June 17, 2024

Disney World Files New Construction Permit for Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser

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Four months after it permanently closed, Walt Disney World has filed a new construction permit for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. This covers details of the development; plus rumors, speculation, and wishful thinking about the future of the

Four months after it permanently closed, Walt Disney World has filed a new construction permit for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. This covers details of the development; plus rumors, speculation, and wishful thinking about the future of the former resort building and potential for the the interactive multi-day experience to be converted from a cruise on land into something else.

This new permit isn’t totally surprising. Last fall, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro teased that “something will happen” when asked about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. That has added fuel to the fire of fan excitement about the “future” of the Starship Halcyon, with many of the Starcruiser’s superfans hoping for an announcement as soon as the 2024 D23 Expo.

When discussing Starcruiser, D’Amaro also indicated that “not everything’s going to work. What did work, though, is we took creativity and storytelling to a completely new level, to a level that had never existed before…It didn’t work commercially. And so, when we realized that, you just make a call and move on.”

With that said, “something will happen” is pretty meaningless on its own and open to projection of one’s own desires and hopes. The optimistic among us might think this is a hint of a reimagining into a regular resort, which would be “something” major happening with Starcruiser. The more pessimistic might think it’ll rot in plain sight, which is also not nothing. Of course, there’s a vast expanse of middle ground between those two extremes.

Personally, I don’t put much stock in a vague line that’s purposefully open to interpretation. D’Amaro knows a lot of fans are passionate about Starcruiser, and also that they’ll take whatever “signs” they can get that it has a future. Over the last few years, Disney doesn’t exactly have a great track record with its teases–not even the ones accompanied by concept art.

Saying “something will happen” feels like an extension of that, meant to excite fans and generate hype without actually doing anything. In this case, D’Amaro isn’t actually even saying anything either. It’s purposeful, and it has done the trick in getting fans to hold out hope and piquing curiosity about what the future might offer.

Sorry, just trying to be a realist. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong in the coming months with an actual announcement about the repurposing of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. And perhaps exactly that will happen, thanks to this new permit filed in late January 2024…

The new notice of commencement permit by Walt Disney World lists is Sunstate Awning & Graphic Design, Inc. as the contractor. This is a company based out of Sanford, Florida that specializes in–you guessed it–customized awnings made of canvas or metals for commercial or residential locations. According to the company, their awnings are both “gorgeous” and “imaginative.” Wow.

From what I can ascertain by perusing their website, Sunstate Awning & Graphic Design specializes in custom awnings and only custom awnings. They haven’t expanded into the hotel conversion business, they don’t build pools, or repurpose spaces. So Sunstate is not being brought in to transform Starcruiser into a regular resort. That is, unless all it needs for that is an awning. (That isn’t the case–it would need much, much more.)

Given that Sunstate Awning will be erecting an awning, what realistic possibilities does that leave? Well, a quick search of Google reveals that some Spirit Halloween stores do, in fact, have awnings. And a custom awning would be quite nice, as they could have “Spirit Halloween” printed right on that, instead of a temporary banner affixed to the facade.

Joking aside, it’s honestly difficult to say what purpose the awning could serve. Starcruiser already has a rather large concrete porte cochere, so this almost certainly is not for the front of the building that would welcome guests. In fact, we can safely rule out this having a guest-facing purpose because of that.

Another possibility is needing an awning on one of the sides of the building for staging purposes. If there’s going to be construction, inside and they need somewhere to store materials and do prep work, this is plausible. Or, if they’re going to remove fixtures from the building and want somewhere to place them on a short-term basis without exposure to the elements.

While possible, that strikes me as implausible. This is normally the type of thing that would call for tents and not necessitate permitting. (Staging sites have triggered permits before, though.)

Installing an awning over the room pictured above is also plausible to protect it from weathering or rain. Not necessarily because there are specific plans for this space, but because Walt Disney World wants to leave its options open and has learned its lesson from past instances of letting things rot in the elements (SpectroMagic, Lights of Winter, etc.)

It’s also conceivable that this awning is somehow for Cast Members. That the building is going to be used for backstage offices and they want to connect it to the already-existing support structure without exposure to weather. As I’ve said before, I think it’s highly likely that Starcruiser becomes backstage support or offices for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at some point.

Another simple explanation would be a spot for security on the exterior of the building. All of these are possible–when Walt Disney World mothballs a building, they don’t simply abandon it. There’s some degree of a Cast Member presence at Starcruiser already–this could be to improve or extend that.

As for the possible realistic future of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, there are a few plausible options. The first is, as discussed above, it becoming offices for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park currently has a bunch of backstage support facilities that are in prime locations for expansion, and relocating those to Starcruiser–and building more around it–could be incredibly valuable.

I know this isn’t the “sexy” answer or what fans are hoping for, but I would love to see the footprint of Disney’s Hollywood Studios expanded, and walkways connecting Toy Story Land, Animation Courtyard, and Sunset Boulevard. That would be great for traffic flow, but it can’t happen due to what’s currently backstage. It needs to happen, though, to improve the capacity of the park.

Another less-exciting possibility is that the building sits empty for a couple of years. At some point, Walt Disney World will determine that the ongoing costs of security and upkeep exceed those of demolition. I wouldn’t expect that to happen for at least a few years, though. Disney has a habit of sitting on its hands, rather than acting expeditiously in these scenarios.

