On Sunday we were among the lucky winners of a lottery for Disneyland annual passholders to preview Star Tours before it officially opens on June 3. We couldn’t shoot the actual ride film, but Patrick took a ton of photos of the queue, so if you want to wait and be surprised when you go, STOP READING NOW!
We were given a window of 9am–1pm in which to preview the ride. The park opened at 8am, so at rope drop a bunch of us passholders did the patented Disney run-walk to Star Tours to get in line for the preview. Inexplicably, they wouldn’t let us line up to wait inside either of the elaborately switchbacked queues, which meant we all just lined ourselves up under the Peoplemover track and blocked traffic.
The way the preview was set up, a little before 9am we were allowed into the FASTPASS distribution area to get an insta-FASTPASS that was good immediately. After we rode it, we were able to get a new insta-FASTPASS every 30 minutes. At the beginning, when lines were longer, you didn’t really have to wait for your window to open. From about 10am on, the lines died down and you would finish the ride 10 or 15 minutes before you could get another FP. This “one pass per half-hour” policy was only communicated verbally, so I think a lot of AP holders thought they could only ride once and left when they were done. We were in it for the long haul and managed 9 rides in 4 hours!
Inside the first room of the main queue, everything felt brand new even though not a whole lot had changed. It’s amazing what a little paint and new lighting effects can do!
The large screen alternately displayed boarding information, planetary weather reports (why do so many sci-fi universes include single-environment planets? I mean, really, it’s raining everywhere on the entire planet all the time?), plus promotional films for Star Tours and some of its many destinations.
C-3PO and R2-D2 are still muddling their way through safety checks of the Starspeeder…
One of the best new gags is the silhouettes in this window—they’re on a pretty long loop and there’s lots to discover. My favorite is Jar Jar Binks in carbonite…
The snarky, uh, TSA droid doing body scans gets his sass from Patrick Wharburton—that guy must make a MINT off the Disney parks!
The 3-D glasses are fairly comfy, especially compared to those dang Real D ones they make you wear at the movies. But I thought the whole thing with the Star Tours re-boot was that it would have glasses-less 3-D. When did that change?
In the boarding area, monitors give you a peek as the droids prepare your Starspeeder for launch. You also get to watch the setup, where C-3PO goes aboard to complete some last-minute checks. Then they show the pre-boarding safety demo before switching back to a “real-time” view of your Starspeeder being lifted to the loading platform. Pretty cool!
The cabins have been refreshed and re-lit, and they look great! At some point during boarding, they snap a photo of someone in the cabin to be featured as the rebel spy in the storyline. How they select you is a mystery, but it seems to help if you’re a cute little kid or a distinctive-looking adult (like the long-haired, bearded, Wookie-lookin’ guy on our last flight)!
As you’ve probably read, there are 54 different randomly accessed combinations of scenes in the ride. There are 2 possible takeoffs, 3 planets for the first sequence, 3 presenters for the secret message, and 3 planets for the last sequence. Here’s a handy checklist courtesy of MiceAge.com.
Somehow in 9 rides, we never managed to get the speederbike chase on Kashyyyk in the first sequence, which was disappointing but had the intended effect of making us want to ride again soon! Our planetary combos were
1. Hoth + Naboo
2. Hoth + Coruscant (Patrick was the rebel spy!)
3. Hoth + Naboo
4. Tatooine + Naboo
5. Hoth + Death Star over Geonosis
6. Tatooine + Coruscant
7. Hoth + Death Star over Geonosis
8. Tatooine + Naboo
9. Tatooine + Naboo again!
The exit area is basically the same, but the gift shop has been improved by the addition of a window and the no-brainer relocation of the X-Wing formerly hidden at the top of the old Peoplemover ramp.
Overall, we were REALLY impressed. The new version is everything they claimed it would be—definitely an improvement, and the repeatability is high. The ride feels less jerky even as it’s whipping you all over the place in sync with the action on the screen. A couple of the sequences aren’t as compelling as they could have been (we thought the pod race was going to be a lot more thrilling), but every scene is packed with levels of interesting stuff: the primary action, plus in-jokes and site gags going on in the background that take multiple rides to notice. We felt the very best sequence was the one on Naboo, which makes full use of the motion-simulator and 3-D for a truly thrilling ride. Another thing we enjoyed, which probably won’t last long, is the way everyone onboard listens intently and silently during the appearance of Leia/Yoda/Akbar (well, except for the obligatory “It’s a TRAP!”). It’s rare that entertainment can so completely capture the audience’s attention these days, and I love it!
Have you ridden the new Star Tours? What do you think?
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