You can walk right into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge right now at Disneyland without a problem, on the first week the land has been open to the public without reservations. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure both seem to be empty. The standby lines for some of the most popular rides in the parks are the lowest I’ve ever seen. This is the middle of the Summer, when Disneyland Resort is usually packed to capacity. What is going on here?
That video comes from our new theme park-focused YouTube channel Ordinary Adventures, so please subscribe if you haven’t done so already! Watch as I visit Galaxy’s Edge this week, explore all the sold-out shops, and appreciate how peaceful it is without massive crowds.
But this does bring up a very interesting question: why is Galaxy’s Edge not busy?
Disney was fearing the worst when it came to crowd expectations for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There were rumors of internal projections that saw the park reaching capacity for the first couple months of the opening. Naturally, this had fans wondering how Disney Parks logistics would handle the opening of the company’s first Star Wars Land. As you may know, they handed it with a five-prong approach:
- Extensive blackout days for cast members and annual passholders.
- Creating new and limited time attractions in Disney California Adventure to lure away crowds. These include bringing back Soarin’ Over California, adding Mickey’s Philharmagic to Hollywood Land, and the addition of shows like The Tale of the Lion King.
- A three week preview period, which required reservations to enter the land for 4-hour timed periods.
- A boarding pass process, which would allow Disneyland guests to enter a virtual queue via the Disneyland app to enter the land as crowds dissipate.
- A new huge parking garage and tram loading area to help accommodate the expected masses (the tram loading area is now open and can be seen in my video above, while the new parking lot is expected to be open any day now).
On the day that the land opened without reservations, it hit capacity and the boarding process went as promoted. But then something strange happened. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has not required boarding groups since the launch day and Disneyland has been strangely empty. We traveled to the park earlier this week, and not only was Disneyland empty, but Galaxy’s Edge was the most uncrowded I’ve seen it yet.
So what is happening here? Did Disney scare potential tourists away from visiting the park with all these precautionary logistical procedures? This could be a real possibility, and the news stories of Galaxy’s Edge hitting capacity within minutes of opening were seen by far more people than the social buzz of the parks being empty since.
Or it could be that almost all the annual passes are currently blocked out, aside from the Signature and Signature Plus, the two top-of-the-line passes. It’s worth noting that Disney has since changed their course and told cast members they are no longer blocked out from Disneyland this Summer (aside from July 4). In addition to that, Disneyland sent an email to Annual Passholders announcing a new summertime deal that would allow passholders to bring a friend to the Disneyland Resort with the purchase of a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket for $99. It seems clear that Disney’s plan backfired and the Mouse House is now trying whatever they can to get people into the parks.
But the real question is this: why are people staying away? Disneyland is notoriously more of a local park. Unlike Walt Disney World in Florida, Anaheim is filled with local annual passholders. So maybe blocking all the lower and mid-tier passes, alongside cast member access, is to blame? It seems very likely to me that this is the best answer, as rides from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have had some of the shortest standby lines I’ve ever seen. For example, the massively popular Radiator Springs Racers had a 10-15 minute wait the other day.
Perhaps tourists are staying away because the second Star Wars ride, Rise of the Resistance, has not yet opened. Why plan a trip to Anaheim when the land is only half-open? I could totally see that affecting vacation travel plans.
But the other interesting aspect is that it’s clear Disneyland underestimated fan demand for the exclusive products being offered in Batuu. When I visited on Wednesday, a lot of stuff was sold out. The list includes:
- Half of the Legacy Lightsabers, including favorite characters like Rey, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader. Disney had initially planned to not sell any merchandise in the land with the Star Wars logo on it, but when I visited Dok-Ondar’s they were selling some of the old Disney-branded lightsabers that used to be sold at Star Traders and Disney Stores.
- All of the kyber crystals. These crystals allow fans who build their own lightsaber to change the color of their blades, as well as inserting them in Jedi and Sith holocrons to access different soundbites from famous characters. Right now if you buy a holocron, they will sell you one blue or red crystal from Savi’s without the packaging.
- At Droid Depot, where you can build your own droid, they are completely sold out of personality chips, droid-carry backpacks, and the popular coin-like Batuu Spira gift card.
- At Oga’s Cantina, the $75 beer flight collectible with four rancor tooth glasses is sold out.
And this is just touching the surface. So many other things throughout the land are sold out and it’s shocking that Disney didn’t anticipate fan demand for some of these items. Some items have been sold out for days or weeks and haven’t been restocked. That includes the Loth Cats and Salacious Crumbs from the Creature Stall and the Yubnub tiki style collectible mug from Oga’s.
To make up for that, Disney has begun selling extra lightsaber pieces from Savi’s for $20, something that wasn’t offered until this week. Also, the droid depot also is now selling extra droid pieces for the same price. I guess if they have stock of something in the backroom, why not sell it?
During the reservation period, Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop (the build-your-own-lightsaber experience) would both hit capacity within minutes of a new reservation period beginning. There were a lot of complaints from fans who weren’t able to do either of those premium experiences. Those who got into the Cantina were often found complaining about the long lines in the sun, the unfriendly cast members serving the drinks, and the packed and uncomfortable quarters. Now you can easily get a reservation for Oga’s Cantina in the app, and the bar seems a lot less full. That might be bad for Disney, but it’s a much more comfortable and user-friendly experience. Savi’s Workshop is also a lot easier to reserve.
Why is Galaxy’s Edge and Disneyland not as busy as expected? No one can seem to nail down the answer to the question. I’m guessing it’s a combination of all the explanations outlined above, which is sad. Disney Parks logistics spent a lot of time, money, and effort to make sure that attending Galaxy’s Edge would not be a horrible experience for fans and that might have partially bit them in the foot. After all, on the other side of the country, there’s a new Harry Potter ride with a 10-hour wait in a completely packed theme park. No virtual queuing, no reservation periods – just old fashioned long lines. From what I’ve heard, that attraction and park seem busier than ever.
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