The Future of Star Tours

With anticipation for Disney’s Star Wars Themed Land (SWL) additions (currently under construction in both the original Disneyland and Disney World) growing by the day, many have wondered: what will become of Disneyland’s Star Tours? Construction on SWL at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is close enough in proximity to their version of Star Tours that the ride should be able to coexist with the new attractions, but Disneyland’s SWL is being built in its northwest region; nowhere near Star Tours on the east side in Tomorrowland.

Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is also currently serving as a sort of temporary Star Wars Land with its lackluster Season of the Force event, which consists mostly of cheap Star Wars banners, an exhibit of prop replicas, a clipshow of the first six movies, and the admittedly awesome Hyperspace Mountain overlay. Even as a huge Star Wars fan, I find the lineup as a whole disappointing.

Star Wars aside, let’s look at the remaining rides in Tomorrowland: The Astro Orbiter, Autopia, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. You could argue the Submarines and the Matterhorn should be included as well, but they’ve always been in sort of a gray area and don’t exactly stay true to the theme of Tomorrowland. When Walt dedicated the area, he described it as

“A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying Man’s achievements… A step into the future, with predictions of constructed things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals. The Atomic Age, the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world.”

Autopia, charming as it is, is a relic of the past and hasn’t represented these ideas in quite some time; in fact, its counterparts in Hong Kong and Tokyo have recently been demolished. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing it moved over to Cars Land in California Adventure, just… please don’t give the cars faces. But that’s beside the point. The company has specifically said that they want to keep Tomorrowland from becoming “Yesterdayland”, and when the only operating attractions intended to represent Walt’s original vision are the Astro Orbiter, Autopia, and Buzz Lightyear… I don’t think the area comes close to living up to its name. And yeah, nothing says “peaceful, unified world” like a literal war in the stars.

Where should Disney go from here? Personally, I think the addition of Star Wars Land will provide a sufficient presence of the franchise in Disneyland and Star Tours won’t be necessary. Let Star Tours be exclusive to the three other parks that have it, and give our Tomorrowland some SPACE to return to its roots. Hah… sorry.

And do what with it, exactly? Well, the attraction that Star Tours originally replaced was Adventure Thru Inner Space, which gave riders the experience of being shrunk down to a size smaller than that of an atom. This concept epitomizes everything about Walt’s original vision for Tomorrowland, and an update of the attraction with new technology would be a fantastic place to start reworking the area.

Former attractions are a source of great interest to both longtime fans who remember seeing them, and younger ones who never had the chance to. Disney seems to be recognizing this more recently with the revival of the Main Street Electrical Parade, and more importantly, the rumored remake of the short-lived Nature’s Wonderland (via the Disneyland Railroad).

I’m also worried Disney will be tempted to give Star Tours a cheap reskin, as it is an easily reprogrammable simulator ride. Now, say, a Body Wars remake for instance wouldn’t be so bad, but if Disney goes the reskin route I think we’d be more likely to get something similar to Hong Kong’s new Iron Man Experience. Another generic simulator based on a hot property that more than likely won’t mesh well with Tomorrowland’s theming.

Who knows — maybe Disney’s Imagineers will completely surprise us and come up with a new property or ride entirely. Maybe they’ll leave Star Tours as it is. It’s not the worst fit for Tomorrowland, it just really isn’t the best, and that could be said about the general condition of Disneyland’s version of the area at the moment. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great, big beautiful tomorrow in store.

What would you like to see Disneyland do with the Star Tours attraction?

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7 thoughts on “The Future of Star Tours

  1. Disney Mike

    I think with the amount of money being invested into Star Wars Land — and in Hollywoodland in DCA — that we might see Tomorrowland sit stagnant for a while. With the additional crowds that will turn out for Star Wars Land when it opens, Disneyland will need all the ride capacity it can get. My guess is that we’ll have to wait a couple of years before we see anything happen in Tomorrowland.

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  2. sjthespian

    “… more than likely won’t mesh well with Tomorrowland’s theming” — Tomorrowland has theming? It has been years since there has been any sort of cohesion to the attractions in Tomorrowland. Changing one attraction won’t have any significant effect on the land. Until Imagineering gets the green light to fully reinvent Tomorrowland, it is going to be a stagnant area that doesn’t attract the guests. If not for Star Tours and Space Mountain, that portion of the park would be as much of a ghost town as Hollywood land at DCA.

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  3. Ammy Woodbury

    I know we’re up to our necks in Model 3 development, but a year ago I sent a note to Elon asking that we take over Autopia. The current stench should be replaced with silent, self-driving cars without rails that introduce kids to the future of transportation. If M3 is successful, maybe we’ll have the money to sponsor that.

    A journey to Mars ride could cheerfully replace Star Tours. A bunch of the building could be repurposed as different areas of the ship, then have the final landing on Mars in the sims. That would be seriously big thinking though.

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  4. Jeff

    An updated, modern version of Adventure through Inner Space would be pure ecstasy!
    Won’t happen, but My God……that would be awesome!!

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  5. Jeff

    Not quite sure Disney really thought about it. Sure adding a huge amount of acreage for SWL is wonderful, but the location of the lands in both parks is not quite meshing. In DHS, sure the back of the park is now going to be SWL. I am hoping that Disney will remake the Star Tours building so it is does not look like a movie set. Are they going to add land behind Mama Melrose’s to connect it to SWL? Are they changing Mama Melrose’s to a SW eatery? What about the Muppets area? Will they add a Launch Bay over in SWL? Love Launch Bay.
    In the last 20 years, it seems that Disney is just adding new attractions to get new attractions in without giving much thought to locale. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland, Stitch in Tomorrowland? Frozen (in a made up land) in Norway? Guardians possibly in Future World? For DHS, it needs to have an identity and having Pixar Place is great, but now what is going to happen to that area when we get Andy’s backyard? Could that expand to add the two attractions from Hong Kong? Pixar Place is only Toy Story so I never quite got that area. If Monsters Inc coaster was added, that would have expanded the brand. What about Muppets Courtyard? They have one attraction, one quick service restaurant, one shop. Is this still viable? Does it make sense to be surrounded by SWL? Did SWL take up all of the back area or could Pixar Place be able to expand (let’s say mini Carsland, since they don’t have 12 acres for it).

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  6. Joe

    I’m totally against going back to old ideas and old rides. I really don’t understand the appeal of rehashing old tired ideas, especially for Tomorrowland. I mean especially with all the new cutting edge technology available to us today that wasn’t even around 5-10 years ago Tomorrowland could really cut in to some of those ideals Walt had originally about the world of tomorrow?

    I’d love to see Autopia go away and that land utilized for an expanded Fantasyland (more on that here: http://bit.ly/2lKBTHZ), rerouting the monorail to stay exclusively in Tomorrowland and then add the TRON Lightcycles Power Run using the old Carousel of Progress building for the queue and main show building with a track weaving through out Tomorrowland…it’d give that space some of the kinetic movement it used to possess years ago with a modern twist. I’d love to see more LED light tech, and projection tech utilized…perhaps some sort of social interaction with tech and social media like a photo booth you can take pics with hologram characters (Walt himself???) and upload it instantly to your social medias, maybe get featured on Disney Parks social media platforms as well. Perhaps some sort of game you can use with an app on your phone unlocking different features within the land- or one that takes group interaction and participation to unlock things. The future is social and community- they should focus on that and focus on concepts and ideas more than just how the area “looks”…make Tomorrowland more of an idea than a place and apply social interaction to get that concept across.

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