When Star Wars loses heart
The catastrophic failure of a "Star Wars hotel" offers lessons for us all
Hello there. You’re reading This Is The Way. Your usual captain, Stephen Kent, is lost somewhere in the Icelandic countryside between Seydesfjordur and Vik (the site of some of Star Wars filming locations actually). I’mand Stephen and I are joining forces to make This Is The Way even greater. While he figures out to get home from the Land of Fire & Ice, I had some thoughts on Disney’s announcement of closing the “Star Wars Hotel” aka Galactic Starcruiser.
Star Wars For Few
There are times when vision and ambition lead to new heights, and there are times when we miss the mark. The Walt Disney Company's recently announced closure of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel is a shocking example of the latter, but it offers a valuable lesson.
The sudden end to Galactic Starcruiser signals a misalignment between the product and its audience, providing an insightful lesson on the importance of staying true to the essence of a brand and the values it holds.
Galactic Starcruiser, a very high-priced, immersive hotel experience, was a huge leap forward in the world of experiential entertainment. Yet, it faltered in execution, unable to resonate with Star Wars fans and ultimately proving unsustainable. No guests, no money, no Starcruiser. Disney doesn’t mess around by propping up financial failures. It cost them beyond $350 million to build and staff. It’s a huge blunder.
The experience missed a crucial aspect of the Star Wars ethos that has made the saga an enduring global phenomenon: its accessibility and depiction of the hero's journey.
Star Wars is not a tale of luxury or extravagance. It's not about an exclusive club reserved only for those who can afford the hefty price tag. Star Wars is a story about hope, resilience, and the power of an individual – a farm boy from nowhere, a scavenger from a desert planet – to rise against the odds and change the course of their destiny. It's a universal story that resonates with people from all walks of life.
Whether or not you liked The Last Jedi, we are all “broom boy”.
The Galactic Starcruiser, in contrast, was designed as an experience for the privileged few. With a starting price of nearly $5,000 for a two-night stay, it was far from accessible to the average American family. This focus on a premium experience over accessibility was perhaps the first sign that Disney had strayed from the essence of Star Wars. Luxury was chosen over the journey of the everyday hero, creating a dissonance with the spirit of Star Wars.
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The cringe-worthy promotional ads featuring Sean Giambrone of “The Goldbergs” fame (quickly removed) and Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro testing out the lightsaber training (in a COVID mask) revealed a tone-deaf understanding of the Star Wars universe. The plastic look of the Starcruiser and the lackluster lightsaber session veered away from the gritty, textured aesthetic and lived-in universe of George Lucas. More significantly, they emphasized a flashy, exclusive entertainment experience that seemed more akin to a high-priced Vegas casino (Canto Bight if you will) than the transformative, rust-worn journey at the heart of the Star Wars saga. This mismatch between the promotional narrative and the Star Wars ethos underscored the disconnect between Disney's Galactic Starcruiser and the hero's journey in Star Wars.
Now, of course, I need to be careful here because I personally have not had the opportunity to experience Galactic Starcruiser (I would have loved to try it out). The storytelling and design efforts seem to be some of the best work that Disney Imagineering has accomplished to date. Regardless of the actual experience, the public impression of the Galactic Starcruiser experience was not enough to entice spending the kind of money that Disney was charging.
My take: it’s not because the price tag was high. (which it was) Disney fans have consistently shown that they are willing to spend thousands of dollars on premium experiences. The average family vacation to Disney World costs about the same amount. It’s the messaging around the experience, if not the experience itself that was the primary sin, and primary failure.
To truly immerse yourself in Star Wars, you don’t lounge in an expensive space resort. You conquer your fears and become a hero. That’s what this whole thing is supposed to be about. Galactic Starcruiser betrayed those values. With no connection to the ethos of the Star Wars universe, it had no potential to connect with the audience.
It's a lesson for all of us: to stay true to the essence of the stories and the values that shape us.
Boutique experiences have their place, of course. They offer a unique, personalized touch that can't be replicated on a mass scale. But when it comes to Star Wars, the focus should be on crafting experiences that reflect an individual's power to make a difference.
Don’t revel in the closing of the Galactic Starcruiser. Instead, see it as an opportunity to reshape and enhance the Star Wars experience, ensuring it remains true to its roots. Disney has the chance to learn from this experience, to rise above, and to reimagine Star Wars experiential entertainment in a way that serves the spirit of the Star Wars saga.
This debacle should serve as a reminder that even in our pursuit of innovation and novelty, we mustn’t lose heart.
After all, heart is what gives Star Wars its power.
This Is The Way.