Every bit of the new Galaxy’s Edge theme park at Disneyland and Disney World is truly awe-inspiring. But the one part that really stands out for me is the Savi’s Workshop build-your-own-lightsaber experience.
From start to finish, the experience is delightful. And the lightsabers are incredibly fun to build and spar with. But when you realize that Savi’s Workshop is raking in roughly $73 million per year in revenue, it gets even more exciting.
Maybe it’s the Jawa in me, but I find it truly beautiful to see a product that brings true joy to fans also do insanely well for the business. So let’s take a closer look at the experience, the economics, the after market, and the possibilities.
In 2019, Disney opened the “Galaxy’s Edge” land in both Disneyland and Disney World, set in Black Spire Outpost on the outer rim world of Batuu in the Star Wars galaxy. It’s an incredibly immersive experience for any Star Wars fan, with a real life cantina, a life-sized Millennium Falcon and X-Wing fighter, a whole in-world town, and more nerdy easter eggs than you can imagine.
One of the least obvious, but most memorable attractions is Savi’s Workshop, which lets you participate in a very fun ritual to build your own custom lightsaber.
In the story, Savi is a character who is fascinated with the lore of the Jedi. He’s not force sensitive, but he and his crew of “gatherers” scour the galaxy for relics of the Jedi, to keep them safe in case they are needed again some day. To keep their efforts secret from the First Order, they operate under the guise of being a salvage shop.
When you show up at Savi’s Workshop for your appointment, you pick one of four lightsaber themes. Peace and Justice (a modern Jedi theme), Power and Control (a Sith theme), Protection and Defense (an Old Republic theme), or Elemental Nature (a more nature-based theme). You are given a pin to wear, which indicates which set you have chosen.
When it is your turn, Savi’s Gatherers usher you into a secret workshop (safe from prying eyes of the First Order). They give you a tray of “scrap metal” to match the theme you chose. Each set includes a bare lightsaber core, two emitters, two activation switches, two pommels, and four sleeves. You also get to select a blue, green, red, or purple Kyber crystal, which determine the color of your lightsaber blade. Then you get to mix and match the parts to build a lightsaber that speaks to your personal preferences (using two sleeves and one each of the other parts).
Then there’s a ritual for activating your lightsaber. Finally, you are given a protective sheath to carry the lightsaber in, and ushered out of the workshop, with the suggestion to visit Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities (the shop next door), where you can buy additional Kyber crystals (including white and yellow), along with a wide variety of other collectibles and costumes.
The entire experience takes about half an hour: ten minutes out front and twenty in the workshop. You leave with a custom built lightsaber, a blade that lights up with the color of your Kyber crystal, the sheath, the pin, and a really fun story to tell your friends. After dark, the park lights up with the glow of dozens of fans wielding freshly built lightsabers.
But you know that already, don’t you? Every other review of Savi’s Workshop will tell you that. And probably with more flare, photos, and videos. What you’re here for is the business side of things, right? Ok, let’s dig in.
What do we know?
— The Savi’s Workshop experience costs $200 per person (plus tax).
— Each experience includes 14 paying customers (not counting spectators).
— At Disneyland, they are open 8am to 11:30pm at Disneyland and 8am to 8:30pm at Disney World. (We’ll round down to 12 hours at each park, for our purposes.)
— They are open 8am to 8pm at Disney World and 8am to 11:30pm at Disneyland (we’ll round it down to 12 hours each, for our purposes).
— They try to start the experience every 20 minutes throughout the day.
At full capacity, that’s about 504 paying customers and $100,800 per day per park. For the two parks together, that would be about $6.13 million per month, or $73.6 million per year.
Yes, that’s just revenue. You do have to subtract all of their expenses from that. I would kill to see their actual books, but we can make some guesses. The workshop itself would be amortized over many years. Cast member salary would likely be less than 3% of the $2,800/hour revenue. And with volume of almost 370K lightsabers per year and very tight relationships with their manufacturers, I have to imagine the margin on the lightsaber parts themselves have to be pretty good. (Someone with more knowledge of toy manufacturing margins is welcome to provide estimates.)
That also does not count the revenue that is made selling additional Kyber crystals ($14), belt clips ($18), “legacy” hilts from your favorite Star Wars characters ($110–200), extra lightsaber blades ($50), Jedi belts, tunics, and robes ($50, $70, $125), and other cosplay merchandise. (And don’t get me started on the adorable shoulder Porgs!)
At the height of the Old Republic, there were about 10,000 Jedi Knights in the galaxy. Savi’s Workshop produces the equivalent of 37 generations worth of delighted Jedi customers per year! And they make out like Jawas doing it. My compliments to every single imagineer, designer, business person, and supply chain manager involved in this amazing product. Y’all outdid yourselves on this one!
