When you talk about Star Tours nowadays, you have to distinguish between the new and improved version that just opened this year and the classic incarnation, which was first launched in 1987. Personally, I haven’t been on the new version and I’m sure many of you haven’t yet either, which is why it’s so exciting to read about. Of course, the classic ride was something all Disneyland lovers recall with fondness, so I’ll be sure to include plenty of info on that one as well, including the history of the ride itself.
Image via inturnaround [Flickr]
Creating A Ride That Occurs “A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away”
While Star Tours eventually became the first Disney ride based on a film the company had nothing to do with, it didn’t start out that way. Originally the ride was conceived to go along with the 1979 Disney film The Black Hole. The ride was intended to be an interactive simulator that allowed guests the opportunity to choose the car’s route, but because the project was going to be so expensive (ringing in at an estimated $50 million) and the film wasn’t a big success, the idea was quickly shelved.
Fortunately, rather than trashing the idea altogether, the company decided to partner with George Lucas, who was already working with them to produce Captain EO. Once everyone agreed to the idea, the Imagineers started work on the project by buying four military-grade flight simulators that cost $500,000 each and then they started designing the building and ride around their new toys.
While the Imagineers worked on the technical side of the project, Lucas and his team at Industrial Light & Magic worked on the film that would be played inside the simulators. Once the simulators and film were up to speed, a programmer then had to sit inside with a joystick to manually synchronize the vehicle’s movements to the action on screen.
By the time the project was completed in 1987, the ride cost a total of $32 million, which was almost twice the cost Disney paid to build the entire park back in 1955. To celebrate the official opening, and to help promote the new ride, the grand opening of Star Tours coincided with the park being left open for 60 straight hours starting on January 9, 1987 at 10 am.
Image via popculturegeek.com [Flickr]
The Story of A Classic
While the actual ride doesn’t start till you get on the simulators, you enter the story line as soon as you get to the inside queue area. Essentially, you are a tourist traveling through space to visit Endor. As you go through the line, you can see posters advertising different intergalactic destinations, along with animatronic characters who work at the space port and a life-size mock up of a StarSpeeder 3000 –the ship you are using to travel the galaxy.
If you paid attention in the line for the classic version of the ride, you’d notice a few Star Wars favorites, such as Admiral Ackbar, C3P0 and R2D2. The two famous robots were actually used in the film and C3P0 is even plated in gold, which Lucas chose because it was the only material that gave the right color he was looking for and it was guaranteed not to rust. Another fun distraction in the line was a recorded page for “Mr. Egroeg Sacul,” to meet his party at gate 2. If you ever wondered who the heck that is, try reading the name backwards –that’s right, it’s “George Lucas.”
Once you got near the front of the line, you’d be shown a quick safety video and then you would enter the flight simulator. As the doors closed, your pilot, RX-24, introduced himself and chattily told you that this would be his first flight. If you think this pilot sounded familiar, that’s because he’s voiced by Paul Reubens –aka Peewee Herman.
RX-24 screwed up before you even got out of the space station, sending the ship into a tunnel that led to a maintenance yard and almost getting everyone killed right away. He would then take a breath, put the ship into light speed and manage to overshoot his intended destination. Suddenly, the ship is inside of a comet cluster and RX-24 had to maneuver it out of a maze of tunnels inside of a giant comet in the belt. Upon exiting, he would then be captured by the tractor beam of a Star Destroyer.
A rebel X-wing fighter would save the ship by destroying the beam’s generator, but that also meant that the ship had to tag along in the battle while the rebels attempted to destroy a Death Star. The ship had to avoid attacks by the Empire and navigate through a complex maze of rubble before flying away when one of the rebels manages to destroy the Death Star. Finally, RX-24 would put the ship in light speed again and the ship would arrive at its intended destination, but not before almost crashing into a fuel truck before docking.
While the old ride was great, Disneyland has always been dedicated to updating its rides to keep the park feeling modern and to give the guests new experiences. With that in mind, the company worked with George Lucas again to renovate the ride. In celebration of the ride’s closing, Walt Disney World threw a huge celebration and at the end, they held a Star Tours shutdown ceremony where Boba Fett blew the ride up using a thermal detonator.
For those of you who can’t get enough of the classic, you can always take a trip to Disneyland Paris or Tokyo Disneyland, where there have been no announcements to update the rides as of yet.
Images via JoshMcConnell [Flickr] and Peter E. Lee [Flickr]
Enhancing An Already Great Time
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues takes place earlier in the time line of Star Wars. The original ride was set after Return of the Jedi, but the newer version takes place sometime between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It is also majorly different in that it offers over 54 different possible experiences and the equipment used has all been improved –there’s now high-def video, a 3D high-def screen, an improved motion simulator and other new special effects.
The basic story of the ride remains the same, guests are space tourists on their way to a particular destination –but there are now multiple destinations available. Similarly, the queue also features the same animatronic Star Wars characters, only now there is also a discarded Captain RX-24 who periodically delivers lines from his prior role as your captain. The biggest change in the line area though is that there is now a mock security checkpoint where your luggage, cargo and self will be inspected –unlike a TSA checkpoint though, there are no nude body scanners and you can keep your shoes on.
Once you get through security, you’ll see a television monitor showing you C-3PO who has been trapped in the cockpit while trying to perform maintenance on the ship. You will then be seated and start the adventure, which will always involve delivering the Rebel spy (a randomly chosen member of the audience) to safety.
There are eleven segments of the film though and each segment has multiple options that the ride will select randomly. Ultimately, there are 54 different journeys available and that’s not including the bonus that you might be selected as the Rebel spy on your voyage. This means you can ride the attraction over and over without getting bored and if you have been on it a few times, you can even tell the queue operators which journeys you have been on to ensure you get the maximum variety for your trip.
Depending on your specific trip, you may or may not hear the newly recorded audio from famous cast members including Anthony Daniels as C-3P0, James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Frank Oz as Yoda and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. All in all, the ride is even more tied in with the actual films than it used to be and the special effects and random ride options make it even more immersive than ever before.
Images via litlnemo [Flickr] and HarshLight [Flickr]
I’m waiting until the Fall to head back to Disneyland so I won’t have to deal with the heat and all the crowds, so I’m dying to ride the new Star Tours. Have any of you gotten to take a trip yet? If so, what did you think? Do you prefer the old version or the new one?
Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, Little-Known Facts About Well-Known Places: Disneyland
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