The relationship fans have with Disney and Star Wars these days is a bit shaky. On one hand, you have excellent programs like Andor that virtually reinvent Star Wars. On the other hand, you have movies like The Rise of Skywalker, which were incredibly disappointing and shortsighted. So with so much money on the line, it’s fair to ask: is Disney milking Star Wars for all its worth?
Is Disney Milking Star Wars?
Yes, Disney is milking Star Wars, but can you really blame them? In 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars (or Lucasfilm to be specific) from George Lucas for $4 billion, so it was expected that they would do everything to not only break even financially, but to generate a massive profit.
On top of the money Disney has sunk into rides like Rise of the Resistance and the creation of Galaxy’s Edge (where you can build your own lightsaber), it’s not a huge surprise that Disney rushed their Skywalker/Rey trilogy without much planning.
On top of that, Disney has now produced multiple Star Wars TV shows to varying degrees of success. Fans seem to love The Mandalorian and Andor (I know I did), but are much more mixed on series like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Add in animated shows like The Bad Batch, and yes, Disney is indeed milking Star Wars. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. As I see it, here are the pros and cons of Disney milking the Star Wars properties.
- More Star Wars Content
- More Diversity in Star Wars Stories and Characters
- More TV Shows (which can deepen storytelling)
- A Higher Concentration of Live Action and Animated Programs
- Oversaturation of Star Wars Content
- Star Wars becomes less special as brands because it’s ubiquitous
- Quality of Content Decreases as Quantity Increases
How Disney Milked Star Wars Movies
It wasn’t until 2015 that the first major Star Wars news happened since Disney’s acquisition. In 2015, Disney released “The Force Awakens” in theaters and also announced their most ambitious theme park expansion to date: Galaxy’s Edge, in Hollywood Studios.
It was the announcement of Galaxy’s Edge that caused the most excitement among Star Wars fans. A completely immersive Star Wars area, with rides and experiences that would put guests in a galaxy far far away. It took nearly four years before it opened, but in the meantime, Disney kept the interest alive with the release of the first film of the final Star Wars trilogy: The Force Awakens.
George Lucas had long hinted that the full story would be told in the form of three trilogies, however, he seemed to lose interest after some less-than-favorable reactions to his “prequel trilogy” movies. (We don’t talk about Jar-Jar!) Disney saw a need to complete the story, and they didn’t waste much time getting started on production.
“The Force Awakens” began a new era of Star Wars film entertainment. It was a new story, with plenty of action, new characters as well as familiar favorites from the original trilogy, and an intriguing plot. It played heavily on nostalgia from the original Star Wars fans, yet still seemed like a fresh narrative. Disney surprised fans again with the next movie release; “Rogue One”.
Instead of releasing the next film in the final trilogy, Disney Studios went back to the original story with Rogue One. Taking place shortly before the events in “A New Hope” (the very first Star Wars movie), this film expanded on familiar material by telling the tale of how the rebel spies were able to get the secret Death Star plans to Princess Leia.
With this ambitious movie, Disney storytellers widened the original mythos by creating a narrative that introduced us to new characters and showed the audience what was happening in other locations of the galaxy. It was a formula that worked well in this movie, and they utilized it in further Star Wars series and movies.
With the success of Rogue One and the final movie trilogy, Disney’s Star Wars screen films and series seemed to snowball. In addition to finishing the final three movies of what is now known as the Skywalker Saga, Disney released “Solo”; a story of Han Solo in his younger days.
There were also several animated series (such as the continuation of “The Clone Wars”, and “The Bad Batch”) along with many live-action series released on the Disney+ streaming service (The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor, and more). If that weren’t enough, more releases are planned for Disney+ in the near future; release titles include “Ahsoka”, “Skeleton Crew”, “The Acolyte”, and “Lando”.
All of these are high-quality productions have been met with quite a lot of mixed reaction. Fans seem to love programs like “Andor” and “The Mandalorian,” while The Rey/Skywalker trilogy (especially The Rise of Skywalker) and The Book of Boba Fett has frustrated even the most devout fan of Star Wars.
Even a die-hard Star Wars fan like myself has to admit; it’s a lot of content. I only hope the quality remains high, and that Disney won’t prioritize quantity over good storytelling.
How Disney Milked Star Wars Rides
Disney’s relationship with George Lucas goes back to 1986 when Disneyland Imagineers began negotiating the plans for the Star Tours ride (later updated as “Star Tours: The Adventure Continues”). Disney purchased four military-grade flight simulators and began designing the ride’s mechanical aspects, while Mr. Lucas and his team produced the film aspect of the attraction.
When the ride opened at Disneyland in 1987, Star Wars fans loved it! Huge crowds showed up for the grand opening, many of them dressed as Star Wars characters. That first Star Tours attraction cost approximately $32 million, which was more than it cost to build all of Disneyland in 1955!
Realizing the popularity of the ride and the passion of Star Wars fans, Disney soon followed by adding Star Tours to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
By 1997, Hollywood Studios had added “Star Wars Weekends”; a small festival that happened on weekends in May and June. This popular event added meet-and-greet opportunities with Star Wars characters and Disney characters dressed as Star Wars characters, a parade, a fireworks show, appearances by celebrities, and the popular “Jedi Training Academy”.
