Star Tours is one of the best spin-offs or spins-off to come from the world of Lucas."
- ―Anthony Daniels
Star Tours was a Disney simulator ride theme park attraction located at Disneyland at Disneyland Resort in California, Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland at Tokyo Disney Resort in Tokyo, Japan and Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris in Paris, France. It was the park's first attraction that did not use Disney-designed imagery.
Groups of visitors, or "passengers," were taken on by the fictional travel agency known as Star Tours, via a space tour vessel called the StarSpeeder 3000 and set in the Star Wars universe. Thanks to an inexperienced and thoroughly incompetent droid pilot named RX-24, what was billed as a leisurely tour to the Endor moon became a wild ride as the tour got caught up in a battle between the Empire and the Rebels.
The first incarnation of the ride appeared in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in 1987, replacing the attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space. The original Star Tours closed in 2010 (July 27 in Disneyland, September 8 in Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World) while Disney engineers built the updated and renovated ride, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, which opened on May 20, 2011. Tokyo Disneyland's version of the original ride closed in April 2012 to make way for the updated ride in Spring 2013. Disneyland Paris's version closed on March 16, 2016 to make way for the update.
Advertised as "The Ultimate Star Wars Adventure!," Star Tours puts the guest in the role of a space tourist en route to the Forest Moon of Endor via the "Star Tours" travel agency. Much is made of this throughout the ride queue, and the design and theme of the inside holding area is convincingly modeled to look like a spaceship boarding terminal. This area is stocked with Audio-Animatronic characters that seem to interact with the ride patrons including Mon Calamari technicians and versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, as well as a life-size mock-up of the StarSpeeder 3000, the "starship" that guests embark on. The figures of C-3PO and R2-D2 in the Disneyland park are actual props from the original film, modified to operate via Audio-Animatronics.
Once guests reach the head of the line, the ride operators escort them into one of several ride theaters. As the doors close, the ship's bumbling RX-24 pilot droid, a.k.a. "Rex" (voiced by Paul Reubens), chats up the guests about the trip as he sets up. All goes well until a slight mistake on Rex's part sends the ship down the wrong tunnel and plummeting into a maintenance yard, just managing to escape into open space before a giant mechanical appendage nearly crushes the ship.
Once in space, the ship enters hyperspace, but Rex disengages its hyperdrives too late to stop at the ship's intended destination—and instead gets caught inside a comet field. The ship becomes trapped inside one of the larger comets and has to navigate its way out through a maze of passages and chambers. Just when all the trouble seems to be over, the ship encounters a Star Destroyer and finds itself caught in its tractor beam. However, a timely attack (providing assistance by destroying the tractor beam generator) by a Rebel X-wing fighter allows them to escape. Soon the ship and its tourists find themselves accompanying the Rebellion on a massive assault on the Death Star (which Death Star is unspecified). Rex uses the StarSpeeder's lasers to eliminate TIE/LN starfighters while a Rebel destroys the Death Star in the same manner as Luke Skywalker does in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. A final light-speed jump sends the StarSpeeder back to where it started, but not before a near-collision with a fuel truck in the spaceport.
The ride that became Star Tours first saw light as a proposal for an attraction based on the 1979 Disney live-action flop The Black Hole. It was planned as an interactive ride simulator attraction, where guests would have had the ability to choose the ride car's route. After preliminary planning, the Black Hole attraction was shelved due to its enormous cost (approximately $50 million US) as well as the unpopularity of the film itself. Instead of completely dismissing the idea of a simulator, the company decided to make use of a partnership between Disney and George Lucas that began in 1986 with the opening of Captain Eo (a 3D musical film starring Michael Jackson) at the California park. Disneyland then approached Lucas with the idea for the Star Tours amusement ride.
