UPDATE: Cataline appears to have called it right.
I haven’t commented on this up until now because I wasn’t sure there was anything to it. But at this point there are enough confirming reports coming in that I willing to say, I called it right. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland is a flop.
Even USA Today is more or less admitting that attendance is no where near what you should expect at the height of the season.
I’ve been there and in July it’s normally asshole to bellybutton, standing room only. More damning, Disney has announced that the opening of the Rise of the Resistance ride has been pushed back to next year. Now it’s not uncommon for Disney to open a new gate with some rides unfinished but pushing back opening day this far means they are worried about shoveling good money after bad.
Here is a report selected more or less at random.
During a big recession, in the first two weeks of December, in rainy weather is the only time you should see a Disney Park this empty.
The reasons for the collapse of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge’s aren’t complicated.
First and foremost, it looks and feels like a greedy money grab. That was probably the most astonishing thing to hear from Mexican Ironman. There was no Disney Magic feel to it. They just wanted to get as much of his family’s money as they possibly could. The build your own lightsaber shop is so expensive most families can only afford to have one child get a lightsaber. The Millennium Falcon ride is just another Star Tours and the bar is the only thing that is standing room only.
Look, Disney Parks has always been expensive as hell but I didn’t mind that because of the atmosphere. There was just something that made me happy about walking down Main Street USA and arriving at the Castle. I could never put my finger on it exactly so I just went with the no doubt trademarked term, Disney Magic. It’s why anyone puts up with the godawful price tag. You really can’t get it anywhere else.
It is astounding to me that they could bring that ephemeral quality to Avatar but not Star Wars.
I’d say it had something to do with the Star Wars they decided to use.
No one likes the First Order era Star Wars. Okay, some Tumblrinas and shills claim they do but honestly, none of the original fans like it in the least. Nor do the Millennials that grew up on the Prequel Trilogy. Yeah, Gen-Xers don’t like them but the Harry Potter generation does. No one is interested in Disney era Star Wars.
The magic of Star Wars was that you wanted to be Luke or Han. You wanted to be a galactic outlaw with a heart of gold. You wanted to become a psychic space warlock and fight Darth Vader. If you are walking through Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge, you can’t get away from the fact that this is a world in which Han, Luke, Leia and Darth Vader are all dead.
No one on Earth wants to be Rey or Finn and after the last movie nobody wants to be Po anymore either. Then there is the problem of, “who the fuck cares about defeating Kylo Ren?” He’s been steamrollered so many times, it feels like anyone could do that. He’s terrible as a villain.
Another problem is that I suspect the Disney Imgineers weren’t particularly engaged with the project. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the people from Lucasfilm were riding roughshod over them during it’s design and building. It has that certain feel to something that was built by a team that is in toxic friction with each other. If the end product is lacking the Disney Magic, then it was made unwelcome to begin with.
And then there is the politics. I will grant that when The Force Awakens was released, the word Resistance didn’t piss off 45% of the country but it sure as hell does now. Lucasfilm has made no effort at all to distance Star Wars from the politics associated with that name.
In fact they have embraced it at every opportunity.
When I was a kid, there was no place I wanted to go more than a Star Wars theme park. And you know what? I’d still like to go to one. But this one clearly and obviously, isn’t it.
Pandora is one of the oddest things in Disney World.
On the one hand, the Valley of Mo’ara is an amazing place to walk through. The Disney Imagineers brought their A-game to this one. It feels like you were walking into an alien world.
The floating island was spectacular. The giant pod thing hummed with pleasure as I rubbed it’s side. The walkways were even better at night with unearthly bio-luminescence coloring everything in shades of greenish violet. The broken down mechs being reclaimed by the jungle fit in perfectly. I didn’t even mind the silly drum song.
As a life long science fiction fan the Valley of Mo’ara was everything I wanted an alien world to be.
What I couldn’t understand was this; what was the point of it?
It’s not that there were things about Mo’ara that are just a bit off… Although there certainly are. The Na’vi for instance aren’t there. All of the cast members have been trained to say that this new tourist company is nothing at all like the evil old mining company and the Na’vi are super stoked to have them there. Except you never see any of them…at all. There are a few pictures here and there and if you take the dark ride you will see one…O-N-E…Na’vi singing a song. But that’s it for the Na’vi. You are left with the creepy feeling that Disney accidentally killed them all with small pox when they moved in and are desperately trying to cover it all up. The lone Singer of Songs on the Na’vi River Journey is doubtless singing of the tragic annihilation of her people when the Hoomans from planet Mousketeer invaded.
Yeah, those feeling are all there but that’s not what’s really odd about Pandora Land.
Disney World is an amazing place. Grown-ass middle-aged men think nothing at all of buying and wearing over priced Mickey Ears. But if you buy and wear the Na’vi apparel, everyone around you gives you a brief, what the fuck are you doing(?) look.