At the Star Tours gift shop, there is also a kids’ version of the build your own lightsaber experience. It costs $30, has plastic parts, and doesn’t include all the theatrics. But 100% of my test subjects (1 kid) absolutely loved it.
The Secondary Market
But wait, there’s more! Demand for the custom lightsaber market is even higher than Disney is currently addressing. This leaves a vacuum that the market is happily filling with arbitrage and third party compatible products.
As we mentioned, each lightsaber kit comes with twice as many “scrap metal” pieces as you need to build a lightsaber, but you keep only the pieces you use. When the park first opened, it appears that they allowed you to buy additional pieces of “scrap metal” at Dok-Ondar’s for $20 each. Later the policy was changed to a limit of 2 per person, and only from the set you built. And later they discontinued the ability to buy extra pieces at all. At least officially.
Naturally, that void between supply and demand was quickly filled by the arbitrage market. People figured out that they could pay to go through the Savi’s Workshop experience, then sell the resulting lightsaber on eBay for enough to make the experience free to them, or even turn a tidy profit. Or the reverse: pay for a friend to go through the experience on the condition that you get to keep the lightsaber, so you get additional sets at park costs and your friend gets to enjoy an experience they otherwise couldn’t have afforded.
People also realized they could break their saber down and sell the scrap metal pieces separately. Today, some scrap metal pieces that were $20 when sold at Dok-Ondar’s are going for as much as $40–80 each on eBay. Depending on which sets and parts you choose, the lightsaber you spend $200 on in the park could fetch you up to $400 on eBay (minus fees, of course).
Some people get offended by this and call it scalping or gouging. But the Jawa in me says this is exactly what should be happening when supply and demand are out of balance. Some people really want a lightsaber but can’t afford to take a trip to the park to get it. Some people want to have the experience of building a lightsaber, but would rather offset the cost of their park trip than keep the saber. As long as they’re both making each other happy, everyone here wins. Including Disney, who continue to have their whole day of classes booked pretty consistently.
Even craftier fans realized there was a market for completely unique scrap metal pieces that would be compatible with the Savi sabers. Want to attach two Savi sabers together to make a saber staff? Renevforge will sell you a machined aluminum double-pommel piece and cowkitty has a “Dark Rey” pommel connector. Want your ligthsaber to have a completely unique look that none of your friends have? Vesa-tile can hook you up with a variety of their own beautiful designs. Want your blade to look like the Darksaber? They’re not for sale (yet), but JangoGreedo is doing some pretty cool DIY work.
“Ok, sure,” I hear you say. “This is a great business while it’s all shiny and new. But what happens when everyone who wants a $200 lightsaber has one, Savi’s Workshop lies empty all day, and the fad is over?”
First, don’t underestimate the sheer size of the Star Wars fanbase. It’s likely to take many years before demand for the Savi’s Workshop experience dies down. But there are also a lot of other levers that Disney could pull to help rev the Savi engines, in both the short and long term.
While demand is still significantly higher than supply, Disney could open pop-up Savi workshops in cities all over the world, to tap the Star Wars fans in those markets who can’t afford the international trip to one of the US parks. I don’t think it’s likely, since they’d rather keep it as an incentive to visit the parks, but it’s an option.
They could start selling scrap metal pieces separately again. For the Kyber crystals, there are two colors that are only available at Dok-Ondar’s, and not at Savi’s. So in addition to being able to buy the pieces of your set that you didn’t choose for the saber, the could have certain pieces that are exclusive to Dok Ondar’s. Perhaps an official double-pommel for making lightsaber staffs? Or emitters that include a cross-bar? Or special blades? Or just different styles from what is available in the Savi’s kits.
The Savi’s kits themselves can also change over time. Perhaps they’ll cycle out the least popular set with a High Republic themed set, a more katana-esque set, or a more industrial Kylo-Ren-ish set. Who knows what stories they’ll be telling in the Star Wars universe a decade from now. But it’s a fair bet that lightsaber styles will change over time, and there’s nothing like a new set of scrap metal (or even new Kyber crystal colors — orange, please!) to bring the hardcore fans back for more.
There are also a lot of accessory categories that aren’t yet being properly addressed. Wall-hung display racks, Kyber crystal storage, travel cases, and the like.
Whatever the future may hold, it’s safe to say that as amazing a product as the Savi lightsabers are today, they’re just the first generation of a line that will probably outlive me. I can’t wait to see what the next few decades hold in store!