A Galaxy's Worth of Adventure on Star Tours - The Adventures Continue

This is the first press blurb that I read about the hottest new ride at Disneyland, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue:

For those who dare to venture into the deep, dark corners of the universe, Star Tours - The Adventures Continue officially launched on June 3 in Tomorrowland at Disneyland Park, taking guests on interstellar adventurers to Coruscant, Tatooine and other destinations in the "Star Wars" galaxy. With the return of favorite Star Wars characters and the addition of more familiar faces and destinations, guests will experience Starspeeder travel in an all-new way... in 3D!

But that hardly says anything, does it? I attended the opening of this attraction at the beginning of June and had the chance to go on the ride along with other members of the press, and the ride deserves a better description! I think the summary I wrote gives you a much better bird's eye view of what the new Star Tours ride is all about:

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!

If you only have five minutes, you can stop here and leave this post with my enthusiastic recommendation for Star Tours ringing in your ears. But for those of you who haven't experienced the ride -- yet -- here's a detailed description of what you can expect:

The Queue
The ride itself is about 4 or 5 minutes, but given how popular it is, you can probably expect at least an hour's wait time (can you believe, the Star Tours line was 4-5 hours long on opening day??). Fortunately, Star Tours has probably the best queue entertainment and pre-ride shows of all the attractions in Disneyland. This is one of the things that I feel distinguishes Disney from any other theme park: they try to make waiting in line a little less agonizing with animatronics, videos, and decor so there's always something interesting to look at.

The first thing you see when you get into the Star Tours building is a huge replica of the Starspeeder 1000 that visitors will be boarding. R2D2 is on top of the ship, and C3P0 is beside it, and as usual, they are bickering at each other. Nearby is a big video screen playing a Star Tours promotional video, showcasing all the wonderful places that travelers can visit.

Along the way, you'll see another video of silhouettes of characters walking past -- stormtroopers, droids, people, etc.. -- making it look like they're just wandering around the spaceport and they're on the other side of a backlit window.

Further on, you'll see another animatronic droid who is supposedly scanning the people in line, entertaining people with his wit and wisdom.

Once you finally get to the loading bay, you get to see a video of droids getting the Starspeeder ready for its journey. Again, it's something you can imagine seeing if you were about to board a flight and happened to look out a window.

The final pre-ride video is their safety video, patterned after the ones we see on airplanes, but themed to the Star Wars universe. So instead of just a video of people buckling their seatbelts, you see Wookies and other creatures from Star Wars alongside humans with robes and crazy hairstyles. The droid who voices the safety video even does it in Spanish at the end! It's clever and funny and it certainly puts you in the right mood to immerse yourself totally in the experience and enjoy the ride.

The Ride
Finally, after all that waiting, you're one of the lucky people who have made it onto a Starspeeder! You've fastened your seatbelts and your 3D goggles are on. The pilot's privacy screen rolls down to reveal none other than C3Po, who becomes our pilot for the journey (though not by his choice!... but we're getting ahead of ourselves). Throughout the ride C3Po will be talking to R2D2, who supposedly is on the roof of the Starspeeder.

Much has been made about the 50+ ride combinations, so let's go through the ride sequence and explore all the possibilities:

You start out in a flight hangar........

1) Darth Vader approaches your Starspeeder and insists there is a Rebel spy on board. He and his storm troopers try to prevent your ship from leaving, so R2D2 gets the Starspeeder out of the hangar, into space and jumps to light speed.

2) A droid scans your Starspeeder and identifies one of your passengers as a Rebel spy. Han Solo, whose Millennium Falcon is parked nearby, gets into a firefight, which gives R2D2 the chance to get the Starspeeder out of the hangar. Your ship follows the Falcon into space and jumps to light speed.

After you get out of light speed, you land on one of 3 worlds......

1) Your Starspeeder lands on Tattoine, the dusty planet where Anakin Skywalker was born, and joins a pod race.

2) Your Starspeeder lands on Kashyyyk, the Wookie planet, and is chased by speeder bikes through the forest (this was one of the worlds I encountered, and everyone loved it when Chewbacca hit our windshield!)

3) Your Starspeeder lands on Hoth, the ice planet, dodging AT-ATs and sliding down glaciers (this one was so much fun, it felt like we were expert snowboarders!)

R2D2 gets the ship back into light speed, then comes out in deep space. Then one of 3 holographic images appear, pleading with you to join the Rebel Alliance and help get the Rebel spy to safety

1) Princess Leia
2) Admiral Ackbar
3) Yoda

R2D2 makes the decision for everyone and takes the ship to the rendezvous point given to him by the hologram....

1) You end up in the midst of a battle on Coruscant, dodging vehicles throughout the city, finally landing on a platform, sending droids scurrying here and there.

2) You end up in the Geonosis asteroid belt, chased by Boba Fett, fly right through the Death Star, chased by Darth Vader and his TIE pilots, then meet up with the Rebel fleet and land in one of their ships' landing bays.

3) You end up in Naboo, Queen Amidala's home planet, diving deep into the ocean, where you evade sea monsters, run into Jar Jar Binks near the Gungan underwater city, then resurface and crash land in a hanger, where a Naboo starfighter's nose crashes through your windshield (this was my favorite part, it was 3D at its best!)

So, if you do the math,

2 openings * 3 planet detours * 3 holographic images * 3 endings = 54 possible combinations!

Sadly, your ride has come to an end. It's time to unbuckle your seatbelt and drop your 3D glasses into the bins -- although I was really tempted to steal one, because these are the best 3D glasses I've ever worn! They fit so nicely over my regular glasses so I don't have to keep fiddling with them, or settle for inferior vision that gets me even more dizzy and nauseated.

The ride is really a lot of fun. I rode it twice; the first time, I felt quite nauseous but enjoyed myself so much I had to do it again, and the second time I hardly felt any motion sickness at all. The combination of HD video, 3D effects, stereo sound, motion and special effects (lights and smoke around the cabin) really make it feel like you're really a part of the action, looking through the windshield and flying around in a Starspeeder. When you're at Disneyland, make sure you head straight to Star Tours first thing in the morning so you can ride Star Tours again and again!

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.

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