The Star Wars franchise has been a part of pop culture in the United States since 1977, and many people have seen at least one Star Wars movie in their lifetime. While fans can be quick to criticize new movies, they have all have been very successful, selling billions of dollars in tickets and merchandise. And the newest land in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, has been acknowledged as a beautiful, immersive land that makes guests feel like they are truly on another world in the Star Wars universe...so, why isn't this land more popular?
Reason #1: Target Audience
Thinking back to my days of Marketing 101 in college, all product development should start with its target audience. So, who was Galaxy's Edge designed for? Is it for Star Wars fans? Disney park fans? Disney park fans who are also Star Wars fans?
I think most Disney park fans will want to check out Galaxy's Edge during their next Disney vacation, but will they really plan an extra trip just to see it? Similarly, will Star Wars fans really make a special trip to a Disney park just for that? I myself fall into that perfect crossover of Disney park and Star Wars fans, so it was a no brainer for me. But what about those folks who are really just "Star Wars fans"?
Let's look at a totally hypothetical segmentation, where Star Wars fans are divided into three groups:
Casual Fans: This group of fans has seen most of the movies, but maybe not multiple times. They will buy tickets to a new movie, but they are not necessarily first in line on opening night. They probably owned some merchandise when they were kids, but are not hard core collectors. These are the folks who would check out Galaxy's Edge if they were already planning a trip to Disney World. I believe that this is where the majority of Star Wars fans in the world fall.
Trilogy Fans: This group has a strong emotional connection to one of the three trilogies, depending on when they were born. They probably bought the merchandise for their trilogy, some of which they will keep forever. However, this emotional connection might not carry through to the other movies. Sure, they remain interested in Star Wars and they will watch the movies, but only 'their' trilogy holds that emotional connection for them.
Super Fans: This segment loves everything Star Wars, no matter what it is. They've watched all the movies multiple times. They have even watched the Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels series, and are likely to be excited about any new Star Wars show, movie, or merchandise. These are the folks most likely to go Star Wars conventions, and were probably the fans that used to frequent Star Wars Weekends in Hollywood Studios. This group will be checking out Galaxy’s Edge as soon as possible, and are most likely to be repeat visitors. I believe this is the smallest group of Star Wars fans.
Reason #2: Premium Vacation Experience vs. Mass Market
While many Disney fans will agree that a trip to a Disney park is worth the money, it's hard to deny that it is expensive. Many folks save up for years to be able to afford it. In addition to the costs for flights and a hotel, there are also the ticket prices, which have continued to increase. While the admission price gets you entrance to Galaxy's Edge, there is still just one ride there: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Yes, there are lots of cool photo ops, but there also seems to be a heavy focus on premium experiences that are not included in the admission price:
- Building a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop costs $199.99.
- Building a droid at Droid Depot is a minimum of $99.95.
- Oga's Cantina is an attraction itself, but it's essentially a bar that sells (expensive) drinks and snacks.
Let's switch over to the Star Wars movies. A movie ticket costs around $10, and merchandise is widely available at a wide range of prices for different budgets. Watching the Star Wars movies, and becoming a fan, is much more accessible than visiting a Disney park. How much of the huge Star Wars fan base can really afford the time or money to take a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland just to experience Galaxy's Edge? Personally, I think it's something many fans would like to do someday, but it still might be a once in a lifetime experience for many folks.
Reason #3: Lack of Nostalgia Appeal
As a self-identified Trilogy Fan, my emotional connection is to the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV, V, VI). So, when I first heard about "Star Wars Land," I had visions of the Ewok Village, Jabba's palace, and the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine. Even as I write this, I can hear the music being played in that Cantina. So I really wanted Oga's Cantina to be that cantina.
Yes, I know the Millennium Falcon was in the Original Trilogy and it is a focal point of the land, and I do feel it truly is awesome. I loved the ride queue for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. I was thrilled to get my picture at the "chess table", and with the ride itself. The nostalgia factor there was very high.
My souvenir beer flight and two specialty mugs from Oga's, along with my souvenir Coke bottles. Worth every penny!
While I found the rest of the land very interesting, I really wished there was more from the Original Trilogy. I loved seeing the stormtroopers and Chewbacca, but I would have really liked to see even more things that were familiar to me…more like what used to be offered at Star Wars Weekends. This is one aspect where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando has Galaxy's Edge beat. That land looks exactly like the movies, and the nostalgia factor is very high.
Reason #4: One Land, Two Parks
I realize that the guest base for Disneyland and Walt Disney World is different. Disneyland guests tend to be locals and Disney World guests tend to be vacationers. However, I am still incredibly disappointed that Galaxy's Edge in both parks is exactly the same. I understand it was cost effective to do this, but I think Disney really missed a great opportunity here to differentiate the parks.
For example, when I heard about how awesome Cars Land was in Disney California Adventure, I planned my family's first trip to Disneyland. We've since returned to Disneyland Resort twice more since that initial trip almost 8 years ago. We now appreciate all the unique offerings at Disneyland, and also enjoy seeing the subtle differences between our Disney World favorites like Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World. I think that if Disneyland's Galaxy’s Edge was themed differently than Walt Disney World's, it would add to the excitement and prompt more return visits.
Overall, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is an amazingly themed, beautiful land that any type of Star Wars fan will certainly appreciate in some way. However, it may not have broad enough appeal to prompt all types of Star Wars fan to make a special visit to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. When the second ride, Rise of the Resistance, opens up, I’m sure more folks will start planning their "once in a lifetime" trip. But it still may not have enough repeatability for the average fan. I hope the two lands continue to evolve and maybe add some new and different experiences to differentiate them and broaden their appeal.
What do you think of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Are you a Star Wars fan? Which group do you most identify with?
Let the Wookie win....