Nuggets of Wisdom

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Disney World Attractions (#2)

#2: Star Tours

What can I say about Star Wars? As with the Muppets, it’s one of those franchises that everyone loves. I certainly do. I love everything about it. I love the original trilogy. I love the new movie. I even love the prequel trilogy—unironically! And you bet your Wookie that I love the Star Tours ride at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Of course, the story of the ride itself started long ago, in a galaxy far, far away—well, actually, it takes place in the mid-1980s in Anaheim, California.

Michael Eisner had since taken his position as Disney’s new CEO. One of his main goals was to revitalize the image of the Disney parks. This included adding new attractions to Tomorrowland, which had then remained relatively untouched since the 1960s—thus making it more akin to Yesterdayland.

However, at that time, Disney did not have that many science-fiction movies or properties. So what was Disney to do? Licensing, of course!

Eisner, being much more in-tune with mainstream pop culture than his predecessors, decided to license several outside properties in order to import them into the Disney parks, specifically Tomorrowland, as E-ticket attractions.

One of those attractions was Captain EO, a 3-D music video with all of the workings of a blockbuster film, starring a relatively unknown musician called—oh, who was he again? Oh yes—Michael fricking Jackson!

And believe it or not, there was even going to be a ride based off of the Alien movies. The ride itself would have had guests wielding laser guns to shoot and fight off aliens based off of the movie. However, the ride was never created, as Disney executives realized that the movies were far too scary to be made into a ride at family-friendly Disneyland. However, the ride’s concept would later be incorporated into a ride at Disney World called Extra-terror-estrial Alien Encounter—otherwise known as THE SCARIEST F***KING DISNEY RIDE EVER! (Yes, I did ride it at a very young age. However did you guess?!?)

But by far the best ride in that era to arrive to Tomorrowland (and later, Disney Hollywood Studios) would be Star Tours, the very first motion simulator ride to utilize military-grade simulation technology.

In the hands of any other amusement park, the attraction would have simply been a cut-and-dry space battle where guests fight alongside the Rebels to destroy the Death Star. In the hands of Disney, on the other hand, the ride is much more casual and unique, and I think that adds to its overall charm.

Instead of Rebel star fighters, guests are instead passengers at an airport-style facility waiting for their trips to one of the many planets in the Star Wars universe. Hijinks ensue as their novice pilot, Rex (voiced by Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Rubens), takes them on a wild ride as they miss their destination to the Endor moon, careen through a comet, and even find themselves in the middle of the battle between the Rebels and Empire at the Death Star.

Originally, the attraction was going to have multiple simulators with different rides to different destinations, but because that would have been more expensive, the ride was limited to the trip to Endor. However, 23 years later, the original vision of the ride was brought to fruition when it was refurbished in 2011 as Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.

Like the previous version of the ride, you’re passengers en route to one of the many destinations in the Star War universe, only this time, instead of Rex, your pilots are a reluctant C-3PO and R2-D2. This time around, your trip is intercepted by the Empire looking for a Rebel spy who's boarded your flight. Now you're in a race against the Empire in order to get the spy safely to the Rebel Alliance.

One of the major upgrades to the ride, aside from the CGI and 3D effects, is how it randomly offers different rides. On one ride, you could be racing through the forests of the Wookie planet; on another, you could find yourself as an accidental racer in a pod race on Tattooine. You can find yourself traveling to Hoth or Nabuu or Coresanct, with each and every ride offering a different experience.

I know many fans have complained that the ride is a downgrade, but in my opinion, it's certainly an upgrade. The CGI effects are better, the 3D effects are better, and the fact that ever ride is completely different makes it all the more worth riding again and again.

Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilms in 2011, the company certainly have proven themselves worthy of the franchise. Not only have they provided a great update to a great ride, but the new movie has certainly made up for the disappointment of the prequel trilogy. I certainly have high hopes for the new Star Wars-themed land coming to Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios later this year.

With everything looking up for Disney in control of the Star Wars franchise, the company could very well be the one to bring balance to the Force!