GREAT BAY – St. Maarten gained a new international distinction this month when Nick and Gloria Maley’s Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit, located on Front Street in Philipsburg, was named as one of the three most popular museums in the Caribbean in the 2013 Travelers’ Choice awards for tourist attractions by TripAdvisor.com, the world’s most popular travel review website. In the company of huge state run museums, Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is the only privately run not-for-profit foundation to be included amongst the top three award winners and is rated by TripAdvisor as the number 1 attraction in Philipsburg.
Maley finished after the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico and the National Museum of Beautiful Arts in Cuba, but before the Kura Hulanda Museum in Willemstad.
The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit’s popularity with tourists and cruise passengers from around the world is inextricably linked to its unique connection to the incredibly successful Star Wars saga, (now owned by Disney), destined to release three more sci-fi epics starting in 2015.
“We are really very proud that our tiny exhibit has been honored in this way,” says Nick Maley, the veteran Star Wars creature builder who runs the exhibit with his wife Gloria. Nick is an international artist, best known as That Yoda Guy for his contribution to the creation of Yoda and other creatures for Star Wars. “It is extraordinary that our little museum, which relies totally on visitor donations and memorabilia sales for our funding, should be ranked with such auspicious state supported institutions in Puerto Rico and Cuba. Perhaps our popularity is because we tell the inside story about the making of Yoda, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Terminator, Alien, Highlander, Superman & more. Maybe it is because we house life-casts of famous movie stars from 6 decades including Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Secretly I like to think that perhaps it’s because we are also trying to encourage kids to be all they can be, to follow their impossible dreams and not settle for less just because other people tell them that’s “normal.” Nick and Gloria encourage all public and private schools in St Maarten/St Martin to organize school parties to visit the museum (by appointment) free of charge. That Yoda Guy will take time to talk to the children about positive thinking and striving to be exceptional.
This is the first year that Travelers’ Choice honors have been presented in the “attractions” category. The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Attractions awards recognize the world’s best landmarks, parks, museums, and amusement and water parks, based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from travelers around the world on TripAdvisor.com.
Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor commented, “To inspire travelers setting out on summer trips, TripAdvisor has named the top attractions across the globe based on the valuable feedback from millions of tourists worldwide. These remarkable sights offer enriching and entertaining experiences for travelers of all ages.”
TripAdvisor branded sites comprise the world’s largest travel community. With more than 200 million unique monthly visitors providing trusted advice and over 100 million reviews covering more than 2.5 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. This resource has become an invaluable tool in the promotion of tourist destinations.
But TripAdvisor are not the only ones to recognize the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit’s achievements. Last year, because of Nick’s involvement in the creation of Yoda, Lucasfilm flew him to Orlando to sign autographs alongside Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) at Star Wars Celebration VI Convention. Despite it’s small size, the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit has a LOT of movie history packed inside. It is a recommended attraction on 15 cruise lines and is described by Royal Caribbeans in cabin magazine as “the most unique enterprise in the Caribbean.”
“We want to thank all our supporters, both local and international, for the myriad of reviews that have resulted in this award,” Nick concludes. “It is their support that has ranked us amongst the Caribbean’s most esteemed establishments and we are proud that, in our small way, we help to distinguish St Maarten as one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations.”