Star Tours: Strap in and prepare for new adventures!

Star Tours opening day 2011 T-shirtThis weekend while on vacation at Disneyland I was fortunate enough to attend the grand re-opening of Star Tours (and yes, I have the T-shirt to prove it).

I knew going into the trip that the attraction would be relaunching on Friday and that there would be a media circus (which was pretty lame compared with descriptions I’ve heard of the counterpart event last month at Walt Disney World). But I didn’t realize it would also be the day students in California flood the park after wrapping up the school year!

That’s when I said to myself: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

As you can see from my photo below, security was tight. Star Tours wasn’t even open to the public until late morning or early afternoon, after the media got a chance to ride. (And where was my invitation? Hmph.)

Still, hopeful of experiencing the new ride, I bought the commemorative T-shirt and tried not to despair as we went on other adventures in the very-crowded park.

My party got nowhere near Star Tours until returning from California Adventure that afternoon, when we jumped into line upon seeing the estimated wait time was about 90 minutes. (FastPass wasn’t up and running, though the kiosk is just across the way from Star Tours, next to Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters.) It was sunny and hot but the Disney staff had prepared well with lots of shade in the outdoor portion of the line, and an annex of indoor queue had been opened as well just before entering the main blast doors.

Star Tours reopens
"We don't need to see his identification."

The long wait for this re-imagineering of the space simulator ride was well worth it. No attention to detail has been spared.

While the concept remains the same — a galactic pleasure cruise meets the space opera adventure of the Star Wars movies — it has been enhanced in almost every way. No more is it simply a detoured flight to Endor — now there are the multiple destinations that the rich Saga demands, and each time visitors will get to experience a different story.

At its most basic, your transport is stopped at take-off by Imperial forces seeking a spy for the Rebel Alliance — a spy who is one of your fellow passengers, photographed while in line. A pursuit across the galaxy begins, and the race is on to deliver your precious cargo to members of the Alliance.

In my personal experience, my flight was intercepted in the Star Tours hangar bay by Darth Vader (!) and his stormtroopers. The Sith Lord demanded the spy be handed over, and he used the Force to pick up our shuttle and swing it around before the spunky droid pilot R2-D2 whipped out the shuttle’s blasters (!) and made a hasty escape into hyperspace. We ended up careening through the ice fields of Hoth before stabilizing and receiving a message from Yoda (!) pleading with us to deliver the spy safely to a hidden Rebel base, the coordinates of which he sent to R2. Then we were on another hyperjump that dumped us in the skies of Coruscant, the galactic capital, in the midst of a massive space battle, from which we eventually escaped and raced through the metropolitan canyons before landing safely at a Rebel base in the heart of the Empire itself.

The new 3-D Star Tours attraction simply must be experienced in person, but you can get a taste of the new formula in this video from the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog. And don’t miss the sneak-preview report from the Main St. Monitor on the Orlando version of the new and improved Star Tours, with loads of detail on the fun things you can find while waiting in line inside the attraction.

Buzz Lightyear's Astro BlastersWhile my favorite rides remain The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, I personally love the interactivity of the new Disney attractions. This is seen in Star Tours with the “Rebel spy” element and also just across the way in Tomorrowland at Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, which takes the traditional “dark ride” model and adds a hearty dash of arcade action.

Final thought: This launch commercial for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is so cute and funny, it almost comes close to topping the epic Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen starring Darth Vader. Almost.

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