With his approval, Disney Imagineers purchased four large military flight simulators at a cost of $500,000 each and designed the ride structure. Meanwhile, Lucas and his team of special-effects technicians at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) worked on the first-person-perspective film that would be projected inside the simulators. When both simulator and film were completed, a programmer then sat inside and, with the aid of a joystick, manually synchronized the movement of the simulator with the apparent movement on the film. On January 9, 1987, at a final cost of $32 million (almost twice the cost of building the entire park in 1955), the ride finally opened to throngs of patrons, many of whom dressed as Star Wars characters for the occasion. In celebration, Disneyland remained open for a special 60-hour marathon from 10:00am on January 9, 1987 to 10:00pm on January 11, 1987.
Star Tours utilized a Thomson hydraulic motion base cabin featuring 3 degrees of freedom.
The film was front projected onto the screen from a 70mm film projector located beneath the cockpit barrier. George Lucas mentioned that the next generation of the attraction would feature digital high-definition video and motion bases capable of up to 6 degrees of freedom.
- Grand opening: Star Tours is located in the following Disney theme parks:
- Designer: Walt Disney Imagineering, Industrial Light and Magic
- Simulators: 4 (Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland); 6 (Disney Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Paris)
- Simulator's theme: StarSpeeder 3000
- Guests per simulator: 40
- Height requirement: 40 inches (102 cm)
- Show length: 4:30
- Ride system: Flight simulator with Audio-Animatronics all synced to film
When the ride opened, Star Tours press kits were released. They each contained interviews with George Lucas, Disney's Michael Eisner, and C-3PO. The video portion of the kit lasts about an hour, with a large part of it devoted to the ride's opening ceremony, and a play with actors dressed as Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader—dancing around and acting out several scenes from the Star Wars films.
There was also a TV special that aired around the time of the opening of the ride. The program—entitled A Vacation In Space and designed to promote the ride—aired in late 1986, and was hosted by Gil Gerard and Ernie Reyes Jr.. The show looks at how Star Tours was made, as well as the history of space travel and space-related films. Some highlights of the program include a segment at the beginning, where C-3PO and R2-D2 make an appearance and perform a rap song, as well as a segment at the end, where Reyes boards the StarSpeeder 3000—giving away some teasers of the ride itself.
As part of the Star Tours experience, upon exiting the StarSpeeder 3000, passengers are led to a store which sells merchandise based on Star Wars and the ride itself. This includes action figures, clothing, etc. At Disneyland the store is The Star Trader. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, the store was originally called Endor Vendors, and had a theme based on Endor with a facade modeled after the back door of the Endor shield generator bunker. Around the release of Episode I, that store was replaced by Tatooine Traders, themed to resemble the buildings of Mos Eisley and Mos Espa. Both stores include some exclusive merchandise sold only at Disney theme parks, including action figures of the various droids seen in the ride and queue and StarSpeeder 3000 toys.
The canonicity of the events depicted in Star Tours has been disputed for many reasons, the most obvious being the inclusion of the Death Star. Since R2-D2's presence aboard the StarSpeeder precludes the events taking place during the Battle of Yavin or the Battle of Endor, the Death Star seen in the ride video has been considered by some to be the Death Star prototype, as seen in Jedi Search and Champions of the Force, and its destruction to be a depiction of the prototype's destruction at The Maw. However, it does not match that prototype's skeletal construction, and R2-D2 is accounted for during that event. Also, the Star Tours Death Star is close to Endor, far from the Maw's location. This may indicate it is a so-far-unrevealed Death Star, or that the ride's events are simply not canonical. Leland Chee, in a timeline he created, implied that the first possibility was true. Others have suggested that the Death Star is a modification of one of the habitation spheres seen under construction over Coruscant. This was later confirmed in Supreme Commander Ennix Devian's entry for the second part of the blog series The Imperial Warlords: Despoilers of an Empire.
