In a Valentine’s Day post, Disney announced the publication of a novel that will reimagine the iconic love story of Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa from a “galaxy far, far away.” Only their marriage celebration will take place not so far away, but at an elaborate Star Wars hotel set to open March 1 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Ten years after Disney first purchased the franchise, this “synergy” move between Disney Parks and their publishing division marks the latest universe expansion. Galaxy’s Edge — a Star Wars Land at both the Orlando resort and Disneyland in Anaheim — has earned high marks for innovative attractions. While Disney’s sequel film trilogy was largely panned, inventive TV series have given some fans hope.
Now a new themed hotel, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, seeks to give attendees an immersive experience . . . for a price. Built adjoining Galaxy’s Edge, the hotel fees include alien-world-themed meals and “excursions” to the theme park. However, for a family of four, a two-day stay at the high-tech hotel will set you back $6,000.
Stephen Kent, author of “How the Force Can Save the World” and often a defender of Star Wars in its many iterations, stated via e-mail that he finds it “shameful” for Disney to charge such astronomical rates.
“Any family would be insane to book this hotel, when they could spend a week in Spain for the same amount of money,” he said. “Clearly it’s being aimed at well-to-do childless 20-somethings with money to burn and no responsibilities.”
But even high-income nerds have been a tough sell. In December, a video previewed a sample two-day itinerary as actors illustrated building a lightsaber and other activities. Mocked by fan sites as amateurish and off-brand, Disney quietly pulled it from YouTube. Reportedly, some who had pre-booked at the hotel canceled reservations.
Few would fault Disney for utilizing every available resource for its hotel marketing strategy. Still, the upcoming novel “The Scoundrel and the Princess” seems particularly crass in using the saga’s most memorable love story to market the pricey resort.
Debasing a Beloved Silver-Screen Romance
The latest among hundreds of Star Wars novels, “The Scoundrel and the Princess” slated for August release will supposedly pick up where the original movie trilogy left off.
A plot summary notes that Han proposes to Leia on the forest moon of Endor and there’s a ceremony with Ewoks in attendance. Then they’re whisked away for their honeymoon aboard Starcruiser Halcyon, the “in-universe” moniker for that new hotel. (Yes, there are already internet memes about wanting to book their room.)
Considering previews of the hotel received negative feedback, Disney likely considered decoupling its most valuable Star Wars characters from the risky new venture. After all, every fan’s list of favorite films tops out with “The Empire Strikes Back,” on the strength of how Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher embody Han and Leia.
Yet, as has become increasingly common with Disney, marketing prevailed. Determined to make bank on its many millions in hotel investment, they have cast aside an earlier version of the couple’s romance depicted in “The Courtship of Princess Leia.”
A featured speaker at Star Wars Celebration in 2015 and writer on genre entertainment, Aaron Welty has read dozens of these novels over decades. He contends many tie-in books are “beloved story mythology” rather than a cash grab — and he has fond memories of reading that original “Leia” novel.
“This story introduced the idea of riding a rancor as transportation, which we just saw on their latest TV series ‘The Book of Boba Fett,’ among other plot ideas later used on-screen,” said Welty. “So Disney’s decision to wipe the slate clean upon purchasing Lucasfilm remains a tough sell for fans.”
But author Kent sees a potential silver lining in the new novel and related hotel tie-in. Up to now, Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge park featured only characters from the “regrettable” sequel film trilogy (Kylo Ren and the like.) “Disney is inching backward in the timeline to a place fans want to go again, which is to Han, Leia, the original film trilogy, and the age of the Empire,” stated Kent.
Moving forward, he finds good reasons to hope recent saga additions are forgotten. “The thing that stings about an opportunity to see Han and Leia marry aboard this Galactic Starcruiser, is Disney already canonized their divorce with ‘The Force Awakens.’ Talk about sour grapes.”
‘The Force Will Be With You . . . Always’
As Disney continues to ramp up production of Star Wars titles — three TV series will premiere on Disney Plus in the next eight months — cynicism abounds among casual observers that it’s a glut of content (that awful marketing term) and little substance.
Similar to Kent, Welty views the Disney era of Star Wars as a “mixed bag” and says they should have gone with George Lucas’ blueprint for a sequel trilogy. But he also points to Disney’s “Star Wars: Rogue One” as a hopeful, redemptive film that reflects the heart of the space-opera mythos and expands on it.
Indeed, these diehard fans see a bright future as Star Wars forges ahead in exploring new corners of the fictional galaxy. “With Disney, it’s clear they’re learning, listening, and adapting to what is performing well in a highly segmented marketplace with various niche audiences to serve,” said Kent. “Today, there is something for every kind of Star Wars fan, of whatever tribe.”
Many view it as tasteless and materialistic to milk every possible plotline for a spin-off and shakedown fans with ever more merchandise . . . not to mention a live-action roleplay hotel at a cost of several thousand dollars for two days. Kent calls it “capitalism at its most functional.”
Yet, on the storytelling side, producer Dave Filoni (a Lucas protégé) and trailblazing director Jon Favreau are leading the charge with future Star Wars TV series. “As students of Lucas, they understand what Star Wars is — both teleologically and technologically,” said Welty.
“Sure, Disney executives are pushing to progress the bottom line. But Star Wars is alive, and even ascendant, because of the people currently making it.”