Star Tours 2!
Attention, my nerdy brethren: /film reports that Lucasfilm is currently shooting a new version of the Disney Parks attraction Star Tours. This is a project I've heard about (and hoped for) since the release of "The Phantom Menace" in 1999, when rumblings suggested the original flight simulator ride that opened at Disneyland in 1987 would be ditched for a podracer theme. But /film says George is keepin' it old-school on this one, and the new plot will have the riders' spaceship fleeing from Boba Fett. (I'm guessing an asteroid field will be involved ...) Click on that link above for all the specifics.
So why is this so exciting for a 30-year-old man? Because I remember waiting in line for two-and-a-half hours to ride the original Star Tours at Disneyland in 1988, and I remember thinking it was just about the coolest thing in the whole world.
As you waited in line, C-3PO and R2-D2 were in the room, talking to you while a giant mosaic of video screens showed all the destinations you could visit in your Star Tours speeder: Hoth, Yavin, Coruscant, and of course the forest moon of Endor, where the ride ends.
Here's the entire Star Tours experience. Ride footage begins
at the 7-minute mark.
The ride itself was a "Star Wars" geek's dream come true (and in 1988, at the age of 9, I was a huge "Star Wars" geek). You come under fire from the Empire. TIE Fighters fly right at the video screen at the front of the simulator. You jump to lightspeed -- twice. Best of all, you get to fly down the trench of the Death Star. Just before diving in, the ride's robotic pilot, Rex (voiced by Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens), exclaims, "I've always wanted to do this!" I remember my dad shouting, "ME TOO!" during our first of many times on the ride.
In 1989, we visited Walt Disney World during the inaugural season of the Disney/MGM Studios (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios), and they opened a clone of the Star Tours attraction there. Little did we know that the Studio was a far smaller park than the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT Center, and that most visitors could see everything there before, say, 4 p.m. So when we got to Star Tours around 5:30 and saw nobody waiting in line, we were dumbfounded. My mom asked the Disney cast member at the entrance if the ride was broken; "Nope, come on in, folks!" My mom goes, "COOL!" and proceeds to run up the ramp ahead of my dad, my sisters and me. I'm pretty sure we went on it three times in a row that night.
22 years after its debut, Star Tours seems pretty dated next to the similar rides at Universal (the now-defunct Back to the Future, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man) and to Disney's own triumphs like the Tower of Terror and Test Track. But the excitement of capturing some "Star Wars" magic in the real world -- some original trilogy "Star Wars" magic -- is still palpable.
That experience is one of the fondest memories of my childhood. Here's hoping Lucas doesn't screw that up, too.