The events of Star Tours may take place after Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back since after the destination of Hoth is advertised on the large video screen in the queue area, C-3PO mentions the events of the film. In 2005, Lucasfilm's Leland Chee tentatively dated the events of the ride at 4.3 ABY. This was later confirmed in the 2013 blog Convenient Daily Departures: The History of Star Tours, which also explained R2-D2 and C-3PO's presence at Star Tours as being their being loaned to the company by their owners during the latter stages of the Nagai–Tof War.
As with all material released prior to April 25, 2014, questions of canonicity regarding Star Tours apply only to the continuity of the Expanded Universe, now known as Star Wars Legends, and its story is considered entirely non-canon within the current continuity of canon.
While the events of the ride themselves may be questionably canonical, the Expanded Universe (now known as Legends) made a number of references to the fictional travel agency and its ships:
- The StarSpeeder 3000 has been referenced in the computer game Star Wars: TIE Fighter, as well as in the novel Specter of the Past.
- The article Endor and the Moddell Sector in Star Wars Gamer 9 explains that a short-lived travel agency offered trips to Endor before accidents and mismanagement drove them out of business. It also suggests that those trips happened in the New Republic era. The article includes an illustration of a StarSpeeder 3000 at a landing site on Endor.
- In the Star Wars Galaxies game, players encounter the crash site of the Star Tours ship Tzarina on Dathomir. The crash is blamed on an incompetent droid captain who got too close to what sounds like the Battle of Yavin.
- The ride's G2 repair droids are featured in The New Essential Guide to Droids and are mentioned in the novel Specter of the Past.
- "Lightsaber Lost," an episode of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, includes a holographic advertisement from Star Tours promoting travel to Glee Anselm.
- "Droids in Distress," an episode of the Star Wars Rebels animated series, features the heroes traveling in a civilian transport vessel rather similar to the StarSpeeder 3000, piloted by a droid of the same design as RX-24; Paul Reubens even reprised his role as the voice of Rex.
- In the Futurama episode "That's Lobstertainment!," some of the main characters are riding a tour bus in Hollywood with the name "Star Tours." Under the bus' logo, a disclaimer reads "Note: Bus Does Not Leave Earth."
- In the 1997 film Starship Troopers, a ship resembles the StarSpeeder 3000, and the scene it appears in is similar to the Star Tours ride video.
- A number of inside jokes can be heard over the public-address system in the ride's queue:
- The announcer calls out for an illegally parked speeder with license number THX-1138, which is the name of the first studio film made by George Lucas.
- The announcer pages a "Mr. Egroeg Sacul." The name is "George Lucas" spelled backwards.
- A voice says there is a message for "Mr. Tom Morrow," who was a character in Disneyland's now-defunct Flight to the Moon attraction and later became a separate character for Innoventions at Epcot and Disneyland Park in 1998.
- The G2 repair droids in the queue line are actually the skeletons of Audio-Animatronic geese from an old Disneyland show, America Sings. They were removed from the show during the last two years of its run. The droids can be heard singing "I've been working on the same droid, all the live-long day," a reference to the geese singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" during America Sings. The New Essential Guide to Droids nicknamed the G2s "Goose droids" as a nod to this show.
- The baskets of parts in the Droidnostics Center in the ride queue at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios have hidden initials and birth dates of Walt Disney Imagineering and ILM team members who worked on the attraction.
- On the pre-boarding video, many passengers are Imagineers and their families.
- Several aliens from the Star Wars theatrical films and offshoot productions make appearances in the opening safety video: Some Mon Calamari, a Gran, a Wookiee (a Chewbacca costume), and Teek from Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.
- The StarSpeeder 3000 has several blast marks, one of which appears to resemble a Hidden Mickey.
- When Energizer sponsored the Disney's Hollywood Studios version, the Energizer Bunny made a cameo appearance in the shop on a video screen.
- In the queue, you can see a model of Kermit the Frog made out of spare parts when you get to the overhead conveyor belt.
