For some unknown reason, TWDC decided that this year, 2016, the year right after the highly anticipated Episode VII was released, there would be no more Star Wars Weekends. A sixteen year celebration of all things Star Wars, with nearly 55 celebrities who made appearances over the years, and lines of fans camped out for autograph and merchandise sessions. It is absolutely baffling that the company has come to the brilliant decision to cancel (perhaps forever?) one of the best events the parks have to offer that doesn’t take an overpriced hard ticket to attend.
And that is what this decision seemingly comes down to…aside from the massive quantities of merchandise that the company moved during this event, there wasn’t the gross amount of monetization that was undoubtedly desired by the suits in their plush offices. From all indications, the company has been looking for a way to turn a larger profit from this event, and after 16 years, rather than charge for it, they decided to shut it down.
To be fair, the Star Wars expansion is coming, and there is massive excitement for that, but here are the reasons Star Wars Weekends should still be happening this year:
DVD/BluRay Release Hype
This is the perfect opportunity to promote the home video release of Episode VII. While the movie virtually sells itself, it never hurts to push the product in the parks with an event like this to raise the hype level. Sell the movie in the parks, and none of the profit goes to other retailers. It seems to make sense.
Lack of attractions at DHS
Disney-MGM Studios/Disney Hollywood Studios has never exactly been flush with attractions, but with the 15 attractions that were open in 2015, there are now only 11, with more closings imminent. This park needs a boost with an event like Star Wars Weekends. Of course, people are always going to show up, because they are suckers, but the company does have a responsibility to put a quality product out when they are asking guests to pay $100 per day.
This park has always been questionable as to whether it was worth an entire day, and clearly, now, it is not. The experience of packing in with 50,000 sweaty guests for 12 hours with only 11 attractions to occupy the time is not promising and is not what anyone would ever define as a “quality product.” One of those attractions is Fantasmic, a show that doesn’t count in the daily numbers because it only takes place at night. So, make that 10 attractions over 12 hours. That means each attraction needs to be capable of handling roughly 5,000 guests per hour. Based on hourly capacity numbers, there isn’t a single attraction at DHS that can funnel that amount of guests per hour. So where will people go?
An event like SWW occupies hours of guests’ days. Waiting in lines for autographs, watching the celebrities entertain at shows, and enjoying the parade. These give people additional attractions to enjoy, allowing DHS to continue to handle regular crowds, at least for several weekends in the spring.
Star Wars has never been hotter
This has been addressed before, but WDI doesn’t particularly like to strike while the iron is hot, but Star Wars is so hot right now. Old fans are back on board after living through the ill will created by the prequels, and new fans are hooked by Episode VII and Rebels. Don’t let the fire die, keep stoking it.
Introduce new Cast/Characters
With a history of bringing in celebrities to give fans access to them, SWW has been a great way to connect fans to the actors and characters they love. With a new trilogy on the horizon, and several spinoff films in the pipeline, fans will be clamoring for a chance to interact with the new characters and their offscreen personas. The fandom for Star Wars is massive and hungry. Feed them.
Tease Rebels Season 3 and Rogue One
One of the highlights of last years’ SWW was the parts connected to the new animated series, Rebels. A preview of Season 3 achieves the same kind of anticipation building that the preview of Season 2 did last year.
Rogue One, the SW spinoff film coming in December of this year has been so incredibly secretive, perhaps even more than Episode VII. Debut a trailer at SWW, or a teaser at least. Introduce fans to their new favorite characters and the first non-episodic SW film (besides the infamous Ewok Adventures.) An exclusive trailer release during SWW would pack the park.
20% of the shirts on Disneystore.com are Star Wars related. More merchandise at SWW, means more money in the company’s already deep pockets. It just makes sense for a company that is clearly interested in making more and more money. Limited editions, special collections, artist signings and the like are catnip to collectors.
Preview Star Wars Expansion
In the Disney Fan Community, SW Launch Bay is a bit of a joke. A band-aid that took the place of a beloved attraction that had, in all fairness, been reduced to a shell of its former self, a holdover from the heyday of the original studios that the company allowed to go to ruin. Turn it into a preview center that gives guests a look at the future of DHS, both SW related and Toy Story as well. A beautiful, detailed WDI model is what every Disney parks aficionado pines for. Launch Bay could be worthy of the SW name, if the company uses it correctly.
The Shows & Parade
James Arnold Taylor, Ray Park, Warwick Davis, and Peter Mayhew have all had incredibly entertaining and well-received stage shows over the years and they routinely fill the seats in whatever venue they are booked in. These are one-of-a-kind shows that should not be put to rest. These are talented individuals who have intriguing stories to tell. Isn’t that what the company has always touted itself to be, a group of storytellers?
The parade is the best. To be fair, it is simply a parade of characters, but the detail and work these individuals have put into their costumes should be celebrated. The young padawans who get the opportunity to march in the parade are thrilled to join their sci-fi heroes off the screen, marching up Hollywood Blvd.
Hyperspace Hoopla, while cancelled last year, was a wildly popular and well-received musical revue that drew crowds at every performance. Isn’t that the goal of an attraction, after all, to entertain large amounts of people?
With the release of Rick Rubin’s electronic album, Star Wars Headspace, SW fans have a high profile, somewhat well-reviewed album of electronic dance music. What would be better than this new album mixed with the fun of Hyperspace Hoopla? It’s synergy at its best, and for a company that lives for synergy, this is as good an opportunity as any they’re going to get, and one that could be forgiven and possibly even embraced by the Disney and SW faithful. Mad T party at Disneyland is awkward and twisted, yet still has quite a following. Bringing SW into this arena would be a better option.
Personally, though, this decision strikes me in a negative way because of what it means to my son. For the past three years, I have been taking my son with me to Star Wars Weekends and we have built a tradition around this weekend event. He has walked in the parade as a padawan, trained with Darth Maul, been the rebel spy on Star Tours, and met Zeb & Ashoka from Clone Wars & Rebels. We have D-tech-ed ourselves in carbonite and a Rebel jumpsuit respectively.
I have been passing on a part of what shaped me as a child to my son, and this event has married my love of Star Wars with my love of Walt Disney World, and allowed me a chance to experience something with my son that can’t really be replicated anywhere else.
He and I are beyond excited about the prospect of the Star Wars area DHS has coming, and while I may not agree with all of the details (that have been released so far), I believe it will be a fantastic addition to a park that is struggling for an identity. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the company is hiding behind the construction of this new area of the park in order to justify the elimination of SWW. What construction would interfere with SWW? Watto’s Grotto? It can be moved elsewhere. The Theater in Streets of America? Relocate the shows. Star Tours and the area immediately surrounding it are currently unaffected by construction, and with the snail’s pace that WDI moves, that won’t likely change in the next year.
SWW could and should still be a reality at DHS.
It was a difficult thing to tell my son that SWW was no more. When he asked why, I didn’t really have an answer for him. Should I tell him about the lack of monetization opportunities, the laziness of not wanting to work out the logistics, or just toe the party line and, like the company, hide behind the construction walls. This is the definition of a first world problem, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less crushing for a 7 year old.
Sorry son, sometimes the people and places you love let you down.