Mickey Mouse legends tell us, when Lucasfilm and Disney partnered to build Star Tours in 1987, designing and constructing the Star Wars-themed, motion simulator ride cost more than double what it took to construct its entire Disneyland home back in 1955.
During special press events and official roll-outs last week, Disneyland unveiled a new Star Tours updated with new scenarios from all six Star Wars films and cutting edge, high-def 3D technology.
Star Tours: Tour to Endor took visitors on a wild, far flung journey through the galaxy as a helpless pilot droid (RX-24, voiced by Paul Reubens) accidentally flew a tourist flight into harm’s way through asteroid fields and Imperial ships before arriving safely back at space sport.
Using motion simulators and visuals created by Industrial Light and Magic, the original Star Tours took a lighter, more kid friendly approach to the Star Wars universe – even crewing the lost tourist ship with a comedy relief machine disguised as a pilot.
But, the old ride was showing its age with aging simulator technology and a representation of the Star Wars universe that didn’t include the added lore of the prequels. So, after more than a year offline for refits, the attraction reopened as Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. Disney offered CraveOnline a chance to tour the ride in style for an overview.
The line for the ride moves through an environment similar to the original ride, with new and improved animatronic C3PO and R2D2 bickering while they prepare a shuttle for spaceflight. But, it’s made clear that this is no longer the post-Battle of Endor Star Wars universe. The new Star Tours takes place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, with Darth Vader and The Empire in full control.
As riders close in on their prototype shuttle, new high-def screens feature ILM-created ads and imagery about tourist destinations and the ride's security procedures.
Once you arrive in the motion simulator, you realize the ride went through a rewrite and made a very sensible change. That Pee Wee Herman robot was annoying and never fit in the Star Wars galaxy. Why invite idiot droids when you the movies gave you perfect, likable protagonists with C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels) and R2D2. They take control of the misguided ship once you’re belted in and ready to fly.
With Dolby-fueled 3D technology featuring new CGI animation from ILM, the upgraded ride takes visitors to a mix of two of any six destinations, including Coruscant, Hoth, Kashyyyk, Naboo, Tatooine, and The Death Star. For our first ride, we visited the planet of the Wookies and braved an assault on a new Death Star’s main reactor. For the next go around, we visited the underwater world of Naboo and Pod Race on Tatooine.
With three different opening sequences and three unique endings, riders can hop on the new Star Tours 5 times and have a different adventure each time.
Along the way, the classic characters vary with the destinations. Darth Vader will have a go at you, but you might also run into Chewbacca, Yoda, Boba Fett or (sorry) Gungans.
The average 4:30 spent in the simulator features effective 3D imagery with passive glasses and a motion hyped-up motion simulator with new bumps and grinds.
A quick note to parents and shorter visitors: Pay close attention to the standard issue height warnings posted by Disney. If your feet can’t reach the simulator floor, you will get a violent toss-around. My companion on this ride comes in at just a shade under 5’0”, and she took a good jostling rough enough to jerk her head and eyes away from the entertaining action up front.
That warning aside, the new Star Tours is pulling in lines more than two hours long and filling the Star Wars gift shop at the end of its journey. It should keep fans coming back for multiple trips around the galaxy for years to come.