- The exit of the Tokyo Disneyland version features a kiosk that uses the multiple endings footage from the extinct Epcot attraction Horizons to portray other Star Tours excursions. The sets for the endings footage, and by extension the locales featured at the exit, were developed by David Jones, who also did special-effects work for Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
- One of the droids, DL-X2, was a modified version of an Imagineer-developed prop for the cop robot character TK4600 in the NBC police drama series Hill Street Blues.
- At Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Star Tours replaced an attraction known as Adventure Thru Inner Space, in which guests were notionally shrunk to microscopic size. Exiting the first scene during the Star Tours film, the Mighty Microscope from the old ride can be seen.
- On Captain Rex, a bright red tag can be seen attached to his torso. The tag says "Remove before Flight." This tag is a reference to similar labels placed on some aircraft parts.
- Rex "has a very bad feeling about this" when the ship flies into one of the comets. This is a running gag in the Star Wars films.
- At least two revisions have been made to the ride's script since its inception. After the StarSpeeder passes the moon of Endor, the original version had Rex asking R2-D2 "Now what's the matter? Oh no! Comets!" The modified line is, "Now what's the matter? Comets? Comets!" and adds "I have a very bad feeling about this."
- The fuel tanker that the StarSpeeder 3000 almost runs into has a registration number on its side. The number is Lucasfilm's old office phone number.
- Rex is voiced by Paul Reubens, best known for playing the character Pee-wee Herman. Despite rumors that Reubens' voice was replaced following his 1991 or 2002 arrests, no such replacement occurred. One of the droids in the queue says, "You got a camera. Why don't you take a picture? It'll last longer!," which is a Paul Reubens quote.
- The work crews shown in the docking bays and control rooms of the film are members of the ILM model shop staff. Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren and his crew can be seen diving out of the way when Rex accidentally steers the ship toward the control room on the right.
- Contrary to popular belief, the horrified man in the landing bay who ducks in terror as the ship nearly crashes into him at the end of the flight is not George Lucas, but an ILM modelmaker named Ira Keeler.
- During the ride, Rex says "I've always wanted to do this!" In "One Last Night in the Mos Eisley Cantina: The Tale of the Wolfman and the Lamproid," Lak Sivrak hears a droid announce it had "always wanted to do this" during the Battle of Endor.
The flight-information board in the ride queue promised forthcoming adventures to Hoth, Tatooine, and Dagobah and displays the text "Soon Endor Won't Be The End-All." These details, especially the tagline, were often mistaken for recent additions, used to support rumors of impending changes to the attraction, but have actually been in place since Star Tours opened.
In April 2005, at the Star Wars Celebration III, Star Wars creator George Lucas confirmed that Star Tours: The Adventures Continue was in production. This new ride is set in the time between Episode III and Episode IV. The sequel includes 54 different story combinations and travel to a number of planets from the entire film saga. The new ride system features a 3D film and an improved motion simulator. The sequel opened on May 20, 2011 at Walt Disney World, on June 3 in Disneyland and on May 7, 2013 at Tokyo Disneyland.
Muren, Gawley, and Keeler are all Industrial Light & Magic special-effects wizards who worked on the attraction for Lucasfilm. Many members of Disney's Imagineering staff also worked on the ride, including media producer Mark Eades, sculptor Chris Runco, and machinists Larry Sheldon and Lance Updyke.
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Star Tours in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland included "Arrivals/Departures" boards that listed destinations other than Endor, and Tokyo also included weather reports.
Organizations and titles
Vehicles and vessels
Weapons and technology
Notes and referencesEdit
- 1986 ABC Sunday Night Movie Disneyland Star Tours Promotion on YouTube
- EndorExpress.net - A fansite dedicated to the ride, including a highly accurate transcript of the dialogue.
- LucasFan.com - Another fansite
- Martin Smith's Star Tours HD Ultimate Tribute, a comprehensive history and documentation of the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions of the attraction on YouTube
- Link to a fan's complete flash-recreation of the ride.