Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser On Life SupportThe Dark Herald
Newly re-enthroned CEO Bob Iger visited Disney World last week. This really doesn’t happen too often. Disney is headquartered in Burbank, which means it’s not only a cross country flight but it’s trip deep into the heart of redness. As I have stated before, while Disney Burbank executives discuss what Rachel Madow had to say last night around the water cooler, WDW chieftains chat about Tucker Carlson over beer. These two parts of Disney h-a-t-e each other.
None the less, Iger felt compelled to put on his cast member badge and look things over in person because he’s got a proxy fight coming up and WDW has quite a few problems. It’s going to take large amounts of money to fix them.
Genie+ is a disaster and will remain one for the foreseeable future. Wifi bandwidth at Disney World doesn’t have anywhere near the surge capacity it needs to support it. The park wifi was notoriously unreliable before it became a mandatory requirement to maximize your Disney fun through data driven parkgoer feedback. This one is entirely on Chapek, he won’t be missed. Walt Disney World has a maximum capacity of 320,000 people, which it reaches in the summer. Heavy reliance on a wifi app was a bad idea before Budget-cut Bob started cutting corners.
Splash Mountain has been closed in order to turn it into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. This was also one of Chapek’s babies. Which means that Iger wants to sand his fingerprints off it. Reskinning a Song of the South ride makes sense. After all it hasn’t been legally seen in the US for about 40 years and the animatronics are all on their last legs. I guarantee that the redecoration Chapek had planned would be very much on the cheap. If Iger opts to tart that up, no one will object.
Getting rid of the HarmoniUS show was a very popular move. It was nothing but an overblown singalong and the fixtures were both gigantic and disfiguring to Epcot. Iger wants his impact felt on whatever show replaces it. Tearing out he Stargate and Death Tacos is going to be hideously expensive, but it will drastically improve the view on World Showcase Lagoon. Again, it will be very popular.
Epcot itself has been torn up all to hell and the construction timelines are all out the window because of Covid. Also, they were all terrible ideas. Chapek was obsessed with injecting Disney IPs into everything because that had worked so well for Universal Studios and clearly, he had no interest in listening to Imagineers objections about a park’s overall theming. He was fundamentally incapable of understanding the problem he was creating.
The big surprise was that the California execs toured Journey Into Imagination with Figment and were reportedly “dismayed” by the state of it. This is bullshit, they have to have known that parkgoers have been moaning about how cheesy that dark ride is now compared with its former glory when Epcot first opened. Disney has a Figment movie in production and the ride in its current incarnation was themed to the Honey I Shrunk the Whatever movies from thirty years ago. It stars an Eric Idle who is still in his mid-40s. It has been long overdue for a refurbishment especially as Figment appears to be more popular now than he was when the park opened in 1982.
All of which is second fiddle to the biggest problem Walt Disney World has, namely the Star Wars Galactic Cruiser. Disney was hoping to keep that disaster running until through 2024 but it has collapsed completely.
The immersive experience is something the Imagineers have repeatedly taken off the shelf and polished up from time to time for better than 20 years. The only scheme that had a hope of turning a profit was the Hogwarts version.
Star Wars on the other hand would have been pretty questionable even if they had gone with the original trilogy. Bob Iger made the horrendous decision to theme Galaxy’s Edge to the utterly detested third trilogy. The Galactic Cruiser came later. All of its experiences were originally supposed to be part of Galaxy’s Edge. Putting all that stuff behind a paywall reeks of Bob Chapek but Iger signed off on it. The technology they needed to develop didn’t work right so the light saber training turned into a tedious exercise where you would move the saber to where the “laser” was already pointing rather than deflecting it. All of the cool looking stuff didn’t survive the lawyers’ safety walk through. Then Disney had to follow hotel safety regulations which destroyed what little was left of the hotel’s Star Wars aesthetic.
The ridiculous part is that this concrete bunker of a hotel was built AFTER The Rise of Skywalker was released.
