In a Valentine’s Day post, Disney announced the release 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 wedding celebration will take place not far away, but in an elaborate Star Wars hotel that will open on 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 universe’s latest expansion. Galaxy’s Edge – a Star Wars Land at both the Orlando resort and Disneyland in Anaheim – earned high marks for its innovative attractions. While Disney’s sequel movie trilogy has been widely panned, inventive TV series have given some fans hope.
Now, a new themed hotel, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, seeks to provide attendees with an immersive experience. . . for a price. Built next to Galaxy’s Edge, hotel fees include alien-themed meals and theme park “excursions.” However, for a family of four, a two-day stay at this high-tech hotel will set you back $6,000.
Stephen Kent, author of “How the Force Can Save the World” and a frequent Star Wars advocate in its many iterations, said via email that he finds it “shameful” that Disney charges such astronomical rates.
“Any family would be crazy to book this hotel, when they could spend a week in Spain for the same amount,” he said. “Obviously it’s aimed at affluent people in their twenties with no kids, money to spend and no responsibilities.”
But even high-income nerds have been a tough sell. In December, a video featured a sample two-day itinerary as actors demonstrated lightsaber building and other activities. Mocked by fan sites as amateurish and off-brand, Disney quietly removed it from YouTube. Apparently some who had pre-booked at the hotel canceled their reservations.
Few would fault Disney for using every available resource for its hotel marketing strategy. Still, the upcoming novel “The Scoundrel and the Princess” seems particularly crude in using the saga’s most memorable love story to market the pricey resort.
Downgrading a beloved big-screen romance
The latest among hundreds of Star Wars novels, “The Scoundrel and the Princess,” slated for release in August, will pick up where the original film trilogy left off.
A plot summary notes that Han proposes to Leia on the forest moon of Endor and there is a ceremony attended by Ewoks. Then they are whisked away for their honeymoon aboard the Starcruiser Halcyon, the “in-universe” nickname for this new hotel. (Yes, there are already internet memes about wanting to book your room.)
Given that previews of the hotel received negative reviews, Disney likely considered divesting its most treasured Star Wars characters from the risky new venture. After all, every fan’s favorite movie list ends with “The Empire Strikes Back,” thanks to the way Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher portray Han and Leia.
Yet, as has become increasingly common with Disney, marketing has prevailed. Determined to bank on her many millions in hotel investments, they shelved an earlier version of the couple’s romance depicted in ‘The Courtship of Princess Leia’.
A guest speaker at Star Wars Celebration in 2015 and a writer on genre entertainment, Aaron Welty has read dozens of these novels over the decades. He argues that many of the linked books are “beloved history mythology” rather than a money grab – and he has fond memories of reading that original “Leia” novel.
“This story introduced the idea of riding a grudge as a means of transportation, which we just saw in their last TV series ‘The Book of Boba Fett,’ among other plot ideas used later on screen,” Welty said. “So Disney’s decision to wipe the slate clean when buying Lucasfilm remains a tough sell for fans.”
But author Kent sees a potential silver lining in the new novel and the related hotel connection. Until now, Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge park has only featured characters from the “regrettable” movie trilogy (Kylo Ren and others). , the original movie trilogy, and the Age of Empire,” Kent said.
Going forward, he finds good reason to hope that recent additions to the saga will be forgotten. “What stings about the opportunity to see Han and Leia get married aboard this Galactic Starcruiser is that Disney has 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 over the next eight months — cynicism abounds among casual observers that it’s a glut of content (this awful marketing term) and little substance.
Similar to Kent, Welty sees Disney’s era of Star Wars as a “mixed bag” and says they should have followed George Lucas’ plan for a sequel trilogy. But it also points to Disney’s “Star Wars: Rogue One” as a hopeful, redemptive film that captures and expands on the heart of the space opera mythos.
Indeed, these diehard fans see a bright future as Star Wars moves forward exploring new corners of the fictional galaxy. “With Disney, it’s clear they’re learning, listening and adapting to what works well in a highly segmented market with various niche audiences to serve,” Kent said. “Today there is something for every type of Star Wars fan, regardless of tribe.”
Many consider it tasteless and materialistic to treat every possible storyline for a spin-off and shakedown fans with ever-more merchandise. . . not to mention a live role-playing hotel costing several thousand dollars for two days. Kent calls it “capitalism in its most functional form.”
Still, on the storytelling side, producer Dave Filoni (a Lucas protege) and trailblazing director Jon Favreau are leading the charge with the upcoming Star Wars TV series. “As students of Lucas, they understand what Star Wars is – both teleologically and technologically,” Welty said.
“Of course Disney executives are pushing to push the bottom line. But Star Wars is alive, and even ascendant, thanks to the people making it right now.
Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith and public policy for several outlets, including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, DC area with their two children.