Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald on Star Tours 2
From the Disney Fans Blog
Star Wars™ fans will reel in intergalactic ecstasy when the newly renovated Star Tours – The Adventures Continue attraction storms Disney’s Hollywood Studios May 20 andDisneyland Resort June 3. Lovers of Jedi and Sith lords are in for a double dose of droid-tastic adventure as the first grand opening is scheduled during the first of this year’s four consecutive Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World Resort. Dust off your lightsabers kids … it’s time for take-off!
Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, who worked on the original Star Tours back in the mid ’80s, talks about re-imagining the new show. “We actually began planning the redesign over 10 years ago … a year before Episode I was complete. Fans were eager to see some changes, but after learning that Episodes II and III were in the works, we decided the update would have to wait. In order to create the ultimate Star Warsattraction for our Parks, George [Lucas] needed to finish his saga so we could include the best of all the films.”
Waiting may have been difficult, but transforming six full-length movies into a four-and-a-half-minute, fully-immersive ride presented other challenges for Tom’s team. “Because of time-period differences (the new attraction is a prequel to the original), we had to reverse-engineer our story, as well as the look of the Starspeeders.” The chronologically correct Starspeeder 1000 (formerly 3000) now features upgraded interior dashboards and onboard monitors so everything looks, sounds, and feels better than ever – even the color scheme was updated.
Technology played a crucial part in all the renovations, but Tom points out some of the most significant advances, starting with the branching storyline. “For the very first time, we utilized technology that selects one of 54 different story combinations so each ride’s really a surprise. Guests never know where they’ll go. We created this approach to keep it fresh for our enormous fan base. It’s a huge change from the original show.”
Two other key differences – the 3D factor and increased range of the motion simulator – were also technology driven, as Tom explains. “We wanted to add 3D for years, but had to wait for projection equipment that was robust enough to make it look state-of-the-art. Advanced visual effects make the world totally dimensional and so much more realistic than before. It’s absolutely breathtaking.” Imagineers worked closely with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic team, who produced all the video footage for the main show as well as most of the pre-show.
Enhanced motion programming makes for a more unique experience as Guests are whisked off to a variety of new locations, including Tatooine, Hoth, Naboo, Coruscant, the mysterious Wookiee planet Kashyyyk and even a Death Star under construction. “It’ll feel very different from the first show, which only featured space flight. We’ve added a desert pod race, underwater travel, sliding on ice, and careening through forests while smashing into trees. Some adventures will be planet-based, some space, but each ride will feel distinct because Guests won’t know which story combination they’re getting.”
Many more characters have been incorporated into the new show, with appearances by fan favorites like Darth Vader, Admiral Ackbar, Princess Leia, Boba Fett, Chewbacca, R2-D2, Yoda, C-3PO and Jar Jar Binks. “Darth Vader’s voiceover was recorded by the original actor. It was also great working with Anthony Daniels and Frank Oz, who reprised their roles as C-3PO and Yoda respectively.”
Tom goes on to tell us how one of the brand-new characters – a spokesbot seen in the pre-show commercials and safety video – was named. “Aly San San came about because we couldn’t think of anything and knew George [Lucas] was amazing with names. When we told him actress Allison Janney was doing the voiceover work, he instantly said, ‘Aly San San.'”
In fact, collaborating with the creator of pop culture’s greatest phenomenon presented numerous benefits. “I spent more time with George than we were able to on the original show, which was absolutely wonderful for me. Meeting with him every few weeks to review the sequences, help us tune up the show, and learn from his experience was priceless. It was like taking a master class from George Lucas.”
Musical history was made when the Imagineers worked with Academy Award®-winning composer John Williams, who wrote the original Star Wars film scores. “John and his music editor found passages from the scores to use in our show. The cabin music is taken from the original recordings!” Composer Michael Giacchino lent his Academy Award-winning talent to create additional arrangements of various Star Wars themes for the commercials and pre-show videos.
With so much to see and hear, Disney and Star Wars fans alike will be thrilled to discover all the little homages hidden throughout the show. Tom says, “We packed as much of the films as we could into the new show. It’s really a salute to the best of Star Wars, so whether you’re a fan of the original or the newer trilogy, there’s something for everyone.”
Mark your calendars and check out Star Tours – The Adventures Continue when it opens May 20 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park and Disneyland Resort on June 3!
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