You might be wondering, why they didn’t retheme it to some era of Star Wars that is more popular? Several reasons, first Galaxy’s Edge was already themed to the Reylo trilogy. In order to maintain immersion of experience, the Halcyon’s passengers would have to remain in this hated timeline. Two, Chapek was constantly struggling against headwinds thanks to Bob Iger. He didn’t have the power to make major corrections. While he had a ruthless Machiavellian streak, he is most easily described as “a frightened accountant.” Three, the Stories Matter group was committed to Reylo because of Woke. There are a bunch of other minor reasons.
It was supposed to be a “white glove” experience, but the “white glove” wait staff wanted nothing to do with it. It takes decades to work your way up to Victoria and Alberts restaurant at Disney World, consider the kind of tip you will get for $1000 meal. Now you would be sent to the Halcyon where the price of all meals is thrown in. The gratuity is built in, but all that means for the wait staff is that it doesn’t matter how good a job you do because you will be paid just the same. Also, by all accounts the food is terrible.
Mmmm! You didn’t even know you wanted that!
A family of four would be charged $6,000 for three days of LARPing. You would expect luxury accommodations for that kind of money but Disney just doesn’t know how to do that. Honestly, the whole thing looked pretty cheap. Disney was acting like the Halcyon was the don’t miss event of a life time but as soon as we saw the trailer, we knew.
I’ll give credit where it’s due, the actors did their level best under what had to be very stressful conditions. Think about it, they had to stay in character for 45 hours at a stretch. Then turn around and do the same thing again. They can be proud of themselves, they were doing the impossible.
However, the biggest problem with the Star Wars Hotel was that it was built in the first place. The whole project should have been shitcanned after Covid broke out but instead Chapek made it a priority.
From before the start there were worrying signs on the horizon. Given the amount of money sunk into it, it needed to be sold out for years and it wasn’t. At first the voyages were at capacity but these were all bloggers, early adapters and be-the-first-one-to-see types. They were always going to go. But now they’ve seen it, gone home, and don’t want to do it again.
The fundamental issue was people like me. My family’s income (these days) is high enough I can afford to take myself and three other family members (sidestepping the issue of which family members get left out). The big thing is, that while I could theoretically do it, I would never want to. Even if the tech they had developed worked just fine, the decorations actually looked like Star Wars and the food didn’t suck. The entire concept has no appeal. Maybe if the Darkspawn were beating me up night and day over it I could suck it up for my kid’s sake, but they don’t like the idea either. Let me stress this, I am the primary market they want for this thing and my family wants nothing to do with it. The intended audience is uninterested.
Now the whole project has run out of steam. Summer bookings for the Halcyon, (when the parks are routinely hitting max capacity) are so low that Disney can’t operate the show. They are canceling dates and offering the passengers a fifty percent discount if they will accept another date.
Since the people that do this are probably going to Disney World for at least a week, it’s a hassle but they can move their schedule around for that week. However, that means the reservations for the Star Wars Galactic Cruiser that are running are so severely under-booked that they can absorb the transfers without any problem. And the ones that are running are mostly weekend trips, where you would expect bookings to be the heaviest in the first place.
Honestly, the smart thing to do would be to finish out the 2023 season, close it for “refurbishment.” Then never reopen it. That is pretty much standard procedure for WDW when they vanish a ride. It rots for a while like River Country, then gets quietly demolished a few years later.
However, if there was ever a company that believed in the sunk-costs-fallacy, it’s Disney. Their first instinct is to always throw good money after bad. Dumping the hated Reyloverse is the most obvious strategy and I’m not sure they can bring themselves to do even that.
Assuming they do dump it for The Mandalorian (Disney doesn’t have to pay Lucas for that). The problem there is going to be “maintaining immersion.” You can’t do that by going from a Mando era Halcyon to a starport that is thirty years in the future. New costumes and stories for the Halcyon is going to cost at least as much as a Broadway production but reskinning Rise of the Resistance, Smuggler’s Run and all of Batu is going to have a price tag in the giga-bucks.
This will be a major commitment of resources for Disney at a time when their balance sheet is the worst in their industry.
I have no idea if Bob Iger is going to do all of this stuff but he has to make it look like he is going to if he is to have a prayer of surviving this proxy fight.
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