Hello from the afterlife, where I now reside, because I am dead from D23 Expo 2019. The three-day Disney fan convention is known for being a biennial news dump — especially for people who are interested in Disney World and Disneyland. Although there was plenty of news this year, however, it probably wasn't what a lot of fans were expecting.
Back during the 2015 D23 Expo, the House of Mouse dropped the earth-shattering news that it would open Star Wars-themed lands on both coasts, and in 2017 it provided the first glimpse of Galaxy's Edge in full. So, naturally, theme park rumors were running rampant before yesterday's Disney Parks, Experiences and Products panel at this year's expo ... and none turned out to be true.
Even without a singular show-stopping announcement at this year's Expo, dozens of forthcoming changes were confirmed, announced, or revealed during the final major event of the weekend. They're Gerrymandering Epcot into new neighborhoods! They're building A-frame cabins! They're debuting Disney's first-ever Mary Poppins attraction!
The real news isn't that beloved Imagineer Joe Rohde is heading up Disney Cruise Line's new Caribbean destination (ROHDE ISLAND!!) or that I'm 100 percent gonna weep while onboard Spaceship Earth this week. It's that Star Wars hotel's news announcements shook me to my core, and not in the way you'd think.
Attendees to D23 Expo's Parks, Experiences and Products (and Target mascot Bullseye) Panel enjoyed the biggest chunk of news to date about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser following the preview tease at Thursday night's D23 Expo press preview. You've likely heard that it's booked like a cruise ship on land and has many, many names, or those rumors floating around with four-digit price tags for two-night stays, but I'll bet you haven't heard this hot take:
That the Star Wars-themed hotel announcement has absolutely filled me with anxiety.
As I listened to Walt Disney Imagineering's Ann Morrow Johnson reveal new details about the Halcyon ship's offerings yesterday, I wasn't floored by the on-board activities or colorful renderings. Instead, I was surprised to realize how familiar it sounded. Nearly everything that is promised to set this hotel apart mirrors early descriptions of what guests could expect from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge — and heavily reflects parts of the land that have not yet been fulfilled upon.
As I heard Johnson say things like "throughout your journey, you'll share your adventures with some interesting characters" as Chewie and Rey appear on screen, or "We must travel with caution. You never know who you may encounter on your adventure" while imagery of Kylo Ren flashed, I had the uncanny sense that I'd heard it all before — because, of course, I had, in a Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge press release from February:
"Off the beaten path, this outpost has become a haven for the galaxy's most colorful — and notorious — characters. Guests may see some familiar faces, from Rey, Finn, and Poe to BB-8 and Chewbacca, and even find themselves in a face-off with Kylo Ren himself."
And when I heard the next line — "Be wary of who you make allegiances with, because the choices you make affect the course of your journey, and ultimately determines how your Star Wars story unfolds" — I nearly choked, because, of course, that's been the entire ethos of Galaxy's Edge all along.
Allow me to take a step back to explain. This past February I spent three days bouncing from Lucasfilm to Walt Disney Imagineering to Disneyland Resort getting the scoop on every intricacy of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. I transcribed hours of interviews and filed statements like the largest-ever single land expansion in Disneyland's history into a document I've been working off for the past six months.
My life, my summer, and my free time have been gloriously sapped up by Batuu-related endeavors, something I've thoroughly enjoyed (I promise!) and have truly grown accustomed to. (Case in point: I'm filing this four hours before I head to the airport to fly to Florida to see Batuu East, because I'm a lunatic.) I have transcribed countless press releases, delved so deep into every beverage menu that I discovered each juice drink is made by Coca-Cola subsidiaries, and penned stories about reservation periods and boarding passes through spring, summer, and onto the verge of fall.
I recognized that sentence she said at D23 Expo yesterday not because it was vaguely familiar, but because I've had it rolling around in my brain for six months of my life.
Star Wars Land is (was?) supposed to build a reputation for you in conjunction with the Play Disney Parks app that affects the outcome of your experiences while on Batuu. I know this because I've already reported about it, twice. Other people have too. The greatest parts of this newfangled, intriguingly different, wildly immersive retreat is selling what many fans have already been trying to buy, and it's not just that.
- Galactic Starcruiser's alien crew reminds me that Black Spire Outpost's locales each have alien proprietors, like Strono "Cookie" Tuggs for Docking Bay 7, Toydarian Toymakers' Zabaka, Creature Stall's Bina, and Oga's Cantina. All of them should be on-site, yet, curiously, visitors never see them.
- The ship's onboard dining experiences bring to mind that immersive dinner club announced during Disneyland's 60th special on ABC and never spoken of again.
- Those colorful renderings of droids whizzing past guests dressed in costumes remind me of the park's cosplay limitations and that droids were promised for Galaxy's Edge yet the only one currently within the land is a $25,000 gift shop souvenir.
Now, I like Galaxy's Edge. I believe in it. As I said before, no one's opinion should be set in stone, given that the land is not even done. I do have full faith in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance becoming one of Disney's best-ever rides. I strongly agree it's worthy of its honor as one of TIME's World's Greatest Places, because I'm the one who deemed it so, and I'm thrilled to wake up in four hours to fly across the country to see Batuu East firsthand and write about it all over again for the 10th, 20th, 30th time. I truly believe theme park fans are so lucky to live in an era with this much innovation, growth, and immersion at Disney theme parks, and Star Wars hotel is further evidence of that.
However, my biggest gripe about the land has been that without droids and aliens roaming the land, it's not a Star Wars planet; it's an amusement park masquerading as one. And while Scott Trowbridge himself assured me and fellow reporters back in February that the droids are being manufactured and will come, the land currently remains barren of the non-human beings that populate every other Star Wars planet in existence, and which will seemingly be littered throughout Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is an immersive getaway that sounds cool as hell — anyone who's been on Disney Cruise Line's exceptional sailings can attest they'll knock this one out of the park — but I can't shake the top-tier promise of something that we've already wanted, not just forever, but since Bob Iger himself got up on that stage two D23 Expos ago to announce Galaxy's Edge in the first place. I'm on board for every offering on the incredible-seeming Starcruiser sailings, but it's not just what I wanted out of an immersive Star Wars hotel. It's what I wanted from Galaxy's Edge.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.