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Disney: Florida will get second Star Wars ride before California

Disney's ambitious plans for Star Wars lands on both coasts just declared a winner: Orlando will be the first to get the Rise of the Resistance ride in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Dec. 5, with California waiting until Jan. 17 for the completion of the park's largest single-themed land expansion ever.

The Disney Parks blog announced the news Thursday. California's Disneyland was the first to get Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which opened May 31. Florida's identical version opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Aug. 29. At 14 acres each, the lands feature a marketplace, themed restaurants, a cantina and a replica and ride of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. But the second ride, Rise of the Resistance, had only a vague opening date of "later this year."

The Orlando park will welcome its first Rise of the Resistance riders on the same day Walt Disney was born in 1901.

Rise of the Resistance is meant to be one of the most ambitious ride experiences Disney has planned in years, tasking riders as daring agents of the Resistance, hand-picked personally by Rey and Leia before being waylaid by the sinister First Order. Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega all reprised their roles for new footage included as part of the ride, which sends riders from the surface of Galaxy's Edge's setting on Batuu only to be captured aboard a Star Destroyer and make their escape through the legs of First Order AT-AT walkers.

Expect to see animatronic stormtroopers, TIE fighters and a picturesque view of space. Guests will be in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance and traverse the ride's course via a trackless cart, even passing through a hangar housing two giant AT-ATs before a confrontation with Kylo Ren.

The two lands opening at the Disney parks this year are estimated to cost $1 billion each. As the first themed lands tied to the company's Star Wars franchise, Disney is making a big bet that fans want to be immersed in the long-running sci-fi series.

Disney took extra steps to brace for a surge in visitors when Galaxy's Edge opened in Anaheim, instituting its first-ever reservation system to enter the land for the first three weeks. But the crowds at Disneyland have generally been lighter than predicted. The wait times for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run have hovered between 30 and 60 minutes, far shorter than the two- to three-hour waits typical with new rides.

Some have blamed the lower-than-expected attendance numbers on the fear of crowds and the fact that the land wasn't complete. So guests may be waiting until Rise of the Resistance opens to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn. Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

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