Take a guess about what Disney World is building in place of the now-defunct Star Wars hotel near Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
One of Dozens of Exciting Reveals at the D23 Expo
In 2019, during the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, dozens of exciting announcements were made about new Disney, Pixar, and Marvel films, as well as series coming to Disney’s brand-new streaming service, Disney+, which was slated to roll out to subscribers two months after the Expo concluded.
Walt Disney Company representatives and executives discussed Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) in production at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Soul (2020) in production at Pixar, and Disney+ series like Forky Asks a Question, Loki, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, The Mandalorian, and others that would be available to stream when Disney+ rolled out on November 12 that year.
Several exciting announcements were also made during the Expo about changes and additions at Disney’s theme park resorts around the world and for Disney Cruise Line.
Marvel fans were thrilled at the announcement of the construction of Avengers Campus beginning at Disneyland Resort, and among the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort, EPCOT took center stage at the D23 Expo that year, as multiple exciting additions were announced, including the reveal of the first-ever reverse launch coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, coming to Disney World’s second park.
The Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana attraction was also forecast for EPCOT, as well as a multi-step transformation of the front half of the park. Future World would be no more, and in its place, three new EPCOT “neighborhoods” would be added: World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature.
The new neighborhoods were projected to bring a cohesiveness to EPCOT, fusing the new areas with World Showcase, located at the rear of the park.
A Huge Reveal For ‘Star Wars’ Fans
One of the most memorable reveals from the 2019 D23 Expo was one that most fans could never have even imagined, let alone speculated.
Over the years, the weeks ahead of the D23 Expo are filled with guesses, expectations, speculation, and hopes about what might be revealed by Walt Disney Company execs at the event. Disney fansites and news sites are full of articles about what might be coming down the pipeline at Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond.
And sometimes those predictions are nearly spot-on as if some fans have an inside track or an invisible chair at the planning meetings in Burbank. But it’s quite possible that one of Disney’s most popular reveals from the 2019 Expo was a complete surprise, as if out of left field.
It wasn’t out of left field, however. Instead, it was from a galaxy far, far away, but it would be located near the parking lots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
A New ‘Star Wars’ Hotel
A brand-new concept in immersive entertainment, Disney World’s new Star Wars-themed hotel was first announced at the 2017 D23 Expo, following surveys conducted by Swagbucks at Disney’s request to discover whether there would be an interest in such an endeavor at the Central Florida Disney Parks.
Because of the positive feedback, Disney moved forward with plans for the new venture, but it wasn’t until the 2019 D23 Expo that the name of that venture and other details about the new hotel were announced.
During the 2019 Expo, Disney announced that the new location would be called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, and the “ship” upon which guests would travel on their two-night journey through the cosmos would be called the Halcyon with Chandrila Star Lines, the same location where one Star Wars power couple spent their honeymoon, so the story goes.
The Galactic Starcruiser hotel was originally slated to open in 2021, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic saw the opening date moved to March 2022.
When it finally opened, the hotel was well-received, and guests gave it overwhelmingly positive reviews. Then-Chairman of Disney Parks Bob Chapek described the new experience as a “100% immersive” experience that would “culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits” and touted the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser venture as Disney World’s “most experiential concept ever.”
Galactic Starcruiser: A Fatal Flaw
CNBC stated that the Galactic Starcruiser had “earned some of the highest guest satisfaction ratings in the history of Walt Disney World,” but the new experience had a fatal flaw.
Despite initial reviews being positive, the truth about the new Star Wars-themed experience at Disney World was that it was extremely expensive, even by Disney World’s standards. Guests could only book a two-night stay, and the least expensive offer of accommodations still cost $4,800 based on double occupancy and only got more expensive from there.
In fact, Disney World fans quickly discovered that for the price of one booking at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, they could purchase 1,200 Dole Whips or spend 25 nights at a Disney World Value Resort hotel. (Yes, 25.)
In May 2023, Disney World announced the inevitable closure of the Galactic Starcruiser, and the blame game ensued with CEO Bob Iger never admitting that, as one outlet put it, “Disney’s greed cost them in the long run.” Per the announcement, the final voyage of the Halcyon would take place on September 30, 2023, costing Disney more than $250 million, but no plans for the repurposing of the space were shared.
New Permit Filed for Work on the Former Halcyon
On Thursday, a notice of commencement was filed in Orange County, Florida, with an address of 201 S. Studio Drive, which corresponds to the location of the former Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Though the permit gives very little information about the work that is to be completed other than “general construction,” the filing of the permit has fans thinking that Disney hasn’t just forgotten the location.
The contractor is listed as Sunstate Awning & Graphic Design, Inc., leading most to believe that the work might only be cosmetic in nature rather than something far more involved, such as the demolition of the property.
What Will Become of the Former ‘Star Wars’ Hotel?
So what will become of the now-defunct Star Wars hotel? That remains to be seen.
The hotel property has been referred to as “Disney World’s galactic white elephant,” but this white elephant will likely be exceptionally hard to re-gift.
Disney would likely face near-insurmountable challenges in reimagining the space as a different resort hotel. That’s because it has no swimming pool, only 100 rooms, and each of those 100 rooms is very small, as the idea behind the location was that guests would be out of their rooms and immersing themselves in the storyline of their stay.
Disney still has not confirmed its plans for the empty space. So, truly, guess what Disney World is building in place of the closed ‘Star Wars’ hotel. At this point, your guess is as good as ours.