Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves these things! Disneyland’s newest theme park, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, should’ve been a huge hit after the exclusive reservation period ended. But the new park has been met with criticism from fandom because it feels, well, empty. And not just empty when it comes to the number of guests, the experience itself feels a little empty. In a way, it’s like unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning hoping for the latest Star Wars toy, but grandma screwed up and got one of those Space War knock-offs. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge just doesn’t feel Star Wars enough. And by Star Wars, I mean the original trilogy with Han, Luke, Leia, Yoda, Darth Vader — the characters fans fell in love with which spawned a franchise lasting more than four decades. What Disney forgot was that franchises/brands are not about a story, they are about the beloved characters, plain and simple.
“So, how did things go so horribly wrong with what should have been a slam dunk for Disney?”
Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is set at many of the familiar places from the Harry Potter universe such as Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, is a huge hit with massive crowds this summer. Galaxy’s Edge is set nowhere-in-particular in the Star Wars universe which makes it feel inauthentic. Okay, it’s supposed to be on Batuu at the Black Spire Outpost which, if you’re like me and only care about what happens in the movies, means absolutely nothing. Batuu and the lore of this setting is just fan-fic as far as I’m concerned. I was hoping to visit a place in the Star Wars universe with which I had some familiarity. Galaxy’s Edge only seems familiar because of those moisture vaporators which I recognize from Tatooine.
For those hoping for a total immersion experience like something in Westworld or even The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’re out of luck. Because you’ve actually landed on a planet of people obsessed with taking photos of everything as they view the world through their black mirrors. And you thought Jawas were disgusting creatures, these Batuusians are downright annoying with their space selfies.
“…Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge seems like a giant outdoor shopping mall with overpriced merchandise and only one ride.”
I would have to say that I’ve had more fun attending Star Wars Celebration with fellow hard-core fans than I did at Galaxy’s Edge. It’s clear that the organizers of Celebration have a much better understanding of Star Wars fans than Disney. On the positive side, the Millennium Falcon is a sight to see. And though it’s incredible to see this infamous hunk of junk in the daytime, it’s especially remarkable at night as it is lit up as perfectly as it was on Cloud City.
So, how did things go so horribly wrong with what should have been a slam dunk for Disney? This isn’t the first time Disney has disappointed with the opening of a new theme park. The debut of the original incarnation of California Adventure was declared a dud on arrival and met with much more criticism. After new attractions and years of improvements, California Adventure has become the park of choice for many, rivaling the popularity of Disneyland itself.
“It’s the Star Wars-iest place on earth!”
Perhaps forging ahead too quickly to satisfy the public’s (or shareholders’) desire is partially to blame? Disney clearly rushed to meet a deadline but it’s safe to say that it’s going to take more than the upcoming Rise of the Resistance attraction to complete the experience. Ultimately Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge seems like a giant outdoor shopping mall with overpriced merchandise and only one ride. So, exactly how can it be improved?
Disney will certainly be making tweaks and some changes, the investment is far too great. So, I’d like to offer five simple suggestions that I believe would improve the experience for fans of Star Wars and theme parks alike.
1. Serve Alcohol Everywhere at Galaxy’s Edge
One of the most popular places at Galaxy’s Edge is Oga’s Cantina, basically a knock-off of the Cantina from the original Star Wars. And it’s the only place you can get an adult beverage. Upon entering, you’re told that you must order all your food and drinks immediately (a “maximum” of two drinks per person) and you have just 45 minutes until you are politely asked to leave. Cocktails are around $14, which is pretty common in Los Angeles, but the prices go up from there. It’s unfortunate that no matter where you go at Galaxy’s Edge, Disney seems determined to gouge customers with insane prices. During my visit, the wait staff was perfectly polite but you could tell they were exasperated by having to enforce rules that just seemed to dampen the fun.
“…it would take the pressure off the Cantina to be the only place to get a drink at Disneyland.”
By serving alcoholic drinks everywhere within Galaxy’s Edge, it would take the pressure off the Cantina to be the only place to get a drink at Disneyland. Now before you criticize this suggestion, consider that beer and cocktails are available everywhere in California Adventure and it seems to work just fine. Other theme parks such as Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios remain competitive because alcohol is readily available. Think of the creative concoctions that could be available at the restaurants and bar kiosks at Galaxy’s Edge — beers like Ackbar Ale, Bantha Blonde and Padme Pilsner.