The Valley of Mo’ara just doesn’t fit in with the rest of Disney World. The Magic Kingdom fits in, EPCOT fits in, World Showcase fits in, Animal Kingdom fits in. Even freaking Dinosaur Land feels like it belongs.
The world of James Cameron’s Avatar, does not.
In truth it was a very odd choice.
Yes, Avatar was easily the biggest hit of 2009 but most people end up having to hit Google after they try to remember any of the characters names. It was simply a special effects bonanza without much of an original story to go along with it and the characters were just cardboard. It was already out of the public consciousness when the park project was announced. A good chunk of the Disney Castmember immersion experience is literally built around reminding people about what happened in the “documentary.”
Everyone who had heard of the Pandora project at Animal Kingdom, mentally wrote it off after Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars was announced. I mean it just seemed like good business sense. Why spend shit tons of money on a project whose IP belongs (or rather belonged at the time) to another studio? It was assumed by most sensible people that the whole thing would be quietly swept under table when Disney announced it’s new Star Wars project. Whatever the hell that was going to be.
Yet, in the face of naysayers and common sense, Disney’s Pandora the Valley of Mo’ara opened two years ago.
And while a success in terms of attendance there was a strong undercurrent of feeling that this was the first Disney park built purely out of spite.
This summer Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open and it’s starting to feel like the second.
For the all the negative things people have to say about Michael Eisner, he at least approached his job with a sense of stewardship. Bob Iger on the other hand is well on track to completely destroy the corporate culture of Walt Disney’s company.
One of the first things that Iger did was shepherd in the merger with Pixar. Blowing that relationship had been one of the last nails in Eisner’s coffin. It was definitely a win/win all around. Pixar was always one failed movie away from bankruptcy when it was independent. Every single movie had to be a hit or they would be out of business and they could only make one movie every three years. Disney for it’s part, wanted the talent pool that came with Pixar.
However the merger had one other unplanned effect. Disney had always traded as a penny stock since the day they went public. Mergers tend to get Wall Street pointlessly excited and for the first time in the company’s history their stock went up in value.
This gave Iger the means as well as the confidence to set out on a legendary buying spree. The problem is that Iger didn’t really care about what he bought so long as he could buy it. In terms of Disney’s corporate culture, these acquisitions mostly didn’t fit.
Marvel was arguably a good buy because it would make inroads on a market that the notably princess friendly Disney had traditionally struggled with, namely boys. But superheroes and Disney don’t mix that well, Walt having never been all that interested in the subject.
Walt was however quite interested in science fiction. Yet success in this field largely eluded him. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea did make some bank in it’s day but that was about it. Presumably Star Wars would have filled that gap.
Except it won’t. Star Wars isn’t really science fiction. It’s heroic fantasy in a science fiction setting. Where as the kind of Sci Fi that Walt liked was the near future, nuts and bolts, Heinlein juvenile. It doesn’t really fit in either.
When Iger bought Marvel, he also bought Kevin Feige. A man with a vison, who loved Marvel. When Iger bought Lucasfilm he acquired Kathleen Kennedy, an over promoted secretary with no vision and who clearly hated Star Wars and wanted to change it in to something she liked but that nobody else did.
The bigger problem with spending one billion dollars on a Star Wars park is that while there are now ten Star Wars films. Only two of them are really any good. Think about that. This is a franchise with ten movies in it and the last good one was made damn near forty years ago.
The last cool starship they came up with was freaking Slave One. The last character that little boys liked to pretend they were was Boba Fett. They keep recycling Darth Vader, Chewie, the Millennium Falcon, C3PO and R2D2 because what else have they got? The Star Wars universe is completely stagnant. The loathsome Rian Johnson probably made the right call when he decided that Rey’s parents were nobodies because the only alternative is that she was Luke Skywalker’s daughter. Those really were the only two choices you could hand the audience. Star Wars is not exactly Game of Thrones in terms of a vast of canvass of characters. There’s Han, Luke, Leia and Lando. Beyond that there’s only four or five bad guys (who are all dead) and the droids.
The biggest issue with Star Wars at this point is that there is no there, there.
When this property was first relaunched in 2015, they probably should have recast the big three and then built on the Expanded Universe. Which would have worked.
Instead JJ Abrams shredded all that and presented us with Ma-Rey Sue and Mystery Box. Rian Johnson turned around and shredded that in order to give us Rylo fanfic romance porn. Both directors absolutely degraded and destroyed the original characters. Pretty much all of the real fans hate every part of this.
And now a billion dollar theme park has been built around this completely incoherent vision. One billion dollars has been spent to create a world that all of the real fans have looked at and said, “my head canon says, no, this ain’t Star Wars.”
When the Valley of Mo’ara runs out of steam the Imagineers at Disney Parks will simply reskin the park as their long hoped for Beastly Kingdom.
But there is nothing you can do to reskin Star Warsland.
What will happen to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge when Star Wars IX tanks at the boxoffice? This project is an unnecessary gamble built on works that the famously loyal Star Wars fanbase has rejected as heresy.
I predict this park will flop.