Welcome to our first semi-controversial topic of 2022! Today we are doing a deep dive on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventure ahead of its opening in March. After reading some feedback from fans, I’m ready to unpack my feelings on where this experience is heading.
As previews dropped toward the end of 2021, Star Wars fans worldwide responded with what can only be described as disappointment. Some expressed specific grievances about how the environment looked, calling it too “clean” or “plastic” looking. Others had responses that were a bit more general, seeming as though perhaps there wouldn’t have been anything Disney could do to recreate the vision each critic had in mind for their ultimate adventure. Even my girl, Jackie Gailey, caught some flack from a recent Off the Rails episode for lacking the appropriate amount of expected skepticism. Reading some of the comments made me think that we should sit down and have a little talk.
Before we begin, I just want to recognize that I get it. This 2-night experience package isn’t going to be perfect and won’t meet everyone’s expectations in the first instance, but it’s a start. Let’s go back to the beginning.
When it comes to a fan base like Star Wars, you are bound to get a vast range of opinions. You’ve got your OG fans that have been card-carrying members since the 1970s — Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983). Next-gen fans caught the bug when the prequel trilogy emerged more than 15 years after the last of the original three movies — Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005). After this one, Star Wars as we knew it would change forever when Lucasfilm was acquired by Disney in 2012, creating a whole new category; the Disney Star Wars fan.
Millions of new people discovered the timeless battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side when the sequel trilogy made its way from this joint creative force with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). In between those, of course, you have two “anthology films,” Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). Lastly, you have galaxy lovers who have only become familiar with the franchise through the parks themselves, thanks to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Hollywod Studios.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was a groundbreaking jump from watching this far away world unfold on our theatre screens to being a living, breathing experience that can stimulate all of our senses. Even though it was a bumpy (to say the least) staged opening, fans had mixed reactions when it came to the authenticity of the lands and how immersive they felt when visiting. I couldn’t help but wonder, what exactly were you expecting?
No matter how you look at it, this is a section of a Disney park that can only be pushed so far while remaining appropriate and enjoyable for families and individuals. Not unlike other themed areas of the parks, like Cars Land, Avengers Campus, and Toy Story Land, the idea is that the area needs to be just as enjoyable for fans as it is for someone who walks in having never experienced that storyline or characters before. It’s Disney; it needs to be inclusive and gentle.
Moving on to the Star Wars: Galaxy Starcruiser voyages on offer, I hear the same complaints echoing through the Empire. Mostly from OG fans, the word is that the new Star Wars experience-style resort expansion lacks the gritty, war-torn tension some people are looking for. Again, I get it. The apocalyptic originality of the first installment was volatile and political; however, that is a tall ask to implement in a family-focused, all-encompassing sensory experience on day one. I can’t help but think that sometimes people need to adjust their expectations of what is possible, and viable business-wise, for Disney to accomplish. The bottom line is you aren’t, in fact, a Jedi; so nothing will make you feel 100% like you are. No amount of grungy, worn-in detail in walls will change that. At the end of the day, you are in Orlando.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. Maybe it’s Jackie rubbing off on me over the last four years, but I do have high hopes for this venture. Maybe not entirely for what it will be on opening day, but for the evolution it will begin in how we start to look at resort experiences; less as a place to lay your head and more as the main attraction. Disney will finally start offering vacation packages in Orlando that aren’t necessarily based around the parks, and instead about visiting another world that you can only otherwise access from your imagination. And let’s face it, it will be better than all the other Star Wars-themed immersive experiences out there. Oh that’s right, there aren’t any.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same will apply to this new style of adventure vacationing that Disney is trying to create. The previews and images don’t convey where the real enthrallment comes into play. That atmospheric electricity that only exists when you are physically in a moment. It doesn’t translate to a screen for an audience. It’s like watching a point of view video for an attraction; you can see it, but you can’t feel it. And that, is where the magic is.
But not at that price! I can hear you from here. The reality is that this venture would have been astronomically expensive. I can’t even imagine the numbers involved in building, staffing and creating such a voyage, especially during a pandemic when lockdowns, material shortages and closures make everything harder. This is not a Disney apologist at work — as someone will inevitably comment — it’s an understanding of corporate influence. They have to be able to make a copious amount of money from it. If not, why do it? Disney isn’t a charity. Does it make it right? No. It does make it possible? Yes. For something new to evolve, it needs to start somewhere. It will be far from perfect, but; as another saying goes, from little things, big things grow.
As with all aspects of Disney, they are what you make them. Disney provide the tools to bring the magic to life, but it is ultimately up to each guest to emotionally invest themselves in the story in order to gain the most out of it. I honestly believe that for those willing to do so, the rewards will be much better than expected with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to exist in a galaxy far, far away; even if only for two nights at a time.