When Star Wars Episode One was under production 14 years ago, word leaked out from George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic that they were working on a segment, based on the pod-racing segment, that they wanted to use to update Star Tours at Disneyland. At the time I remember thinking that, it was nice to know that someone remembered how Star Tours was designed to be easily updated with new destinations all the time. Alas, nothing happened at the attraction, but there was a new hope in the air.
I started to let myself dream about what an updated Star Tours would be like. It would have multiple destinations, new characters from the films, include some of the best sets from the movies, and utilize 3D technology. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue meets all my dreams and more.
Once you enter the interior queue you’re transported to a time before the original attraction when Star Tours had not yet officially joined the rebel alliance. The first section of the queue has the same layout and characters, but new layers of details have been added. As Disney did with Indiana Jones at Disneyland, they’re using a neo-language with characters that are just close enough to English (and conveniently sharing the English grammar structure) that you can read them. C-3PO and R2-D2 share playful banter, some of which is reminiscent of the original dialog. (Update: see Star Wars wikia entry for Aurebesh)
The second section of the queue has had much more extensive changes. There are some call outs to the old attraction in the form of the pilot Rex droids and the little squawker birds. The two geese-droids are still there, but their jobs have been upgraded along with their dialog. Disney really did an amazing job here. You can sit and watch the luggage scanning droid for a long time and never see the same gag repeated. But you will see lots of ‘cookies’ hidden in the various luggage x-rays. Keep an eye out for Pixar’s Wall-E, Chip & Dale, Mouse Ears, among many other surprises.
As you exit the queue, you are directed to one of six launching bays and a stack of 3D ‘flight glasses’. I suggest checking to make sure there aren’t major scratches on the lens before entering the queue. The loading system is just like the old attraction. There is a cute pre-show video that draws on the Three Stooges for some slapstick comedy and delivers the safety information in a relatively painless manner.
Once you’re in the cabin you’ll notice that very little appears to have changed. But you aren’t seeing the new lights and effects that have been added, not to mention the dual projectors used to create the 3D projection. The seats and armrests, unfortunately, are the same many with dirt, grime, and torn fabric from the attractions long history. I guess that adds character.
It’s hard to describe the show itself (and really you need to go experience it for yourself to appreciate it). But think of it like a slot machine with four windows. Every time you enter a random sequence is generated. It took me 11 trips to experience them all and will take me many more before I get them in ever combination. Disney can update these sequences adding new destinations and challenges. They made no promises this would happen, but they said they did build in the ability to do so. I hope they resist the temptation to do a Christmas version, but I wouldn’t mind a few new opening segments and more trips to planets.
Here’s the complete list of possible sequences:
1) Darth Vader or Storm Trooper Attack
2) Planets Hoth, Kashyyyk or Tatooine
3) Emergency transmissions from Princess Leia, Yoda or Admiral Ackbar
4) A visit to Coruscant, Naboo or the Death Star
I enjoyed every sequence and found the worlds rich enough that I was able to spot new things on subsequent visits. Some of the show is familiar to fans of the old attraction, so much so that fans were already joining in with cheers and jeers as the appropriate sections. But most of the sequences are flat out amazing. Including one that ends with a literal wall-breaking experience.
In the attraction I spotted the old Incredible Shrinking Machine from Adventure Through Inner-Space (it’s in the Death Star on the left), Chewbacca, Jar Jar Binks, a bunch of Hidden Mickeys, and I’m told there’s a lot more.
Some things I noticed:
- The 3D technology Disney is using is primarily used to provide depth to the screen. There are only few moments where things jump into the cabin. So when they use that ability, it is to great affect. They are using two projectors as we had one go out of service during a ride. It made one of the lens’ polarize so I had to take it off and view the rest of the ride in 2D… which is still quite thrilling.
- There were some plot details that seemed odd to me. First of all Yoda went into hiding at the end of Episode 3. It’s not difficult to imagine he kept some comm channels open, so I’ll let this one slide. Second the battle on Hoth with AT-ATs happened in Empire Strikes Back. So apparently the StarSpeeder 1000 has a TARDIS on board somewhere. Again, I’m willing to let this one slide since it’s such a great sequence. But what is it about snow and bobsled sequences. SeaWorld’s Polar Express has a very similar segment.
- Then there is the incredible shrinking Star Speeder effect. The vehicle changes size at will when it serves the need of the on screen effects. This is particularly frustrating on the Wookie Planet sequence when you go through a fallen tree that the ship obviously should not fit in.
My final complaint is this… what took them so long! Minor quibbles aside this is one amazing attraction that will entertain for years to come.