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What kind of experience do you want from Disney's new Star Wars hotel?

August 9, 2017, 2:43 PM · So Disney is developing a new type of immersive vacation experience with its first Star Wars-themed hotel. But what on Earth in the galaxy does that mean?

Most of what Disney announced for Walt Disney World at its D23 Expo in Anaheim last month revisits familiar territory for well-traveled Disney fans. The Ratatouille ride and TRON roller coasters are running already in Paris and Shanghai, respectively. Disney already built a large-scale, Broadway-style theater in Anaheim. It has had gondolas in its parks before, and the more modern versions Disney will install in Florida are popular in other resorts around the world. The Minnie Vans are literally a decorated Lyft.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway sounds like an interesting, 21st-century take on a classic Fantasyland dark ride. And if the Guardians of the Galaxy ride that is replacing Ellen's Energy Adventure does for indoor roller coasters what Mission Breakout did for indoor drop rides in Anaheim, fans likely will be thrilled with the result.

Ultimately, though, all of these projects are dupes or tweaks of established attraction concepts. But a Star Wars hotel? Not just a hotel decorated wit Star Wars props and staging, but one set within the franchise's universe — where visitors take on the role of a visitor in Star Wars' galaxy far, far away? Now that is something different.

I talked about Disney's proposed Star Wars hotel with my friends over at Skift this week: Disney’s New Star Wars Hotel Sounds Like Next-Level Immersion. A LARP Hotel sounds crazy, but so did a single-entrance, clean, alcohol-free, family-oriented theme park when Walt Disney first pitched Disneyland. Remember the business school cliche — no one knew they needed a photocopy machine until Xerox showed them one. We can imagine what riding the TRON coaster in the Magic Kingdom will feel like. But no one has any idea what a live action, role-playing hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort will be like.

Will it be too much — a sensory overload for families already overwhelmed by all that the resort and its theme parks have to offer? Or will it inspire people, firing their imaginations to enjoy the rest of the resort more intently than before? Beyond that, how will the resort "fit" in the resort, logistically and thematically? Will there be a tie-in to the Star Wars Galaxy's Edge land?

At this stage, who knows? But while this concept seems revolutionary, let's not forget that — like other theme park developments — even Disney's Star Wars hotel will build upon past projects, both inside and out of the Walt Disney Company.

Remember, Disney has been running a cruise line for years. And a cruise line provides what likely is the closest point of comparison to what a Star Wars hotel could be. (The concept art shows a space ship, after all.) Disney's already done virtual windows with the virtual portholes on some of its Disney Cruise Line staterooms. The hotel industry already has been experimenting with robot-provided service. LARP is a thing, and believe me, there are plenty of Imagineers and other themed entertainment design professional with experience playing. (That's also supposed to provide an element of the new Galaxy's Edge land, too.)

So how Disney bring it all together, in a way that exhilarates and inspires fans, rather than confusing and frustrating them? Well, that's where Disney's Imagineers and hospitality teams will earn their money. I think the key to success here will be in crafting an experience that allows people to participate to their level of comfort. Just want to look at the well-detailed surroundings and leave it at that? Fine. Want to enroll in Jedi (or Sith!) or First Order or Resistance training and go into battle? Have at it. (For what I imagine will be an upcharge, of course.)

I'm going to reveal my geek background here, but anyone who has been a dungeon master in a D&D game knows that the key to a successful quest is to give participants a range of engaging options that can lure them into the game. Don't wipe out the newbies on the first roll. Or bore the expert players with simple tasks. Contrary to what too many beginning game masters think, you're not there to beat the players. If you're really good, you're there to show them the most amazing experience they've ever had playing the game.

With this Star Wars hotel, Disney's Imagineers and hospitality team get to become the world's ultimate game masters. What would you like to see them do with this opportunity?

Replies (17)

August 9, 2017 at 3:03 PM · Throw guests in the trash compactor, turn it on and see what happens.
August 9, 2017 at 3:15 PM · I dunno about this. My first response was "Cool"... but the more I think about it, the more I want a real window showing the real world, with a balcony if possible.

Maybe its not for me. I really am interested to see how it does.

August 9, 2017 at 3:59 PM · "Turn off all the garbage mashers on the detention level!"

"That's a MaxPass+ feature, available for $100. Tap your MagicBand on the Dianoga's eye to purchase."

August 9, 2017 at 4:52 PM · Have First Order and Jedi animatronics realize their consciousness and kill their guests. "Violent delights have violent ends."
August 9, 2017 at 5:10 PM · Let me order a drink at Maz Kantanda's place
August 9, 2017 at 5:31 PM · How are they going to keep things from getting seedy? It's a hotel, so how are they going to keep out people whose fantasy is to have sexual experiences with Star Wars characters? there could end up being a really high-end niche of escorts who could haunt this place to service those fantasies. That's clearly not what Disney wants.
August 9, 2017 at 8:52 PM · A Star Wars version of Tamara.
August 9, 2017 at 10:30 PM · To be honest, it doesn't much matter to me (or the average person) because I can't afford to shell out hundreds of dollars per night. This new hotel will be a luxury themed experience for very deep-pocketed guests.

