Make us your home page

'Star Wars' fans show up in droves as Disney opens its redesigned Star Tours ride


Star Wars fans showed up early and stayed late for Friday's relaunch of Disney's Star Tours ride, which hasn't had a tech upgrade or script change since it opened at Disneyland 24 years ago and at Disney's Hollywood Studios park 22 years ago.

The wait for a ride was close to three hours. And FastPasses for a scheduled ride as late as midnight were gone in 30 minutes.

"It's an awesome improvement over the old ride," said Gregg Bernard, a vacationing Web video executive from New York.

Didn't get enough on your first voyage on the new and improved simulator ride? Get back in line and take another spin. Designers dubbed it "the adventures continue" because they packed in 54 combinations of spine-tingling space chase scenes, cobbled together in remarkable 3-D detail from the six-film Star Wars saga.

"It's like opening more than 50 different attractions the same day," said Tom Fitzgerald, executive producer.

Each trip is a wild ride of a few selected scenes with flighty Star Wars droid C-3PO driving careening routes to six planets and the Death Star. Along the way riders endure pod races, attacks from undersea creatures, Jar Jar Binks and a stern Darth Vader, who stops and turns their spacecraft around to hunt for a rebel spy. They also encounter some new droids, newly minted Star Wars toys in the gift shop and two-hour-or-more lines that officials expect to last all summer.

Disney staged its usual over-the-top fireworks/character parade extravaganza for the relaunch. Walt Disney Co. chief executive Robert Iger ended a menacing Darth Vader's threat to destroy Star Tours by introducing him to Star Wars creator George Lucas.

"Mr. Vader, you are about to meet your maker," Iger said.

Outfitted in jeans and plaid shirt, Lucas said: "This attraction is absolutely way beyond anything I imagined. Amazing."

Indeed, Lucasfilm oversaw authenticity to the point of pulling Darth Vader's original robe out of mothballs for filming.

"Star Wars geeks, and I am one myself, would call us out if we didn't get everything down to the wookie belt right," said Bill George, Lucasfilm visual effects supervisor.

The ride remains a simulator attraction fashioned from a 747 jet simulator with seating for 50. But Disney has redone the preshow wait area into a futuristic airport departure lounge. That's where snarky droid robots create the mixup that puts C-3PO in the pilot's cabin. A not-to-be-missed treat is the flat-screen videos in the pre-boarding area. They show Three Stooges-like droids accidently driving themselves off balconies, smacking each other in the head and crashing luggage while loading the spacecraft baggage compartment.

What took Disney so long to update the ride? Lucas kept making more prequel episodes, so that killed a 1998 rewrite. This one is set between Star Wars episodes three and four, while the previous version came after Return of the Jedi, released to theaters in 1983.

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner refused to green-light any more simulator rides until they gave fewer people motion sickness. Eisner is gone, but this version adds 3-D. The digital picture is far more detailed and designed in a way that makes it easier to focus on only one moving object rather than trying to follow several at the same time.

Disney tracked how many people suffered motion sickness in the first week of practice runs and found "very few," show producer Kathy Rogers said. Illness lifts when riders close their eyes.

But some Star Wars fans were busy hunting for the many obscure details Lucas hid in iconic chases, like the sight of a distant Han Solo as the Millennium Falcon pulls away.

"I didn't want to miss anything, so I squinted to narrow my view and got sick anyway," said Victor Gorys, a Toronto auditor who took his Star Wars-obsessed kids out of school for the trip.

Fans descended on Disney for the attraction launch Friday, the first of four Star Wars Weekends ending June 12. The line started at 3 a.m. Thursday for a chance to get the autograph of Anthony Daniels, the 65-year-old Brit who played C-3PO in all six films.

"What they've done with this attraction has just blown me away," said Steve Sansweet of Sonoma, Calif., who claims to own the world's largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia, with 150,000 items.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

'Star Wars' fans show up in droves as Disney opens its redesigned Star Tours ride 05/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 4:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]