Disney Hubris on Full Display in "The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel"

The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel

Director: Jenny Nicholson
Starring: Jenny Nicholson
Studio: YouTube
Genre(s): Documentary
Rated: Not Rated

Years ago, Disney announced that they would be opening a Star Wars-themed hotel in Florida. While the idea of a Disney hotel was certainly nothing new, what was going to be different about this one was that it would go beyond what a hotel could be.  Disney sold it not as a place to hang your hat, but as an immersive attraction in which guests would role-play with cast members, and their "story" would change depending on the choices you made during your stay. It sounded like a cool idea in concept, but at an asking price of over $5,000 per person for two nights, who had the money to risk on it?

This is where documentarian Jenny Nicholson comes into play. As a huge Disney nerd and excited about the prospects of what Star Wars Galactic Cruiser (the official name of the hotel) could be, Jenny plopped down the money for her and her sister and took the trip many of us could only dream of taking. While there she documented her stay in all of its 'glory' and when everything was said and done, the Star Wars hotel (which is what it will be referred to from here on out because that's what normal people called it) ended up being less than the sum of its parts.

Trouble seems to start right away with the price, in which rooms and experiences fluctuate in price widely without her being able to understand what it is she is paying for. Services that she discovers would have improved her experiences are purchasable, however, she didn't get the option to add them on at the time of booking. Still, at $2 per minute, she is already spending more than the average family can be expected to stomach on a vacation, so onward she treks. The experience gets worse though as the story she must participate in is confusing in its structure and the app (in which most of the experiences are interacted with) doesn't seem to work most of the time.

Even dinnertime is a chore, as music shows that she is promised to enjoy while dining is blocked by a poll she is sat behind. While partially obstructed shows may be normal with most dinner theaters, is it fair to advertise the experience, charge over $5,000 for it, and then block the view? Jenny doesn't think so (neither do I, for that matter). The trip continues as people around her start getting frustrated with the experience, which prompts Jenny to question if Disney is truly providing the experience that they have known for all these years.

And that is ultimately the heart and frustration of this documentary: what is Disney giving you for your money? What was it that made the management at Disney think that charging almost a years worth of rent from most of their customers for a few broken mini-games and quirky costumed skits was a good idea? How much power should influencers have on public perception? Why did they think the average family could charge the equivalent of a whole month's worth of Disney World park tickets for a two-night event? Since we're discussing the parks, why are free perks that made them stand out from the competition now have a price tag on them (if not outright removed)?

Despite releasing the movie on YouTube, Jenny Nicholson seems to be following in the footsteps of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, representing the average person asking simple common-sense questions and discovering nothing but corporate BS on the other end. Aside from her not attempting to interview corporate suits at Disney, she makes the strongest case for Disney being so out of touch with the average American that many of those average Americans should probably rethink the relationship they have with them. At a little over four hours, the movie is likely a bit too long for some. But darn it, everything runs so smoothly, and is so interesting, that I have no idea what she could cut. This is a truly unique documentary.