Okay, so today was my annual pass preview of Star Tours and to put it succinctly–totally effin’ awesome! Disneyland ran a sweepstakes for annual passholders to be assigned a window of time on a given day to ride Star Tours. I was lucky enough to get selected for today from 9-1.
Which was awesome. Be warned, I’m going to use the word awesome a lot.
Particularly because Theo was in preschool (it’s the only day of the week that he goes to preschool) so both Kevin and I were able to go. I added my friend Renee to the list, and then was also able to add an internet friend, Chris. The funny thing is that Renee, who is a professional (and amazing) photographer (she does destination photos too–watch this site!) had originally scheduled a photo shoot at 10am, but at the last minute her client had to cancel, which freed her up to come to Disneyland. Was that meant to be or what?
Anyway, I had my “winning” email which gave the time we were supposed to come, the number in our party, and my annual passport number, since the preview was for annual passholders only. When we arrived we had to wait until the whole party was there (both Renee and Chris got stuck in some insane parking lot traffic and ran a bit late), but then we headed to the Star Tours Fast Pass (FP) booth (formerly known as the Buzz Lightyear Fast Pass). I showed the email and we all produced our annual passes, and then got Fast Passes for immediate boarding.
Kevin, Chris, and Renee show off our first passes of the day
The cool thing was that you could go get another FP 30 minutes after the last one. This allowed us to ride four times, and we could have squeezed one more in. If we’d shown up right at 9:00 we could have done it a total of probably seven times, but four was just around right. In fact, four was insanely awesome. We entered into the FP entrance, and the queue inside and the ride itself turned out to be almost exactly 30 minutes, so we were able to just cycle through four times.
Unfortunately Kevin only got to ride it twice, since he had to go back to work and also pick up Theo from preschool.
Thanks for taking one for the team, honey!
I could barely contain my excitement approaching the ride. The cast members were vigilant about restricting access to the ride only to annual passholder sweepstakes winners, so that was kind of cool. Cool for us, I mean. Not really cool for all of the other annual passholders and guests who tried squeezing past the cast members to get in line anyway.
It's all space-agey and stuff
I think first I should let you know that I almost never went on the old Star Tours. I have an extremely sensitive stomach and while the original Star Tours wasn’t insta-hurl, it was an I-gotta-sit-down-after-this thing. I mean, even the carrousel makes me a bit woozy if I’m not specifically paying attention to what I’m watching. Since Star Tours: The Adventure Continues is in 3D, I was particularly concerned about that, but I had to go on it anyway just because I didn’t want to let my blog followers down.
Who am I kidding? I would have ridden this thing with my own airline barf bag if that’s what it took.
The interior of the queue looked almost identical to the original queue. You can watch a big-screen publicity movie about all of the places you could go.
I wanna go there! For realz.
You also meet up with our intrepid friend, C3P0
C3P0 is seriously high-strung
You think you’re almost there when you get to this sign:
Passengers only. No terrorists.
But then you’re not.
Couple more zig-zags. Sorry.
Also in the queue is a robot working on a heat sensor thingie. It actually took me two rides to realize that the figures in screen are you as you walk by.
Kind of trippy
There are quite a few nods to the old ride. In this ride you are piloted by C3P0 and R2D2, but in the old ride you were piloted by this guy, who now hangs out next to the queue.
Pee Wee Herman was the original voice of this guy. No joke.
The 3D glasses are all kinds of cool. Instead of just the generic yellow ones they use at Toy Story Midway Mania, these actually look like nerdy glasses in an endearing way. And for some reason, the glasses completely up your cool factor by a good 300%
Mr. Cool has got it covered.
It’s the perfect opportunity for you to show off how hipster you are.
Renee and Chris in da house, yo.
Or just a fun friends photo opportunity.
I do NOT look like a guy!
Perhaps I should take a moment to explain Star Tours 1.0 before I go into how Star Tours 2.0 is different.
Star Tours is a simulator ride, so you all strap into a seat and there’s a movie screen in front, and then as the movie shows, your car (I mean space cruiser, like the whole room) moves along with you, creating the sensation of actually flying or whatever. As far as I know, Star Tours was the first to utilize this technology for an amusement park. I remember when the ride originally opened in 1987. Disneyland stayed open all day and night for 60 hours to accomodate guests.
Now with the advent of Fast Pass, there won’t be anything like that, and guests will actually have a fighting chance to get on the ride instead of wait in line 4+ hours. For non-Disneyphiles, Fast Pass is a system where on the popular rides, you insert your park ticket into a machine and it gives you a little ticket with a time window. You can then go do other stuff in the park and then return to the ride at your designated time and will get into the line via the Fast Pass entrance, which skips a good portion of the line. There’s only a limited number of Fast Passes available per ride, so if you want to go on Star Tours, then you should run to the Fast Pass distribution as quickly as possible once you get into the park.
Anyway, you board your flight simulator
Move across your designated row to the very end. Don't just pick a seat. This isn't Southwest Airlines.
You’re restrained by a simple seatbelt, and above you there are warning lights to fasten your seatbelt just like an actual plane. A metal screen blocks the movie screen in front of you until the ride starts.
You're almost ready to go!
