Star Tours: A Retrospective


Disneyland’s Star Tours is scheduled to close on July 27th for an extensive overhaul that will keep it closed until at least May of 2011. On today, the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, I decided to do a little tribute to one of the most popular rides ever crafted for a Disney park.

Star Tours originally opened on January 9th 1987 following some soft openings the month before. The demand for the ride was so great that Disneyland actually remained open for the ride for a full 48 hours that week. At the time, the new motion simulator ride system crossed with Star Wars (which was celebrating its 10th anniversary in 1987) made the ride and enormous hit and one of the most popular in the entire park at the time.

The Audio-Animatronic C-3PO at the beginning of the queue had his motion (and naturally voice) done by Anthony Daniels. His acting was captured with his feed locked to the ground, and when Daniels saw the finished product he reportedly experienced the strangest feeling as they captured his motion so perfectly it was almost an out of body experience. The R2D2 in the Starspeeder 3000 in the queue is also an actual screen-used R2 from Empire Strikes Back, as is one of the droids in the maintenance pit (although it is from Star Wars: A New Hope). The maintenance droids were originally the geese in America Sings (look at their webbed feet). They lost their feathers while their counterparts were relocated over the Splash Mountain intact.

Star Tours replaced Adventure Thru Innerspace in Tomorrowland, and as part of Disney’s tradition of retaining part of the original ride in the new ride you can see the original microscope prop makes an appearance in the ride film. Also, for a short time one of the small omnimover props could be seen in the baskets moving above the maintenance room in the queue.

The ride is closing on July 27th in order to upgrade it to “Star Tours II”. The current Starspeeder uses an actual film for the video, which is spooled on the back of the speeder. If anything happens and the ride has to stop they have to run the rest of the film through and it takes time to rewind it. The new system will feature a digital video system to solve this ancient problem.

But that’s not the only upgrade. The ride video will now be in 3D. Boba Fett will reportedly pursue the vehicle and Admiral Akbar communicates with the speeder via a hologram. Also, all new dialog for C3PO has been recorded, and we know that at least part of the ride will take place on Tatooine in a Pod Race.

Here’s a video of the full original Star Tours: