by Nick LoCicero
It was a cool, breezy spring day in Orlando when I decided to take a short trip around the galaxy. I boarded the brand new Starspeeder 1000. We were waiting for our pilot ACE when all of a sudden R2-D2 took it upon himself to launch our ship. We didn’t get very far before storm troopers blocked our path and Darth Vader himself swooped down in front of the ship. He held us in a tight force grip. Our ship struggled to break free but was no match for the power of the force. He was looking for a Rebel spy. He showed us a photo of the spy on our in-cabin video screen and this girl was on our ship! R2 deployed the lasers and blasted our way free. We were now on our way to our first destination. Where would it be?
This was only the beginning of what might be the greatest adventure currently at Walt Disney World. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue officially has its grand opening on Friday, May 20 at the opening of Star Wars the Weekend. But many lucky guests to Disney’s Hollywood Studios have been able to test ride the start of the art attraction this week. As a Star Wars fan, I am biased, but this has easily made it toward the top of my favorite WDW attractions list. From queue line to exit, this attraction is perfect in every way. What follows WILL contain a few SPOILERS. Skip down to the conclusion and highlights for an overview. Also note, they did not allow photography of any kind during the previews, so you will see the concept art Disney provided us.
The Queue Line
The outside remains the same. An Imperial Walker guards the entrance to the ride. The cast member’s costumes have received an upgrade. They are sharp looking blue shirts with a splash of color across the neck and chest. There is a slightly different look to the female and male costumes.
The first room has a couple animatronic Mon Calamarai (Admiral Ackbar types) in a control room above. To one side, you see the brand new Starspeeder 1000. R2-D2 is on top with C-3PO on a riser to the left. They interact humorously with each other and even react to certain PA announcements. The announcements have various jokes including the mention of a Starspeeder with the license plate THX 1138, George Lucas’ first film. The control panel C-3PO is standing in front of has incredible detail. High up on one wall is a video screen that gives “Live” looks outside at the Spaceport Docks, Arrival and Departure info as well as Weather conditions on the various planets in the Star Wars universe. The weather ranges from Sunny and Rainy to Meteor Shower and Lava. The weather is also displayed in both English and Aurebesh, a Star Wars language.
Turn the corner and you are in the screening room. The first thing you notice is a “window” on the wall ahead. This is a video screen where you see silhouettes of characters from Star Wars “walk past.” They include Storm Troopers, droids and other noticeable character shapes. One notable scene in the window was a droid getting electrocuted, falling over and a couple Tusken Raiders picking him up and caring him off.
Next you notice the luggage screener. This droid is very incompetent at his job and he is the one protecting you, the traveler, from dangerous luggage. This droid steals the show. A highlight of your experience will be getting stuck in this room. Unfortunately, only very short portions of the line can see him, but you get a semi view of the action when you wrap around from above and look down on his control panel. Behind him, luggage moves into place on a conveyer belt. Then, in a wonderful little trick, a laser hits the luggage and you get an x-ray view of the contents. Lots of room for gags here, and the Imagineers do not disappoint. You get both Disney and Star Wars reference galore. Skip to next paragraph if you don’t want to hear a few…. Bags have things like Mickey Ears, a Mr. Incredibles costume, Sorcerer Hat, Stitch doll (that the droid mistakes for an alien). He interacts and comments on all of this stuff. On the Star Wars side, you see Stormtrooper guns, a bomb and even a battle droid, the ones that are all over the Clone Wars and say “roger, roger.” It’s in there, moving, and says “roger” and of course the screener droid interacts with that, because that’s not his name. Another fun one includes some guest interaction… Lando’s bag is scanned and a warning pops up on the droid’s screen saying wanted criminal. The droid points to a guest and says “I bet you’re wanted too.” Then hangs his head and sadly says “I wish I was wanted.”
Up the ramp is the human screener. This droid has a completely different personality. He will make fun of, tease and warn guests to behave. One time he said, “It’s a 75 minute wait time from this point. Just kidding, you should have seen your face!” Guests can interact here with a camera that shows a inferred heat image on a screen.
After that, you are at the gates. The pre show video is still on a screen above the doors, but it is immediately striking how impressive the HD video looks. Your first look at the screen will probably be a “live” look at droids and workers preparing your vehicle. Look for many gags here such as the aliens handling your luggage, a creature hanging on for dear life on a lift and most noticeably, the 3 window washing droids. They make hilarious but futile attempts at washing the windshield. The pre ride safety video has been reshot, but has the familiar kid taking flash picture of Chewy bit. Great job at keeping that in there!
The ride itself is magnificent. The animatronic C-3PO has perfect movements. The second the door opens and you see that High Definition 3D screen, you will be blown away at how crisp the picture looks. You are put right into the Star Wars universe and begin interacting immediately with the characters. The show has about 54 different paths it can take. From what I can tell, there are 4 interchangeable parts in the show. I’m tossing out another Spoiler Alert here. In my descriptions of the ride technology, I may give away some details you would want to be surprised with.
I witness two different beginnings… one with a droid stopping my ship and one with Darth Vader. Darth never looked better, and very imposing. The ride vehicle movements were spot on with the action. And there is a ton of action on the screen to watch. There are plenty of gags and references to catch. Now here is where Disney just rises above the rest with superb guest interaction. Whoever the bad guy is, at some point will hold up a picture to your windshield of who he says is a Rebel spy aboard your ship. No this person may be very familiar for some in the speeder, it’s one of the guests on your flight! And it fits perfectly into the scene. Needless to say, we get away from the bad guys, take off into space, get into a fire fight and take off in light speed.
You now arrive at your first planet. This destination will change itself up as you enjoy the ride a few times. I got pod racing on Tatooine, tossed into a fight with imperial walkers on Hoth and a fast paced ride around Kashyyyk (home of the Wookies). Kashyyyk was my favorite, and it showed off one of the most spectacular effects this ride has to offer… interaction with the windshield. In one scene, Chewy falls off his speeder, landing him on your windshield. The visual is crisp, the sound is perfect and movement of your vehicle corresponds to the hit. You see the face of one scared Wookie staring at you until he slips off, leaving streaks and residue, as you would see by rubbing your hand on a window. This interaction came up a few times… Disney wasn’t overly gaggy with the 3D, but I’ve never seen such spectacular use of the technology. This is NOT your average ride simulator. In the pod racing scene, you can see your competitor’s faces and the detail on the machines.
Next is a part that, I’m just going to say it, gave me chills. It was such an amazing experience in the show. A light shines on the ceiling of your cabin, and a hologram of a Star Wars character pops out right before your eyes. Think R2 showing Princess Leia’s message in the movie. And wouldn’t you know it, my first ride we got the Princess… and it looked so real. With the 3D effect, it is right in front of you. And it didn’t even sink in until after the ride how realistic and true she looked. On all the other rides I had Admiral Ackbar, and I hear there is a Yoda as well.
Next, you take off in light speed to your second planet. Again, this one changes up and you can have any combo of first and second planets. I had Coruscant, Naboo and a ringed planet. At the ringed planet, we were confronted with Boba Fett and an under construction Death Star. Naboo, was the greatest experience the ride offered on my 5 trips. You fly across a beautiful planet with lush vegetation before plummeting into the water. You zoom past Jar Jar. He waves, but thankfully we don’t stop. Then you have the “large sea creature gets eaten by larger sea creature” gag… and I was disappointed… until… another sea creature pops out of nowhere and attaches himself to your windshield. He slobbers all over it, leaving residue and everything. The attention to detail was phenomenal. You then become unstuck and resurface. The water effect on the wind shield looks so real. I need a thesaurus here, because I want to use perfect for everything. You then zoom into the dock… but have trouble stopping… until you crash into another speeder! Your windshield is shattered. I can’t even describe how real this looks with broken glass and the front point of another speeder sticking inside your cabin directly in your face.
This ride needed an update badly. At the D23 convention, they said the original intent 20 years ago was to update this ride every couple years. Well, they finally got around to it, and Disney Imagineers topped themselves. Disney has always told great stories that put the guests in the action, but recently they have gone that extra mile with technology to give guests a truly immersive experience. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue delivers that ultimate experience for fans and non-fans alike. If you are not smiling and laughing and ducking and yelling the whole time you are on this ride… you shouldn’t be at a Theme Park! Sorry Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours may be my new favorite.
- Ultimate Re-Ridability. Between the gags in the queue line and the multiple video outcomes, it will take you a long time to see it all. In fact, if you were get all the different rides back to back, it would take you 6 hours to ride them all!
- Crisp, clear HD 3D video
- “In-Cabin” hologram messages from classic Star Wars characters
- Comfortable 3D glasses
- C-3PO and R2D2 in the queue
- Large HD video screen. All video his now in crisp high definition.
- The luggage screening droid steals the show! Hilarious dialogue and too many Disney and Star Wars gags in the luggage to mention.
- The “window” in the queue will show you many recognizable characters and funny moments
- The human screener. Although not delivering direct, smart, real time interaction… he generically points out guests and makes some great comments.
- Pre-Show video. Live shot of Droids working on the ship and a newly shot ride safety video
- Brand new cast uniforms
- Great looking C-3PO animatronic
- Guest interaction with a picture of a randomly chosen guest used in the ride