Why Did the Star Wars Hotel Fail? (Part One)

Why Did the Star Wars Hotel Fail? (Part One)

When the Walt Disney Company finally collapses and its various parts are cut off and auctioned away, people will be asking, “When did its fall begin?”

That’s an easy question with an extremely complex answer.  It’s like answering, “When did Rome fall?” With 476AD.  It’s accurate so far as it goes but doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

The accurate so far as it goes answer to the question of “When did Disney’s fall begin?” Will probably be the opening of the Star Wars Hotel. 

Sure, The Last Jedi was utterly detested but it crossed the $1 billion mark. Even if it didn’t make a profit (and it didn’t) you can’t call a billion-dollar gross much of a failure. Avengers: Endgame was a bad movie that made $2.8 billion. 

The Star Wars Hotel however was a disaster from start to finish.  It was a Fool’s Parade that couldn’t stop marching because no one at Disney can ever admit to having made a mistake. 

In 2017 Disney contracted a third-party survey company to see if there was interest in a Star Wars-themed resort complex.  The answer was a resounding, yes.  And if Disney had just done a genuine themed resort they’d be rolling in the money today.  Except they weren’t doing that. For about a decade, Disney executives have been describing every new attraction as “immersive.” Totally immersive, Completely immersive, new level of immersive.

 It is a fatal buzzword for Disney.  Once it was declared “the most immersive experience ever” there was no turning back.

In 2019, they started making serious noises at the D23 expo.  The concept art no longer looked like blue sky renderings, things were looking more cohesive. However, it looked like it was going to be using the Disney Star Wars characters. And we’d already seen The Last Jedi.  If you get to know Disney’s corporate culture then you would know that they couldn’t have made any other decision. 

A lot of people claim that it would have been a success if Disney had used the original characters.  I can disprove that idea with one question; if they had done that, would you have gone?

Then they made their first goof and released a video of Rey holding a real-world “lightsaber.” 

First of all, it was Rey, and that wasn’t good news. Second, the video didn’t know what the hell it was trying to accomplish.  That laser sword was basically a tape measurer with LEDs glued to it.  You could “draw” it but you had to stay absolutely stil for the same reason you did when you were using your Dad’s tape measurer to play Star Wars, if you moved, it would bend. You couldn’t retract the blade without taking it apart. It was never going to be for sale and there was no way in hell Disney was going to let the guests touch one. It was built to be a prop during the finale floor show.  Which meant that it really kind of needed to stay a surprise and it was the first thing marketing screwed up. It wouldn’t be the last thing.

That brings me to the marketing. 

The marketing was a legendary failure.  The key to successful marketing is giving your product a story that tells a potential customer why they should buy. The Star Wars hotel has been described as a LARP hotel and that is 100% accurate. That is entirely what it was. This is also a problem because let’s be honest here, even among nerds LARPing is a little out there. It’s a fairly niche hobby, favoring as it does, nerds who are extroverts. 

Disney marketing clearly didn’t have the slightest fucking idea how to sell this. 

They did have one commercial that was k-i-i-i-i-n-n-d of okay. 

But that was also the day they dropped the pricing and holy shit. So nobody was talking about the commercial at that point.  

Let’s have a quick word about the pricing. It was ludicrous, a family of four would be paying $6000 for a two-night stay. Now, I don’t know if Disney was putting its thumb on the scale to try to recoup the investment early by scalping the early adapters and then maybe drop the price in three years when interest tapered off, (they never did that by the way).  Regardless the price was simply too high for what you were getting.  And if that was the minimum price needed to keep the experience going then they should have pulled the plug the moment they knew the figure. 

People now knew how much it would cost but nothing else about what their money would be getting. This is the opposite of marketing.

They had a chance to pull the plug when the lockdown hit but instead, it became Disney Parks’ highest priority. 

The next marketing failure was the new chairman of the parks Josh D’Amaro touring the facility.  That is what it looked like, a facility, not a starship. I have no idea what they were thinking by having a middle-aged man in a suit demonstrate the lightsaber training room. First of all, it looked awful because it was awful.  It was supposed to be for Younglings, and the original design would have the kid waving the lightsaber around then when the kid stopped the “laser” would hit it. They couldn’t get that to work in time so the kid would be trying to hit the beam of light with the lightsaber.  Bad as that was, Josh made it look so much worse because he spent the commercial looking like a middle aged executive trying to play a kid’s game without wrinkling his $3000 suit.

This was followed by another clueless commercial.  At least this was trying to make the ride attractive. In a clumsy and dorky 1970s Wonderful World of Disney sort of way and it failed completely.   Showing off the bridge and lounge singer was again a massive marketing failure because it completely demphasized the LARPing which was Star Wars Hotel’s first function and primary obligation.  Marketing chose to ignore the thing they couldn’t figure out how to sell, which was a problem because that was the entire reason for its existence. 

This ad was so bad that people started canceling their reservations. 

Given how much they spent on the Halcyon they needed to really open the purse strings on the ads. Maybe create a five-minute mini-movies with real production values of somebody following one of the LARP storylines. 

The final screw-up by marketing was bringing influencers to do TikTok dances on various parts of the ship.  I don’t even know what the thinking here was.  They were dressed in retarded influencer clothes and doing retarded influencer things.  And forgive for stating the fucking obvious but the kids that TikTokkers influence don’t have $6000 to burn on the weekend.

A huge part of this marketing failure was that when Disney announced the shutdown was over and people could come back to work, everyone said, cool.  Then Disney demanded that former cast members present proof of vaccination and half of Disney Parks marketing was suddenly gone.  The other half was shortly driven away by DEI mandates. 

What was left appears to have been retirees from California and interns. 

For my upcoming book, I’ve contacted people who went on the ride.  I’ll tell you about some of their stories next.



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