New details have been released about Oga’s Cantina, the watering hole coming to Black Spire Outpost at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland. The most notable of these is that this Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge establishment will serve alcohol on both coasts, becoming the first location to sell alcohol to the general public in Disneyland’s 60+ year history.
We’ll offer our thoughts on that last tidbit later in the post (as it’s probably the only detail in this news about which most people care), but first some of the other main pieces of info. This cantina will be run by an alien proprietor, Oga Garra, who operates a “smugglers’ safe haven and a popular stopping point for those seeking to avoid the authorities [with] a story or two to tell.”
Oga’s Cantina will serve famous concoctions for kids and adults created with exotic ingredients using otherworldly methods, served in unique vessels. There will be musical entertainment at Oga’s Cantina, courtesy of RX-24, the former StarSpeeder 3000 pilot droid we first met in Star Tours, who has re-envisioned himself as the cantina’s DJ. A “colorful cast of characters” will also be on hand, which we’d construe to mean roaming atmospheric entertainers will mingle amongst guests.
As for alcohol being served at Oga’s Cantina in Disneyland…is anyone surprised? When the existence of a cantina was first announced for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, my reaction was “how are they going to break the news about booze?” Part of me even wondered if alcohol would first be introduced at Tropical Hideaway, if only so there wasn’t any negative buzz attached to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Then again, the reaction here is not really so much negative buzz as it is outraged fans. If this does make the rounds in the news, the general public reaction is more likely to range between indifference and bewilderment that Disney would potentially open a cantina from the Star Wars universe without alcohol. This is really only a story to longtime fans versed in Walt Disney’s personal beliefs about alcohol in his park.
In a 1956 interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Walt said: “No liquor, no beer, nothing [in Disneyland]. Because that brings in a rowdy element. That brings people that we don’t want and I feel they don’t need it. I feel when I go down to the park I don’t need a drink. I work around that place all day and I don’t have one.”
In context, this interview was about how Disneyland differed from a traditional amusement park, and how it offered an inviting atmosphere for families. The interview also specifically addresses clean toilets and was intended to reset expectations about what Disneyland, an unknown quantity at the time, would be, and how it would differ from amusement parks of the era.
The full interview is an interesting and enlightening and amusing read. In context, we think it’s fair to say that Walt’s interview offers a “sales pitch” for the park, informing guests of this new concept and presenting clear ways it’d differ from other parks of the era.
Over 60 years later, Disneyland is very much a known quantity at this point. Disney PR does not have to mention restroom cleanliness or other signifiers of how Disney theme parks differ from Six Flags or local state fairs. The difference is patently obvious, and Disneyland’s reputation precedes it. Even those who have never been know that Disneyland is in a different league than those parks.
With regard to this topic or any, I don’t know “what Walt would do” and neither do you. My opinions sometimes change from year to year, and it’s fair to say that a visionary mind like his would’ve evolved on a variety of topics over the course of several decades. (To put it mildly.)
From a business perspective, it’s arguable that it now makes sense to sell alcohol in Disneyland. There’s no need to establish a reputation for Disneyland at this point that would differentiate it from lowbrow amusement parks. That was a savvy, calculated business move in Walt Disney’s era, just as pivoting to sell alcohol is a savvy business move in today’s era.
Nevertheless, we think it’s perfectly understandable that fans are angered by the sale of alcohol in Disneyland, as Walt has explicit quotes on this very topic. His position was crystal-clear…albeit it ~60 years ago.
In large part, a lot of the negative reaction to this seems predicated upon the underlying fact that a lot about “Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom” is changing all at once. Over the course of a single decade, so many Walt-era aspects of the park have been replaced or modified, and not always for the better.
As compared to a decade ago, New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America look dramatically different–and less charming–and that trend is only continuing with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It wasn’t that long ago that Disneyland could be described as the “charming” park, the one where Walt’s fingerprints could still be felt. With these changes and an influx of crowds, that feels less and less true.
For many, this is a tangible policy reflecting that partially invisible shift, so of course it’s going to be a flashpoint for outrage. Moreover, it’s hypocritical on Disney’s part. Pretty much any announcement of an attraction closing or a potentially unpopular is usually justified with some Walt Disney quote about progress or moving forward (here’s one of many, many examples). The message is always clear: “what we are doing is okay because this is what Walt would have wanted.”
This cherry-picking of Walt Disney quotes to justify business decisions is disingenuous at best, and emotionally manipulative at worst. The fact is, no one knows what Walt Disney would have wanted or done decades after his death, and to apply a very vague message to very specific decisions is totally inappropriate.
In part, I think Disney is reaping what it has sowed with the reaction here, as there’s been a concerted effort to paint Walt Disney as this downhome-yet-visionary artist who existed only to make kids happy and build family-friendly parks. This notion that Walt Disney was not a shrewd businessperson who operated his parks in a calculated manner strikes me as naive and odd.
The Walt Disney Company should own all of its business decisions based on whatever current circumstances exist, not use Walt as a convenient PR shield when it so suits the company. Because the flipside to that is fans using him as a sword in situations like this. The reality is that in every situation, TWDC is acting in its own contemporaneous best interests without regard to Walt Disney.
With all of this said, we have nothing against alcohol being sold in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…or elsewhere in Disneyland, for that matter. It has been for two decades in Disneyland Paris and now at Magic Kingdom for a few years. Despite that, neither of those parks have devolved into amusement parks with roaming gangs and spontaneous ruckuses. We’ve never witnessed any alcohol-fueled incidents in Disney California Adventure, either (the only Disney park in the world that ever seems to have a problem is Epcot, which is driven by ‘competitive’ drinking around the world).
Besides, if someone wants to be wasted at Disneyland, they can order a few drinks at DCA, and be inside Disneyland within 10 minutes. From a practical perspective, it has long been possible to be drunk at Disneyland (even before DCA, there were convenience stores ~10 minutes from the Esplanade), so this shouldn’t really change the vibe of the park.
Ultimately, we don’t have a problem with Disneyland serving alcohol in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and we doubt it will lead to anarchy or a drunkfest in the park. We do have a problem with the continuing use of invoking Walt Disney to justify certain decisions, while totally ignoring him when it comes to others. We certainly don’t expect Disney to be totally honest and admit that all decisions it makes are in pursuit of profit, but don’t insult customers by pretending the decisions are made to honor Walt Disney’s legacy. Because they are not.
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What do you think of alcohol being served in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland? Any questions? We love hearing from readers–even when you disagree with us–so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!