If the building is demolished, my hope is that’s done in order to replace it with a new structure that’s more efficient for offices, parking, training, etc., for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once again, same goal here as the above–relocating the current backstage offices to free that valuable real estate up for theme park redevelopment.

Then there are the more exciting options. Some fans have speculated that Walt Disney World could use the restaurant space with Starcruiser for a dinner show. This makes sense in theory. After all, that dinner show has already been developed and the dining room exists inside the Halcyon. Given the popularity of Oga’s Cantina and other dinner shows at Walt Disney World, it’s safe to say it would sell out even at $100 to $150 per person. So why not recoup some costs?

The problems pertain to infrastructure. Parking is insufficient outside the Starcruiser, the whole building and grounds would need to be staffed and secured, and bus service would need to be available from the parks. Those are a lot of added costs that would quickly erode the profitability of a dinner show held inside the Starcruiser building.

However, that doesn’t mean a dinner show won’t happen. The obvious alternative would be building one in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge–in the existing space that was set aside for a restaurant over by Oga’s Cantina! The venue could be larger and correct viewing angle issues with the dining room aboard the Halcyon. It wouldn’t have the same infrastructure issues as the Starcruiser, as the existing land and theme park would support it.

The appetite for a Star Wars dinner show is endless, and this would be a license to print money. Given all of that, it makes sense to build a new venue within Galaxy’s Edge. Not only that, but it would round out Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, strengthen the land, and improve its numbers. It’s too obvious not to do.

One stopgap option that I could see happening is debuting a dinner show at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, testing and adjusting there, and then adding a purpose-built venue in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge a couple years later. If D’Amaro actually is sincere in his sentiment that “something will happen” that’s not just boring backstage facilities, my best guess is that it’ll be this.

The turnaround time from conception to announcement to opening such a dinner show in Starcruiser would be measured in months rather than years, which would also give Disney a revenue stream and stopgap solution. They could even announcement the permanent show at the same time as the interim one, coming up with some cute in-universe backstory for how the Halcyon was resurrected or whatever.

There has been a lot of chatter about this, all of which suggests that Walt Disney World has been actively exploring ideas for a Star Wars dinner show. Whether any of this sees the light of day for guests is completely unknown at this point, and just because Imagineering is doing tests doesn’t mean management will bite. They’ve already been “burned” once by Starcruiser, so there’s likely a level of apprehension here beyond that of other projects.

With the benefit of zero inside knowledge, our bet is a dinner show held inside Starcruiser that ‘departs’ from Galaxy’s Edge is launched at some point in late 2024 or 2025. This is the announcement we could see happening at the 2024 D23 Expo, or perhaps even earlier. Since the structure already exists, the turnaround time from announcement to testing the concept could be short (by Disney standards).

Should that go well, we’d expect construction to begin on a proper venue inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for a dinner show to open in 2025 or 2026. Either of those things could be accompanied by a soft reboot of the land that does more to break the timeline and introduces more characters. (The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda appearances have been a smash success; it’s beyond time to do more.)

Beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised if other elements of Starcruiser make their way into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The “what” of this really depends upon how much of the R&D is rolled into the accelerated depreciation.

There’s a lot of tangible technology that was produced via Imagineering R&D that Walt Disney World and Disneyland might want to reuse for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (or even elsewhere). Things like that fancy new lightsaber, the Yoda effect, and other showpieces.

There’s a chance of those being added to new entertainment along the catwalks in the land, Savi’s Workshop, Oga’s Cantina, and elsewhere. (Another potential 2024 D23 Expo announcement!) So much of this was originally intended for the land, and it’ll just be a matter of Disney expressing an appetite to invest more into the land. (Again, I could absolutely see that happening with a soft reboot that breathes new life into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It could still be the blockbuster land that they wanted.)

Ultimately, most of this is pretty irrelevant to a new construction permit for an awning at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. How we get from “gorgeous and imaginative custom canvas (or metal) awning” to “soft relaunch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that includes a dinner show originally tested at Starcruiser” is, uh, quite the leap!

That’s a massive amount of speculation, but honestly, it comes with the territory. I’d rather lay out what I think are the realistic possibilities rather than leave this open-ended and let fans get carried away with running through more implausible scenarios. It’s not going to become a regular resort or even Disney Vacation Club. It isn’t going to be transformed into DisneyQuest: Star Wars Edition.

I’ve been a Disney fan for a while, and I already see history repeating itself here with the same type of speculation and wishful thinking that dragged on for years with the Adventurers Club and its diehard fans. Starcruiser parallels that interactive experience in a number of ways, and I hope that doesn’t extend to its superfans being strung along for too long with the false hope that the thing they love will return. (That was rough to watch/endure.)

As for Starcruiser, the building does have potential future uses, and who knows, maybe it’ll even become a single-day diversion with much of what it previously offered rather than an overnight, multi-day Star Wars ‘cruise on land.’ But I think the most plausible outcomes are testing a dinner show or backstage Cast Member facilities–perhaps both! How an awning fits into all of that, I honestly have no clue. It’s not nothing, though, and opens an intriguing door for the future of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What purpose do you think this new construction permit for an awning serves? Think D’Amaro is sincere in saying “something will happen” with the shuttered Starcruiser? Are you expecting an announcement at the 2024 D23 Expo? Think that the company will convert it to a regular resort or reopen it as something else? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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