Now Star Wars Land, that's a different story...

August 9, 2017 at 11:45 PM · Sounds like a prequel to Westworld
August 10, 2017 at 6:50 AM · I'm a HUGE Star Wars fan, but I have to agree with Still a fan that this experience is likely to be cost prohibitive for me and my family. I also see the cruise model being the most practical as Robert has suggested. I would think that guests booking 2 nights in the resort would get to select specific experiences from a predetermined itinerary, but additional "excursions" will be offered or other upcharges suggested to make the standard itinerary more immersive and interesting. I really think what Disney will be able to offer here will be completely dependent upon the size of the resort. If it's a boutique hotel with a few dozen rooms, the itineraries will be very limited and repetitive (but Disney could charge a lot more for them). If it's a 100+ room hotel, then Disney would be able to offer variable experiences at different price points that would allow for greater flexibility and guest freedom.

Ideally, a fully immersive experience would not cost more than $300/night with additional costs to increase the level of immersion or for additional "excursions". However, I doubt $300/night is anywhere near where this experience will be priced, which means I'll just have to read trip reports about this. I'm still holding out hope that normal Joes like me will still be able to poke our heads in this resort or hang out in the lobby just to see what it's like without having to pay what are likely to be some exorbitant prices to stay here.

August 10, 2017 at 9:00 AM · Maybe they could offer a discount day once in a millennium! Like a couple posters before, this sounds great but the price is going to be so high. Even now the price is 400 to 600 a night for luxury hotel like the Grand Floridian. What do you think this price point will be with total immersion? I'll be playing the lotto now to hope to win big. Otherwise I'll be watching you tube of the experience most likely.
August 10, 2017 at 9:09 AM · As I understand it, the hotel won't open until 2022 ... So that's five years of planning and prep. Technology and new ideas will culminate to make it an extraordinary experience. Any doubt that it will be sold out every night?
August 10, 2017 at 1:24 PM · My question isn't so much about what the show experience or the accommodations will be like. I'm curious to know how they will blend in the actual workings of a hotel and its staff into the story. It won't be hard for Disney to cast parts that are fully in the show or game. What I'm looking forward to seeing is how housekeepers, engineers and other work-a-day roles at a hotel will fit in to this whole experience. The goal may be to completely immerse oneself in the Star Wars universe, but there still needs to be someone to clean the bathrooms, repair the A/C and bus the tables.
August 10, 2017 at 1:35 PM · "The goal may be to completely immerse oneself in the Star Wars universe, but there still needs to be someone to clean the bathrooms, repair the A/C and bus the tables."

Presumably those staff exist on an actual starship in the SW Universe. Someone has to fix the trash compactor when it's on the fritz and keep those little communication droids in tip top shape. I would presume those personnel would just wear First Order or Rebel Alliance uniforms and conduct their duties as normal.

OR---Guests could be cast into those roles, spending their 2 nights cleaning toilets, making beds, and fixing the plumbing to reduce the costs of their stay. Talk about FULL IMMERSION - you could be working on your vacation, and Disney would off-set their labor costs for having to hire acting talent to run this hotel!!!

August 11, 2017 at 12:11 AM · I also feel that this is something I won't ever experience, partly because of the cost and partly because I just don't think I want that level of immersion. If I was into LARPs I guess I'd join a club but I go on holiday to relax and this sounds all too much like hard work, too prescriptive perhaps. I do wonder whether there are
Star Wars Galaxy's Edge however sounds wonderful and exactly what I want to experience.
August 12, 2017 at 7:11 AM · The best thing is having it the West World way and go dark side:
I want to start at Tatooine where I get in a fight at the cantina with a rebel and cut of a castmember's arm. I run away from the rebels and sneak on board of the Millennium Falcon killing Han and Chewy stealthy (Kylo Ren style, photo-opp please). While landing on a deathstar I blow up Tatooine and I'm off to Anakin killing a ton of younglings and end the day on top of slave leia before Jabba has his way with her. That is going to be one magical vacation.

But the concept art shows a hotel room in BB-8 colors. That is not total immersion but a watered down laughable theme park version that has nothing to do with Star Wars. This is not for the real fan but the casual family that is going to pay top dollars for a mediocre experience.

August 11, 2017 at 4:04 PM · Sounds like a Star Wars version of Westworld. I bet it will be sold out and nearly impossible to get a room unless you are on a cancellation waiting list. When Darth Vader goes rogue, hunting you down like Yul Brenner did in Westworld, your fake lightsabre can't save you

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