After Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, I Figured Out Why Disney Should Have Seen The Galactic Starcruiser's Failure Coming

 Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run exterior.
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run exterior.

This month marks five years since Disneyland’s version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened to the public. The land was something new for Disney Parks. Not only was it the single largest expansion of Disneyland since the park’s opening, but it was an entirely new sort of land; one that asked guests to not only enjoy Star Wars, but to experience the land as if they were inside the world of the films by visiting a planet in the Star Wars universe.

Years later, Walt Disney Imagineering would give us one of the most incredible pieces of themed entertainment ever conceived, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It took everything that Galaxy’s Edge did and pumped it up to new levels of immersion. On paper, the experience looked amazing, but it was ultimately a failure, with the Starcruiser closing after less than two years.

I was one of the people able to preview Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge early when it first opened at Disneyland and experienced the land the way it was originally conceived. I’ve been back numerous times since then, but on a recent trip, I spent a bit more time there than I had in recent years, and realized that the first Disney Star Wars theme park experience was all the evidence anybody needed that the second one wasn’t going to work.

Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run
Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Tried To Immerse Guests In The World Of Star Wars

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge wasn’t the first Disney theme park land to be dedicated to a single IP, but it took the concept started by Pandora: The World of Avatar and raised it to a new level. Rather than creating a world that guests knew from the films, the idea was to make the theme park land a new place where guests could create their own Star Wars story.

Galaxy’s Edge is set on Batuu, a planet on the Outer Rim of the galaxy far, far away, and one created specifically for the theme parks. In addition to having a location in space, it also had a location in time. The world was set in between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Only characters from the new trilogy could be found in the attractions or wandering the land.

Beyond that, Batuu was given its own characters, as Cast Members working in the land were people working on Batuu. The items for sale in the shops were not Star Wars-branded merchandise items, they were toys and clothes that might be sold to a person living in that world. Approaching Oga’s Cantina the hostess might greet you with the words “Bright suns,” the traditional “Hello” of Batuu. One cast member stopped me to warn me about the lightsaber I built, to be sure I knew the First Order might arrest me if they knew I had it.

Stormtroopers inside Rise of the Resistance
Stormtroopers inside Rise of the Resistance

Guests Ultimately Weren’t Interested In Living A Star Wars Adventure

It didn’t take too long for a lot of the ideas that made Galaxy’s Edge different to fade away. The food items at Docking Bay 7, the major dining location, which had been given unique Star Wars-style names, saw changes very quickly. It seemed most people were either confused on what Tip-Yip even was (chicken) or they just thought it was silly ordering that.

As I wandered through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on a recent trip to Disneyland, just taking in the land in a way I hadn’t in quite a long time, I began to realize how much of those little details had faded away. Nobody greeted me with "Bright suns." When I grabbed a drink at Oga’s Cantina, nobody acted like I was getting a table in a wretched hive of scum and villainy, they just made sure I knew I couldn’t stay for more than 45 minutes. Characters walking the land are now from all over the Star Wars timeline.

The old Galaxy’s Edge isn’t entirely gone. You’ll occasionally see a Cast Member as Rey hiding from stormtroopers, whether or not anybody sees what she’s doing. I overheard some people in Dok Ondar’s looking at lightsabers. The woman working the counter gave it her Batuu best, talking about the hilts as if they were real antiques, or were at least replicas of “real” things, but the family she was speaking with wasn’t interested in playing the game.

I don’t even blame the guests for this. Not everybody is interested in LARPing on vacation. Most of us don't “play pretend” as adults, and even if that’s something you’re interested in, when you’re surrounded by others who aren’t in on it, it makes it difficult. But if there aren’t enough people in Galaxy’s Edge on any given day who are willing to play, how did anybody think the Galactic Starcruiser was going to work?

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser characters
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser characters

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Cost Too Much, But More Importantly It Asked Too Much

The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser took the concepts of play from Galaxy’s Edge and turned the dial up to 11. Now guests would be involved in a multi-day Star Wars story that took place around them whether they were there or not. The places you ate and slept were part of the story, and guests were encouraged to play along, interacting with Cast Members in costume as if they were all on the same intergalactic journey.

I never had the full experience, but I did get to preview the Galactic Starcruiser, and I was amazed by everything I saw. It was the most impressive piece of themed entertainment I have ever seen. Many have said the price was a problem, and to be sure, it was an expensive experience. The price was the reason I never went back, as I didn’t have that kind of cash. But that was only a secondary influence on the real problem.

To be clear, the price was probably exactly what it needed to be, as I believe Galactic Starcruiser was likely the most expensive square footage to run at all of Walt Disney World. But the price limited the pool of guests in two ways. Not only did you have to be able to afford the Starcruiser, you had to be able to afford it and believe that what the Starcruiser offered was an experience that sounded like fun.

As Galaxy’s Edge has proven for five years, that second pool of people who want to play like they’re part of their own Star Wars story is limited. Yes, if the price had been lower, more people who wanted to have that kind of experience would have been able to do so. Also, more people who weren’t as interested in playing that game would have shown up, and they would have impacted the experience negatively for everybody else. If Starcruiser had lived that way, it likely would have survived as Galaxy's Edge does now, as something less creative than it was meant to be. It was a lose-lose situation.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I hope there is one. If the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser had survived, I would have done it eventually. I would have found the money because I love what it wanted to be. I hope Disney can make the concept work someday, but this idea was doomed.