At first glance, it does seem like Disney went all-in on milking one popular attraction (Star Tours) for all they could! Did they go overboard? In spite of the initial popularity, not every Disney fan was happy. Some fans didn’t want Star Wars “taking over” Hollywood Studios, and others felt the abundance of Star Wars merchandise was overkill. This really was just the very beginning of the Disney and Star Wars collaboration, though.
In 2011, Star Tours was updated to “Star Tours, The Adventure Continues”. The upgraded version of this popular allowed for over 60 storyline possibilities, so guests could ride it several times with new experiences each time. This was a good indicator that Disney was already committed to focusing on the popularity of Star Wars.
Then in 2012, the surprise huge announcement came that Disney had bought Lucasfilms for approximately $4 billion dollars. With that monumental acquisition, it became apparent that Disney was committed to expanding their storytelling talents to the Star Wars universe even more.
Now, Galaxy’s Edge is one of the newer lands in both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme parks, and it’s a totally unique theme park experience. The Galaxy’s Edge area is a completely immersive section of the park, filled with roaming characters (play along with the Stormtroopers; it’s fun!), the chance to try blue milk or eat roasted yip tip (Endorian chicken), or have a drink in Oga’s Cantina.
If you feel like spending a little extra money, you can sign up to build your own lightsaber or droid. There are also interactive games you can play in the area using the Disney Play app on your smartphone.
The highlight of Galaxy’s Edge is without a doubt the two rides; Rise Of The Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Smugglers Run gives guests the chance to act as crew members of the Millennium Falcon, while Rise Of The Resistance is a completely immersive experience where you join a rebel training base and are captured by members of the First Order. Both of these rides are some of the most advanced technological theme park attractions in the world. They’re overwhelmingly popular with fans of all ages.
But Disney didn’t stop with the creation of Galaxy’s Edge. In March of 2022, Disney opened its most ambitious addition to the Star Wars attractions in Hollywood Studios: Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
Galactic Starcruiser Milks Star Wars Fans Dry
The Galactic Starcruiser is a luxury resort experience, unlike anything Disney has done before. The Starcruiser is actually an upscale hotel located near Galaxy’s Edge. The premise is a two-night stay on a spaceship, where you are fully immersed in role-playing with characters from the Star Wars universe. You can choose to play along with the story by interacting with characters and using the Disney Play phone app, or simply enjoy the fine amenities on the Starcruiser.
The Galactic Starcruiser experience included accommodations with a breathtaking outer space “view” from your cabin window, all dining and non-alcoholic beverages, activities such as light saber training, and tours of the bridge. Guests also can embark on an exclusive excursion to Galaxy’s Edge where the role-playing story continues and guests receive lightning lane passes for Rise of The Resistance and Smugglers Run.
So, basically, this is two days of Star Wars live-action role-playing in an incredibly detailed environment. What does this experience cost? The average price for two adults, is $4,809 for the entire two-night voyage. While I think this would be all kinds of fun for any Star Wars fan, I have to say that this might be the most egregious example of Disney trying to milk the Star Wars franchise dry!
This would be an incredible experience, and a lot of work has been put into this. However, this is, in my opinion, insanely expensive. I know people spend a lot of money visiting the Disney Parks, but this seems like such a blatant money grab. Star Wars has been popular since the 1970s, but can Disney keep fans interested enough to spend that kind of money for two nights of Star Wars fun?
While initial reviews of the Galactic Starcruiser were very favorable, recently it seems that bookings for this experience might be slowing down. Reports have come out that bookings for this experience are way down, to the point that Disney actually had to cancel a number of bookings in July and August, offering affected guests a chance to rebook at a discount. They’ve also started offering significant discounts to Disney Vacation Club members and cast members.
Of course, we are living in slightly unstable economic times and people are still being a bit cautious about where they spend their disposable income. Will Galactic Starcruiser be able to bounce back, or is this going to be a huge loss for Disney? It seems very uncertain to me right now. It will be interesting to see if changes are made (longer stays? more discounts?) with Bob Iger recently stepping back into the Disney CEO position.
Milking Star Wars or Just Capitalism?
So is Disney milking Star Wars for all they can get? Yes, I tend to think so. However, my opinion is also that they’re also producing excellent quality entertainment; maybe they’re just doing “too much too fast.” I hope the quality will continue to be up to the Disney standard of excellence, while also hoping that their Star Wars content saturation won’t dilute the fans’ interest.
Star Wars isn’t the only franchise that Disney capitalizes on, however. They tend to do it with all of their popular characters and movies (like Marvel movies, for example). Just look at how many live-action remakes and sequels have been produced over the past several years! The formula seems to work for Disney.
As long as fans will pay to see (for example) several Pirates Of The Caribbean or Toy Story movies, Disney will do everything possible to maintain interest in those stories. I think they’re capitalizing on Star Wars in an unprecedented way, but the experiences are unique and exciting. Time will tell how long they can ride this wave of popularity with the fans.
This article was written by Kimberly and edited by Michael.
- If you enjoyed this article, I’d love it if you’d “like” my Countdown to Magic Facebook page!
You Might Also Want to Read: