So, this past week and a half has been spent parking it up in Orlando, from Destination D to Star Tours and beyond. Well, with Destination D over, it was time to focus my attention directly towards Star Tours. I was chosen among 249 others to be able to participate in a Star Tours meet up taking place on May 20th (starting on May 19th) that would run after park hours and would allow guests a preview of the new attraction.
That being said, I had ridden it six times already before the preview even happened.
So here's where the spoilers come in... I'm going to do a breakdown of every aspect of the new attraction, so if you don't want to have your experience spoiled, jump down to the photos. Please keep in mind that a few of the photos are spoilers as well (only for the pre-show) but keep that in mind when reading on.
Alright, so if you're still with me, we'll start with the queue. Entering the building (remember, I'm talking about Disney's Hollywood Studios, so I can't guarantee identical results for Disneyland's version), you'll immediately notice that the "hot set" walls are gone. Now, the queue is themed from end to end. The bare bones of the queue have remained the same, but the main lights have been dimmed and ambient blue lighting has engulfed much of the path, creating a great tone for the walk-through portion of the experience. The old commercial board/display has received a major upgrade with a pristine quality projection system and a lengthy video loop featuring several comedic bits, a few destination commercials and the occasional planetary weather reports, which will come in handy for the interplanetary traveler. Immediately on the right is the Starspeeder 1000. This is, in frame, the same ship as was there in the previous version of the ride, albeit touched up to feature the new color scheme and remove all of the battle scars. The vehicle also comes equipped with a remote droid known as IC360 (a play on the Circlevision 360 trademark of Disney), which ties into a commercial/promotion seen on the screen in the same room. C-3PO and R2-D2 remain in the room at their original posts, and their dialog is pretty similar from what I could tell.
Moving into the next room, you immediately find Captain Rex on your left, pulled slightly out of a padded shipping container. Rex is labeled "Defective. Return to Sender." While passing by, you may hear him let loose a few snippets of his former narration from the previous ride, amidst sounds of sparks flying as he short circuits. Three other REX models sit next to our captain, both painted in different colors, but these are the ones from the other cabins. Walt Disney World kept three of the Rex animatronics, one was sent to the Disney Archives and the rest remained at Disneyland.
Deeper into the former droid room, you'll notice that this is no longer a junk house. The entire queue has been cleaned up to resemble a futuristic spaceport security line. G2-9T from the former queue has been retained (with the same voice, surprisingly enough), this time serving as the attendant scanning luggage. There are some great gags to this scene, but the effect itself is stunning. Red lasers start the sequence, followed by a translucent reveal of the contents of each bag as it moves along a conveyor belt. Hidden items (some seen below) include Madame Leota's crystal ball, Figment, an Ewok, a lightsaber, the robot from the Black Hole and many more.
At the end of the line before making a U-turn is a window with silhouetted visions of travelers walking through the spaceport. Recognizable characters include Admiral Ackbar, Darth Vader and R2-MK.
Turning down the path once again, you reach the other droid, voiced by Patrick Warburton. This one uses some amazing looking displays to scan travelers, making sure they are who they say they are. Infrared cameras are used for this effect, but the real star of this show is Warburton and his dialog.
Moving into the loading station, guests are divided into speeder bays and pick up their glasses on the way to the cabins. Two high definition displays show the pre-show video. Pit droids (as seen in The Phantom Menace) perform a bit about cleaning the windshield of the starspeeder, while C-3PO boards the ship. He lets the captain ACE know that he is there to perform diagnostics before the flight, frustrating the robot pilot to the point where he leaves, despite the flight being scheduled to leave in a matter of minutes. C-3PO sits down in the captain's chair, only to have the blast shields rise, locking him into the cabin without leave. ACE walks away, oblivious to the fact that his flight is leaving without him, as the computers confuse C-3PO for him.Aly San San (the Star Tours spokesbot) interjects to give a warning about the rules of the ride, showing a clip very reminiscent of the old "no photos" scene from the previous ride before returning the camera to the shuttle. The starspeeder is raised from an elevated platform into the loading dock, showing the doors open to the ship, just as the actual doors open to allow you to enter the ride vehicle.
Once seated in the cabin, the flight attendant asks that guests keep their glasses off for a few minutes while boarding procedures are completed (there is a reason for this). The normal seatbelt checks are completed, leading the cast member to ask all guests to please look at her and pay attention. It is at this moment that snapshots of the entire cabin are taken to allow for a crucial scene in the ride to happen. The cast member does one final check and tells guests they can put on their "flight glasses." The side monitor features C-3PO to start before the blast shield drops to reveal the full size animatronic seated before the guests.
Now pause the story for a second, so I can give you a mathematical description of how it works from here. The ride has multiple scenarios, with multiple branching points which goes as follows. Two openings. Three planets. Three transmissions. Three planets. That makes 54 possible path scenarios, but that doesn't mean you can't see the majority, if not all of the individual pieces in less than ten rides--I did, so it is possible.
So, starting with the breakdown of openings, it can go one of two ways. The first features Darth Vader and a large platoon of the specially created Sky Troopers (designed specifically for this ride) stopping your speeder as it prepares to the leave the space port. You are stopped in your tracks by Vader's force grip as he warns you that a rebel spy is aboard the ship (the voice of Vader is in fact, James Earl Jones in this ride). This is where the photo from earlier comes into play... While outside of the ride during its start up, a cast member selects a guest to become the rebel spy of the ride. Once selected, their image will be featured in one of the two openings (in this case, their image is shown on the side screen) and they will be referred to for the remainder of the ride--they are the reason for the story that is taking place. And although the shuttle attempts to break free, it is no use. R2 activates the ship's lasers to distract Vader and loosen his hold so they can reverse the shuttle and escape. Out of the space port, it can be seen that the entire space is occupied by the Empire, with Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters all around. Lightspeed to the next scene.
The other of the two openings takes you to the left instead of the right in the immediate start of the film. Stopped by stormtroopers in front of a docked Millenium Falcon, a scanner droid attaches its suction cup to the windshield and scans the vehicle. The rebel spy wanted by the empire is found to be on the ship, with the droid taking its tablet only to put it up to the window so we can see who it is--this is a great effect, seeing the person selected in the actual ride film, and not just on the side screen. A firefight ahead of us ensues as the Falcon escapes, and we follow. Its thrust forces the attached scanner droid to flop off of the speeder as we exit the hanger, evading TIE fighters in Empire-controlled space and dodging star destroyers before jumping to lightspeed.
Now here come the first three planets...
Tatooine is the podrace scene teased when the ride is first announced. Guests are thrown into the Boonta Eve Classic and race alongside Sebulba and other speed demons. During the race, one racer gets caught onto a latch at the top of the speeder (as seen on the side screen), giving us the extra thrust to pass Sebulba and win the classic. We unlatch, breaking apart the podracer and nearly hitting the audience in the stands before jumping back to space.
Kashyyk is the Wookie homeworld, where we follow a speederbike chase with two Wookies on one of the flying contraptions seen in Revenge of the Sith. One wookie falls off of his ship, landing on our windshield, only to slowly slide off (streaking the glass with his hands). We fire a few shots and eliminate the Imperial speeder bikes before flying through the trees and back into space.
Hoth is just like in the Empire Strikes Back. You enter into the Battle of Hoth and end up getting hit by enemy fire from an AT-AT, nearly getting crushed by its step. You skid along the snow before reaching a cliffside, featuring a nod to Mission: Space in which C-3PO says "nobody move a muscle" as the vehicle teeters over the edge. Instead of coming to a halt, it tips over and slides through the crevice before coming to a hill, giving a brief moment of simulated airtime (it actually tricks the mind pretty well) before the engines return and we are catapulted back into space.
Now for the transmissions. Yoda gives a brief dialogue about how the rebel spy onboard must be brought safely to the coordinates he sends R2-D2. Ackbar does the same. Princess Leia's transmission features a play on her famous lines from Star Wars A New Hope, but instead of "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope...;" we get "Help me Star Tours, you're my only hope."
Lightspeed to the final planet.
Coruscant brings you into the Battle of Coruscant as seen in the opening of Revenge of the Sith. Caught between the battle of the CIS and the Republic, you end up getting attacked by a cluster of buzz droids, which attempt to take over the ships systems and ultimately destroy the ship from the outside in. R2-D2 pilots the speeder into a flaming wreckage of a destroyed ship, destroying the droids but sending the ship into a plummet towards the planet's ground. Racing a rapidly deteriorating battle cruiser as it burns upon re-entry, the speeder fights vigorously to pull up, only to have to fight to maintain its heading as city traffic bombards the shuttle with more obstacles. With a landing platform in sight, C-3PO orders R2 to land the shuttle. Coming in too hot, the vehicle skids across the platform, hitting a landing droid the in the process before nearly hitting a fuel barge near identical to the one featured in the opening of the original Star Tours. The ship is secured and is lowered into the dock where you exit the ride.
Geonosis is kind of a trick, considering that half of it is spent in the Death Star. Upon arriving at Geonosis from light speed, you are immediately pursued by bounty hunter Boba Fett through the comet field surrounding the planet. Shooting at various meteors in space, you manage to evade Fett, only to turn towards the Death Star, being nearly hit from fire emanating from Vader's personal TIE fighter. You enter the Death Star using a service tunnel (later used to destroy the second death star in Return of the Jedi) and take a dive through the core, only to leave through a hanger (but not before spotting the Mighty Microscope from Adventures thru Inner Space on the left). Out of the hanger, Boba Fett corners you, dropping a sonic bomb in front of your ship. Quickly reacting, R2 fires a low-impact laser, knocking the bomb back at Fett before it explodes, sending the bounty hunter into a spin while you escape to lightspeed and return a rebel carrier. Congradulated by Admiral Ackbar, the ride closes with C-3PO accepting the acclaim he receives for helping the rebel alliance, but not before asking how we get back to the nearest Star Tours terminal.
Naboo is the final of the three end planets, and is by far my favorite (surprisingly). The scene starts with a recreation of the Battle of Naboo in which the Trade Federation hubs and the droid fighters are pitted against the yellow Naboo star fighters. Diving down towards the planet, you are hit with enemy fire, plunging into the waters of the planet. With a near collision with Jar Jar Binks, the shuttle proceeds towards the underwater city, led by a Gungan cruiser (as seen in The Phantom Menace) as we are told that we will be led to the planet's core. The Gungan cruiser is attacked by the red-orange fish from Episode One and abandons us before we can escape. The larger fish eats the smaller one, free the cruiser, but still hungry, latches on to our shuttle, giving riders a view of its mouth and tongue as it fails around in a failing attempt to eat the shuttle. R2 shocks the creature, free us from its grip and getting the ship to rise to the surface of the water. Skimming along the top after a dramatic burst from the water, the shuttle attempts to slow as C-3PO recites the famous line last heard by Captain Rex, "Brakes! Brakes! Where are the brakes?" The speeder enters the hanger a speeds too high, skidding directly towards the tail of a Naboo star fighter on which a pit droid is sitting. The star speeder hits the pointed end of the starfighter, breaking the windshield as the tail juts out of the screen (simulated by the 3-D, not physically happening). The pit droid falls into the shuttle as C-3PO yells at him, warning that he never gave the droid permission to come aboard.
The exit has not changed, aside from similar lighting to that seen in the queue. The exit shop also remains the same.
All in all, this is an amazing update to a popular attraction. The re-rideability is endless and the results are always unique. I was chosen as the rebel spy in my seventh ride ever, and in the ten ride's I had as of writing this, I've seen every piece of the ride's individual scenarios. This is arguably my favorite attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and now one of my favorites at the resort. I may be biased as a Star Wars fan, but as a Star Tours fan, this ride blows its predecessor out of the water!
Check in for the Star Tours meet-up took place in the parking lot of Blizzard Beach. I was hoping for some sort of Hoth thing to happen, but what we got wasn't bad either.
Bussed over to the backstage entrance to the Star Tours area (where the parade normally enters), we were greeted by a themed path.
They set up these really cool floating planets to help set the cosmic mood.
Not sure which moon this is, but I'd guess that it is the one Chewbacca dies on.
Whoops. Was I not supposed to mention Chewbacca dies?
This honestly reminded me of Halloween Horror Nights 19's Contamination scare zone.
This is definitely Contamination!
Snig and Oopla from Snig and Oopla's Hyperspace Hoopla were on stage to help kick off the event. Unfortunately, there wasn't a hoopla for us.
But the character interaction was still great!
Time to go in... And we are allowed to take photos now!
I give you, the Starspeeder 1000!
This window shows silhouettes of other Star Tours travelers in the space port, including a few familiar characters.
While the path of the queue hasn't been altered, the look and feel has changed dramatically.
Where can I buy one of these bags?
The droids from the former droid room have been repurposed as spaceport security droids, scanning baggage and people for potential threats. Sadly, the droid room audio loop was not retained for this queue.
The queue (and ride) feature some beautiful new translucent screens that help bring in the new, futuristic feel of the ride and its background.
Characters were out and about throughout the area during the event. I caught a jawa in queue trying to steal and trade glasses for other useless items like park maps and business cards.
The loading area has received a major facelift in terms of thematic accents.
Spoiler alert: The following photos will spoil the pre-show in some ways. You have been warned.
C-3PO walks onto the starspeeder to conduct a final inspection...
Would you believe that this shot is composed both of CGI and a physical set including part of the starspeeder? You wouldn't know which half was real if you had never realized that a portion of it wasn't CGI.
C-3PO informs ACE that he is there to inspect the vehicle before departure, so ACE leaves for a few minutes.
But in doing so, C-3PO is accidentally locked into the captain's cabin.
ACE walks away to go complain...
Time for a pre-boarding safety announcement!
Spokesbot Aly San San tells guests about the ride and its rules.
Stow your Ewoks in the underseat compartment.
This part is very similar to the old "no flash pictures" warning from the old ride.
Ackbar gets quite agitated at the child for taking a flash photo of him, and nearly backhands the kid with his Calamarian claw!
Probably my favorite part of the pre-show, the starspeeder is lifted into place, setting the loading procedure into the story.
How cool is this?
Here we go!
Time to board...
Bree Starlighter, the character created to publicize Star Tours with served as the host for an Imagineer Q&A panel on the Jedi Training Academy stage.
We only stuck around for a few minutes as we wanted to ride, get more photos and ride some more.
Can't go this way right now...
With unlimited ice cream and a few character meet and greets/photo ops, the event ran all the way down to the Indiana Jones Spectacular entrance.
Watch out for the Gamorean Guard. They aren't friendly, even at Disney.
Poor Captain Rex has been marked as defective with a label stating that he should be returned to sender. If you listen closely, you can hear him mutter a few choice lines from his former narration of the original attraction. What an awesome tribute this is!
Patrick Warburton plays the voice of the second droid in the queue and has some great bits to his routine. Patrick Warburton should be in every attraction.
In case you didn't know what we'd be riding in.
Yub Nub! Echub! Yub Nub!
Boba Fett and members of the Cantina Band were roaming the handicapped path while we queued.
We've been spotted!
Put the belt through the loop in the center strap... Nice job pal!
As we boarded, Greedo decided to unload.
I found another trading jawa in the exit of the gift shop trying to trade a guest for park maps and business cards... High value items for these creatures, I guess.
Then Leia came over...
And taught him a lesson!
This scout was previously found at the Star Wars/Disney display at Star Wars Celebration V.
Thanks for the report Adam! Looks like a much needed update over the old storyline. I'm a big fan of refreshing old attractions like this instead of totally replacing them. Can't wait to get down there and check it out for myself!!
^The ride is a total and complete improvement over the previous version. I enjoyed the old ride, but I really do love the new one. It has an amazing re-rideability factor that won't wear off anytime soon and the ride system itself has been massively improved with a smoother, more subdued experience--the simulator only moves when necessary, and does so in motions that feel right for the action on screen. The queue has been updated with some incredible effects and some beautiful ambient lighting, as well as some comedic touches here and there.
There was nothing I didn't enjoy about the new Star Tours. It just works, in every way.
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
Thanks for the update. The new ride sounds pretty awesome. I was not really a fan of Star Tours at either park. For some reason it always seemed to get really hot inside the "ship" and I usually got a little dizzy. I never feel this way in any other motion simulator. I can't wait to ride the new Star Tours!
Jimmy "Ewoks RULE" Bo
Do not believe this post!
90% of the time, I am sarcastic all the time...it's science!
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