May this year saw the grand re-opening of Star Tours. Any new ride or re-vamp results in excitement in the Disney community, but make it the focus of the yearly Star Wars Weekends and bring in George Lucas to launch it and you’ve got people salivating at the prospect. The fact that it is Star Wars based is neither here nor there to me - I like the films, probably seen them a couple of times, but they’re no Toy Story! But having something new at one of my favourite Disney Parks (Hollywood Studios) meant that I was excited to try out Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.
The motion simulator ride was originally advertised as a Star Wars Adventure and featured the Star Tours Travel Company which took you, the rider, as a space tourist on a tour to Endor. That is until the droid piloting the craft makes various mistakes and much adventure ensues. I vaguely remember liking it when I first rode it, years ago, but the eventual announcement of its revamp was, in my opinion, long over due.
We had unintentionally planned our holiday at what turned out to be a great time for trying out the new ride. The last week of our holiday was the week running up to the first Star Wars Weekend – with the official opening of the ride on the Friday. So not only were we able to try out the ride during its soft launch phase, we also got to see the grand opening and give a Star Wars Weekend ago.
Star Wars Weekend
When I first realised that we were going to be around for a Star Wars weekend, my initial reaction was to avoid it all costs. The automatic increase in crowd level was enough to put me off. But when we realised we could see the ride launch and had seen some of the preparations for it in the week up to it we decided that we’d give it a go. When we saw it on the news that morning, I still had doubts as to whether I could be bothered to put up with the crowds but we started out early and headed over to join them. And I am soooo glad we did, for 1 reason that has nothing to do with Star Wars – Toy Story Mania. When we arrived it was about half an hour before official park opening and we were surprised to find that they were letting people in. Everyone else must have headed straight to find a spot for the launch or to line up for Star Wars characters because when we arrived at Toy Story Mania there was no wait. Yup, you read that right – Toy Story Mania – No Wait!!!! To me that’s far better than Star Wars characters any day of the week. We walked right on, rode the ride (I got beat!) climbed off and went right back round and rode it again, this time with about a 5 minute wait (I got beat again). We were going to head back for a third time, but by now we decided we should go see some of the event that we were actually here for!
My biggest let down of the Star Wars weekend was the lack of Star Wars Disney Characters. It was possibly because they were involved in the launch and TV coverage, but I would have liked to have been able to see more of Jedi Mickey, Princess Minnie and Darth Goofy. We saw some, at a distance as they recorded segments for the media, but as I was far more interested in seeing them than the random Star Wars characters (most of which I didn’t really recognise), we found that a little disappointing. I’d guess that on a different day within Star Wars weekend they might have had more of a presence.
From my one day experience of a Star Wars Weekend I would say that there is something for everyone. For the fans, there are chances to meet characters and actors from the films and hear talks – but the queues for any of these will be long. For the non-fans, it is an opportunity to walk around, take in the atmosphere, maybe get the odd photo and then take full advantage of the shorter queues on the rides.
My summary of the opening of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue would be that it was pretty impressive, with a great cast (George Lucas! Even I’m excited by that!) but that it was aimed at the media and for the regular visitor, it was badly organised – which is a term that I have never once needed to use to describe Disney! No-one seemed to know what was happening and when. While there was information about the event for the weekend there was literally nothing about the opening – we wanted to know what time the ride was going to be opened and what time the opening show ws going to be on and if there was going to be a parade of some description (as they were keeping the routes clear). We literally got different answers from every cast member we asked. It felt like no-one really knew what was going on which left us unable to make a decision about where best to stand to view it or how long we’d have to wait – which considering the overwhelming heat and my occasional fainting in such conditions, was a big factor in deciding what we were going to do.
In the end we picked a spot and hoped for the best – we did OK. We couldn’t see the stage but could easily see a screen and when the procession led to the ride, we got some great views of everybody. It was fun to see, but I’m not sure I’d bother if I had the chance again.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
3 words for me – such a disappointment! We rode it twice and were lucky enough to do during its soft launch the week before. The first time we waited about 5 minutes. The second time it said the wait was ten minutes and it actually turned out to be about 40mins. If I’d known that when I entered the queue, I honestly wouldn’t have bothered – and that is bearing in mind that I thought the queue was the best bit of the ride. If I had queued for hours on the day of its opening (take a look at the , or subsequently, I would have been even more let down.
For me, the problem with the ride is that its improvements aren’t ones that I particularly care about while I’m actually riding. Its biggest selling point is that 11 different segments can be put together in various groups to come up with 54 different ride sequences – so when you ride multiple times, you’re likely to have a different experience each time. Which is great if you’re riding multiple times, but if you’re only riding once, then this fact is irrelevant. The other big points are that it is in 3D and HD – great, but far from unique.
The ride is OK, there’s nothing wrong with it, but after all the hype in the run-up, I think I was expecting more. The original ride felt old and out-dated – and it was down to more than just the queuing environment and the film itself. While the film you see is beterr quality, and the animatronics have changed, the ride itself hasn’t been improved at all. They haven’t replaced the old fraying seat-belts with the what-were-once-yellow pulls on them – they look old and manky so why one earth were they not updated as part of the revamp? The seats are still ugly, hard, cinema-style seats. I’d sum up the ride as ’you get thrown around a bit while you watch a film’. I just think there are rides out there that do the same thing, but better. Even the now outdated Superman Ride at Universal does a better job of a motion simulator ride than this re-vamped Disney ride. And with Universal producing the totally immersive Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, in its Wizard World, I just hope Disney pull its socks up for the Magic Kingdom extension - it needs equally good attractions if it wants to stay ahead of the game. Please don’t let me down Disney!