The biggest and best difference between Star Tours 1.0 and Star Tours 2.0, aside from the 3D glasses, are the opportunities for different rides. There are four different segments of the ride: the opening, the first planet, the transition, and the ending. There are multiple versions of each of these elements, and the placement is more or less randomly determined, so you have 4 chances to get a different ride than the one before. Apparently there are something like 54 possible combinations.
The opening sequence is when your spacecraft leaves its hangar. There are two openings and we were lucky enough to get to see both of them. In one you’re kind of a doofus and blunder out of the flight deck, and in the other you meet Darth Vader who tries to stop you. Darth is my favorite.
You shoot through your first adventure scene, and then blast off into a warp or whatever it’s called, which is like a wormhole and is totally awesome because the stars are all whizzing past you and stuff. Then you come out on the other side to a planet where you will have your first chase/shooting scene. We landed on the ice planet of Hoth where you’re chasing bad guys and trying to avoid the AT-AT walkers, which if you aren’t up on your Star Wars movies are the things that look like giant badass metal elephants with blasters in their tusks. We also landed on a Wookiee planet, which according to my Standard Research Methodology is called Kashyyyk. Chewbacca is a wookiee and looks like all kind of cute and cuddly except that he packs as much firepower as Rambo. On the Kashyyyk, the wookiees are not cute and cuddly. They still pack the same amount of firepower and they want to kill you. You speed through Kashyyyk on what looks like a flying snowmobile–well you’re in your space cruiser, but the storm troopers are on flying snowmobiles. At first I thought we were on Endor, but it became very clear that we were dealing with wookiees and not ewoks very early in the scene.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a short break to watch the movies. The originals. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Just those.
Okay really, I’m kidding. You honestly don’t have to have seen a single Star Wars movie or know who any of the characters are in order to enjoy the ride. If you’re familiar with the franchise it does add a small recognition element, but you’re not going to be lost or confused if you haven’t seen the movies. It’s pretty straightforward–the bad guys are the ones shooting at you, and our intrepid pilots are not really all that skilled.
Next you meet your transition character. We saw Admiral Ackbar, Yoda, and Princess Leia. They give a little spiel that I really was too excited to actually listen to (yes, all four times–except the last time when everyone was cheering so loudly you couldn’t hear what Princess Leia was saying anyway). Then you space warp again and enter into a final scene, which again is a chase scene and you reach your conclusion. We landed on Jar-Jar Binks’ planet, Naboo, twice. Now I know what you’re saying becuase I said it too–I DID NOT PAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS AND HOURS OF MY TIME TO SEE JAR-JAR-FREAKIN’-BINKS! But there’s good news, my friends! Jar-Jar’s part is actually very small. He only pollutes your experience for a short time and has a couple of lines, and they really dialed back his idiotic tone from the deranged adolescent chimp voice to a mostly unnoticeable, more subtle voice. The other planet we visited was Coruscant, the Imperial city planet. This is urban warfare at its best, if your urban area included a lot of flying vehicles, bad people, and fire. Coruscant included an in-cabin effect we didn’t encounter in any of the other planets, so it was very cool that not only did they switch up the destinations, they also switch up the effects.
Finally you make what is best described as a rough landing (rougher in some scenes than others) and your adventure is over. It’s a good, long ride, and very satisfying. They are supposed to randomize each of the four elements, but the our first and third rides were exactly the same. The second and forth switched it up a little, which was fun. It’s definitely a ride to ride over and over again. Even when we got the same scenes, I found myself noticing different elements. Disney doesn’t half-ass anything, and they spared no expense on making this incredible ride.
I didn’t take pictures while the ride was moving. Sorry. For one, no flash photography, but two, I just wanted to enjoy the ride which is hard to do when you’re trying to take pictures of it. So there.
Following the ride you have a photo op in which a cast member may or may not insert himself.
The ride was very cool every time, but it was really intensely awesome on our fourth ride. It was later in the window–nearly the end of our riding, and every single person on the ride had ridden it earlier. It made the ride a total communal experience. Everyone went crazy when we saw Darth Vader and again at Princess Leia. People were cracking jokes and cheering for the good guys the whole way. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I’ve never had a better group riding experience than our last ride. It was like when you watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show with a big group of people who know every line and know where to laugh and cheer. Except on a family-friendly ride at Disneyland. Awesome.
After four rides we were definitely tapped out. We grabbed an extra set of Fast Passes for souvenirs.
I took this picture at night with artificial lighting, okay?
The exit gift store was selling some cool stuff, particularly the commemorative coins. They are coins that were specially minted for the annual passholder preview. Only 2011 coins were made, so of course I had to pay my $30 and buy one. Mine is numbered 906, but I think Chris’s is numbered in the 300s. Still, I wouldn’t expect these to last very long.
It's a reflection of me taking the picture!
It looks better in real light. Really.
Anyway, I give Star Tours a three thumbs up, borrowing someone else’s thumb to do it. Oh, and as far as motion sickness goes, I was convinced that it was going to be even worse than the old Star Tours because it was in 3D, but it really wasn’t! I was barely even queasy, particularly considering that we rode the ride four consecutive times in two hours.
It was really awesome. Don’t miss it on your next trip here.