Jenny Nicholson’s Review of Disney’s Star Wars Hotel Is Worth Watching

One of the most captivating pieces of entertainment I’ve seen so far this year is a four-hour-long YouTube video in which one woman describes her stay at a Disney World hotel. I’m as shocked by this as anyone.

To be clear: I was initially resistant when my partner encouraged me to watch Jenny Nicholson’s epic “The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel,” which breaks down in microscopic detail her visit to Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. During the experience, now closed, guests on vacation were encouraged to live out their George Lucas dreams by participating in a role-playing game while staying in a structure on the outskirts of the park near Orlando, Fla.

Nicholson’s monologue, which runs longer than “Lawrence of Arabia,” has been viewed more than seven million times since it was uploaded last month and has been the talk of social media, yet I was still unprepared for how absolutely riveting it was. While it highlights a litany of problems with the hotel itself, the video can also be viewed as a diagnosis of the entertainment industry’s current ills writ large. In her frustration, Nicholson becomes a valiant truth teller, clearly articulating how corporate greed betrays loyal fans to sell a cheaper and less emotionally enriching product. And she does this against a backdrop of stuffed animals and while wearing various costumes, including, at one point, a giant suit resembling a Porg, the puffin-like creature in “The Last Jedi.”

Nicholson is a great storyteller, even in Twi’lek head-tails and a Rodian beanie. She lands somewhere between a friend letting you in on some great gossip and a Homerian poet of 21st-century pop culture, engaging in the oral traditions of the ancients, only the subject is theme parks and “Star Wars.”

Here’s the very abridged version of what she’s talking about: In 2022, Disney opened the Galactic Starcruiser, billed as a “two-night adventure.” (Think: A cruise, but on land.) Guests would spend their days and nights inside a largely windowless hotel built to look like a spaceship, and actors would engage them in a story in which the Resistance battles the Empire for control of the vessel. As Stormtroopers and aliens roamed the halls, the visitors would play games immersing them in the world via an app on their phones.

Nicholson spent upward of $6,000 for a two-person stay. What did she get for that exorbitant fee? Well, for starters, a tiny room. (The “Star Wars” locale her footage most reminded me of was the prison in the TV series “Andor.”) Besides that, very little. She was barely able to crack the role-playing element. And, in a particular indignity, she was seated behind a pole during a dinner show and unable to see the alien singer Gaya. Nicholson repeatedly returns to the pole as an example of the poor design of the space, but also because it just seems to become an incredible symbol of how wrong her stay went.

Watching her explain it is a strange combination of delightful and enraging. She’s got a charming knack for quippy asides, and her complaints are so well-documented that they never seem unreasonable. You feel for Nicholson because she clearly wanted to have fun. Despite her frustration with the Starcruiser, she bought merch. She dressed up. She even tried to invent a persona for herself when interacting with the cast. None of it worked.

Nicholson is nerdier than most, but she’s also representative of a pure kind of fandom. She adores Disney and “Star Wars,” and her complaints come from a place of true disappointment. That’s why she can so effectively call out manipulation when she sees it. She is not an influencer paid to shill Disney’s wares, and in one of the video’s most viral moments she explains how you can spot someone who is, based on whether they use the convoluted official names for products. For instance, a paid influencer might say Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge instead of Star Wars Land. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ll stop to consider how many times you’ve been sold a bill of goods by a TikTok or an Instagram Reel.

What also struck me about the video was how Nicholson’s criticisms held true in other mediums. Too frequently corporations like Disney are asking audiences to accept whatever they are given no matter the quality. A critic might roll her eyes at the nonstop influx of projects based on pre-existing intellectual property — and often I do — but there’s a reason studios keep going to that well: Fans. You can dismiss fandom as being blind to quality, but Nicholson proves that’s not actually true. Putting out a lesser, cheaper product can mean taking advantage of what is often genuine love. Sometimes the quiet part is even said out loud: A recent trailer for “Deadpool & Wolverine” featured a QR code leading to a video of the Marvel star Ryan Reynolds telling “excited” fans that the movie is “as paper-thin as a sequel to ‘Battlefield Earth.’”

Nicholson argues that instead of making the Starcruiser the unique experience Disney promised, the company cut corners, betraying those who paid exorbitantly for what they assumed would be transportive. She also highlights how, when Disney decided to shut down the Starcruiser in September 2023, the enthusiastic cast members were the ones who probably paid the heaviest personal price.

Because it’s both consumers and laborers who suffer. Take, for instance, a recent Bloomberg report revealing that Pixar is turning away from movies driven by the personal stories of directors and thinking more about spinoffs and sequels, even though the studio’s biggest recent bomb, “Lightyear,” was just that. And at Marvel, where fan commitment to the franchise has been stretched thin in recent years by consistently lesser quality films and television shows, overworked visual effects artists voted last year to unionize. “I grew up dreaming of working on Marvel films,” one coordinator said in a statement, “so when I started my first job at Marvel, I felt like I couldn’t complain about the unpaid overtime, the lack of meal breaks and the incredible pressure put on VFX teams to meet deadlines because I was just supposed to be grateful to be here at all.” “Grateful to be here” is what it seems Disney expected Nicholson and other customers to say, too.

This mentality is evident in the glut of streaming television shows — too many to watch, only some of them worthwhile — and the number of superlong albums and alternate “versions” that musicians release to game the charts. If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, for instance, you might buy minimally different “special” editions of her latest out of the need to be a completist.

Nicholson is so compelling because her righteous indignation is less about her personal financial loss and more about how devotees like her have been taken advantage of simply because they want to escape into a magical world. Call that desire silly, but that’s what Disney promises time and time again whether that be in theme parks or onscreen. Fans like Nicholson take their passion for this material seriously. What she wants is that care to be reciprocated.

The great irony is that Nicholson herself produced what Disney couldn’t: a comprehensive, entrancing experience that held my attention.

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