Amazing Facts About Star Tours Everyone Should Know
Star Tours is one of the most important rides in Disney history. The attraction is an amazing 3-D ride simulator that causes guests to feel like they’ve entered the Star Trek universe for a while. But Star Tours is equally important for the relationship it built between The Walt Disney Company and George Lucas. Here are a few amazing facts that everyone should know about Star Tours.
The Ride Happened Almost by Accident
You know what it’s like when a guest drops by your work station. The person politely asks about what you do, and you try to describe your job in the most exciting way possible. For Imagineers, that’s not hard to do. Still, some situations are more dramatic than others.
For example, imagine a day back in 1984 when George Lucas entered Disney’s Imagineering offices. Think about how the Disney employees felt when the creator of Star Wars asked them what they were doing. No matter what they answered, could it compare to, you know, writing and directing Star Wars movies?
Fate’s a funny thing, though. The cast members told Lucas that they were working out the kinks on a new motion simulator. They thought the ride apparatus had terrific application potential at Disney’s theme parks. Suffice to say that Lucas was intrigued. He requested suggestions for how this ride mechanic would work on a Star Wars ride. Had he not asked this, it’s doubtful that anyone from Disney would have thought to suggest it. Since he took the initiative, however, the Imagineers compiled a list of potential suggestions. In doing so, they laid the groundwork for Star Tours.
You’re Not Riding the Original Star Tours
The full title of the current attraction is Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. It’s not the first Star Tours. Back in the 1980s, the conversations between Lucas and Disney paid immediate dividends. First, Michael Jackson asked for either Steven Spielberg or Lucas to work on his special Disney project, which we now know as Captain EO. Lucas would write and executive produce the filming of that unique movie.
Simultaneously, Lucas and Imagineers teamed up to create the original Star Tours. The design phase broke down precisely as you’d expect. Disney built the motion simulator portion while Lucas and his team at Industrial Light & Magic filmed the accompanying movie.
The first Star Tours shared many of the same traits as the one that you know. It had a small monitor on the right that featured the characters unintentionally foreshadowing incoming dangers. On the left stood an Audio-Animatronic (AA) that acted as the “pilot,” although the droid wasn’t very good. It was their proverbial first day on the job. Fundamentally, Star Tours was similar to its successor, but it wasn’t forward-thinking.
The graphics seemed antiquated after only a few years, but that was Disney’s fault. Then-CEO Michael Eisner had indicated to Lucas that Disney would update the attraction every three years. It officially opened in January of 1987 and was replaced in…2010. Yes, Eisner missed his projected update window by a modest 20 years. And you thought the wait for Pandora – The World of Avatar was bad!
Star Tours – The Adventure Continues Is Random
Currently, there are eight official titles in the main Star Wars storyline plus a pair of standalone Star Wars film and one animated title. Most of those eleven films could appear in some capacity during a Star Tours ride. The ride experience that you receive is entirely up to chance.
In designing the second iteration of Star Tours, Imagineers learned from the mistake of the first one. They appreciated that the lack of updates caused the original to feel dated far too early in its lifecycle. To negate such issues with the new version, they built in some future-proofing.
Whenever a new Star Wars movie comes out in theaters, Disney can add elements of it into Star Tours. They do this by a clever bit of segmentation. Every phase of Star Tours is its own entity. You start (and end) in a space dock of some sort. Between the take-off and landing sequences, you jump to lightspeed and reach your primary destination.
After you’ve completed your original objective, you return to space, where some Star Wars character informs you of a critical new mission. You’ll receive special coordinates for a location where your daring heroics can deal a crippling blow to the empire. Once it’s done, you’ll return home to a warm welcome or a shaky landing or both.
The way that Imagineers built Star Tours II, it breaks down into four segments. Each one has multiple possibilities, creating a multitude of possibilities for each ride. The opening can involve one of three story arcs, while there are four main destinations such as Hoth and Tattooine. The ride currently consists of six hologram messages, each of which leads to specific coordinates, and Star Tours features four different concluding segments.
Adding all of the total paths up, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues offers 288 unique ride experiences! Also, Disney could add new ones at any point! It’s relatively easy to create a new video for one of these ride segments. Each new wrinkle increases the odds that you won’t have the same ride twice. It’s a novel way to turn a single attraction into a new ride every time.
I’m of the opinion that most Disney rides should have a bit of randomization, and Imagineers may agree with me. Since the introduction of this functionality on Star Tours, Disney added it to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, too.
Star Tours Features Too Many In-Jokes to Count
Are you a Star Wars fanatic? If so, the ride queue for Star Tours is your happy place! Imagineers populated the entire waiting area with literally dozens of jokes and references that you won’t get unless you’re down with the Force.
Perhaps the most fitting one is that Rex, the neophyte captain from the original Star Tours, espouses a lot of dialogue here. When you hear a quote like, “T-this is C-c-captain Rex,” you’ll know that Rex is nearby. I mean that literally, too. At one point, you’ll see a giant crate labeled DEFECTIVE. Poor Rex is inside it, waiting to get shipped off to another planet, where he’ll presumably get scrapped for parts. Star Tours apparently has a zero-tolerance policy for its tour guides.
Some of the goofier in-jokes involve George Lucas and other science fiction staples. One of the license plates (and why do land speeders need license plates?) is THX 1138. Lucas fans can tell you that’s the name of his directorial debut. He also gets paged during the line queue, although you won’t recognize it since his name is backwards. Yes, Egroeg Sacul is George Lucas in reverse.
Disney sprinkles touches like this throughout the attraction. Some fansites have collated lists, but there are so many that it’s tough to keep up. The next time that you prepare to board Star Tours, take the time to look at and listen to all the Easter eggs hidden in plain sight!