Even Darth Vader wants to go to Disneyland: The opening of Star Tours, the Adventures Continue

I just came back from a press trip to the Disneyland Resort, and the highlight of my trip was getting to attend the opening ceremony of the revamped Star Wars attraction. The event was attended by the media (reporters, tv stations, radio stations, travel writers and bloggers), select special guests and Disney employees who had a part in the creation of the ride, as well as Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs -- and Darth Vader himself.

The ceremony itself was extremely entertaining, featuring a battle between Vader and a mysterious Jedi knight to see which one would win and secure the final spot on the very first Star Tours shuttle. Afterwards, the Jedi knight was revealed to be Tom Staggs, who then said a few words and used his light saber to cut the ceremonial ribbon and open the ride. I felt really lucky to be a part of the event, especially since the ceremony was roped off and the general public had to stand about fifty feet away. For those who missed it, here's a video of the entire performance:

So what do I think of the new Star Tours? After going on the ride twice, all I can say is WOW. It's light years ahead of the old ride! I didn't expect to enjoy myself so much; I suffer from motion sickness, so simulator rides always leave me feeling a bit sick, and I have to admit that Star Tours was no exception, but I enjoyed myself so much that my brief bout of nausea was totally worth it. I have so much to say about this ride that I have to do another post in order to keep this one a manageable length, but I can't leave you all hanging, so here's the shortest summary I can manage:

Just like the original Star Tours, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is a flight simulator ride that takes you on a wild flight through the deep space of Star Wars , but that's where the similarity ends. Instead of the bumbling pilot droid Rex, you now have C3Po in the cockpit and R2D2 up on top of the shuttle. The old Starspeeder 3000 is now a Starspeeder 1000 (actually the 1000 is the older version, since this ride is set earlier in time than the old one). And with all the advanced technology at their fingertips this time around, they're able to create an experience far better than anything anyone could ever dream of -- anyone, that is, except George Lucas and the Disney Imagineers. Now you experience it all in HD and 3D. There are special effects inside the cabin (lights, smoke), that give an extra degree of reality to all those laser shots and explosions. Best of all, there are alternate story lines, so you'll rarely experience the same ride twice!

To conclude (for now, at least), it was sooo much fun, and I can't wait to take my kids and husband to ride on it.

A couple of hours after the opening ceremony, I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom Fitzgerald, EVP and Senior Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, and Kathy Rogers, Senior Show Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering. Both Tom and Kathy worked on the revamp of Star Tours, and they shared some delightful bits of trivia about the ride:

* There are 2 possible opening sequences, 3 planet detours, 3 holographic projections and 3 endings -- which means there are a total of 54 possible flight combinations, and 54 different ways to experience the Star Tours ride!

* On any given day, each of the 4 shuttles/ flight simulators are loaded with a number of flight combinations, which they iterate through all day. They are not all running the same sequence at the same time -- so try and get on a different shuttle each time.

* Do you remember that attraction that used to be where Star Tours now stands? It ran from 1967 to 1985, and was called Adventure Thru Inner Space. The attraction had riders moving through the Monsanto Mighty Microscope, "shrinking" to subatomic size (hence the term "inner space"). The Monsanto Mighty Microscope is actually featured in one of the Star Tours scenes; can you find it?

* If you listen carefully, you will hear that your Star Tours flight is Flight Number 1401. 1401 happens to be the address of Walt Disney Imagineering: 1401 Flower Street, Glendale CA.

Fun, huh? Hope you enjoyed that. But not nearly as much as you're going to enjoy the ride. So hop on the next Star speeder to Disneyland and we'll see you in a Galaxy Far, Far Away!

Disclosure: I received a media invitation to attend the opening of Star Tours and other events. Transportation, lodging and park tickets were provided by Disneyland Resort Public Relations. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

1 Comments, Leave yours here:

Terra Heck on June 15, 2011 at 10:55 PM said...

Those were some interesting facts. Looks like lots of fun!

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