panel at SWCO, his boss, Brigante, explained:

Some of Disney’s best Imagineers have been tapped to bring the “Star Wars” universe to life in their theme parks at a rapid pace, with lands opening on both coasts in 2019… When guests step foot inside, they will be surrounded by a new “Star Wars” story – their story. And each move they make will make an impact on how the experience plays out. Imagineers have been vague about what exactly this means thus far, but during the panel, a few new details were given.

But information is forthcoming.

“I think we’re going to get a lot more information at the D23 Expo this July. Especially considering Disney doesn’t have any more official conventions planned in America until 2019,” said Celestino. “That’s the same year the expansion is scheduled to open.

“After that, they’re going to have to rely on internet news sites like ours to get the word out. I’m looking forward to those press previews, though; probably the only time I’ll get to be in Star Wars Land–or whatever it ends up being called–during that first year, while the crowds are somewhat manageable.”

Immersive Environments

Planetary Market
Concept Art: Planetary Market

However, the excitement level of Star Wars fans waiting to visit the new environments remains palpable.

“I was already super psyched before they announced the more immersive elements. But that sold me on it a thousand percent,” said Mike of the information he got at SWCO. “I’ve been getting into the L.A. immersive-theater scene lately. I can’t wait to see how Disney incorporates that kind of storytelling into the new land.

“But my boss Ricky Brigante is the real expert on the form. You should read the article he wrote immediately after we got out of that Disney Parks panel at Celebration.”

For now, however, Mike contents himself with familiar sights, knowing that a far bigger experience sits below the horizon.

“You know what?” said Celestino when asked about his favorite Star Wars spot. “I actually love that old almost-life-size X-wing that’s hanging in the Star Trader shop at Disneyland.

“It used to be in a different place, on the second level of the Starcade. You could see it through the windows from the exterior line for Space Mountain.

“Something about that reminds of the late ’90s at Disneyland, while I was in college. Nostalgia is a weird thing.”

Walt and George

(Aug. 14, 2010): "Star Wars" creator and filmmaker George Lucas poses with a group of "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters Aug. 14, 2010 at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Lucas is in central Florida for "Star Wars Celebration V," the official Lucasfilm fan event that is taking place this week at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. He visited Walt Disney World Resort tonight to attend Disney's "Last Tour to Endor" special event. (Todd Anderson, photographer)
Mickey meets The Maker

Nothing in American life–not even Star Wars–seems to generate more nostalgia than Mickey Mouse (and, by extension, Walt Disney).

So the question is inevitable: What would Walt think of all of this?

“It’s a thing that Disney fans bring up a lot,” said Celestino. “I don’t really know, and I think it’s kind of irrelevant. We could spend all day trying to guess what Walt would and wouldn’t want for the parks. Many people do. But ultimately it’s going to come down to what guests want.

“Personally I think it’s great,” he added. “Star Wars has been part of Disney parks for 30 years now. That’s almost half of Disneyland’s existence.

“And sure, if I were forced to guess, I think Walt would have been way into Star Wars.

“Why not? It combines elements of all the stuff he liked–Westerns, fantasy, space-age futurism. I bet Walt Disney and George Lucas would have been fast friends.”


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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.
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