I was ten when Star Tours opened its doors for the first time. I remember only a few things; a REALLY long line, amazing robots talking to me who reminded me of Johnny 5, my feet in so much pain my toes were numb by the time I got to the front of the line and being barely tall enough to go on it. I remember feeling like such a grown up going on a grown up ride, because at the time, I wasn’t really into Star Wars, in fact I hadn’t even seen it and all the people who wanted to go were older than me. Star Wars itself was something I learned to appreciate much later in life and only secondary to Star Trek. Yes, that’s right – first and foremost, I will always be a Trekie. Deal with it and let us move on now, yes?
I remember going into “hyperspace” for the first time and feeling like it was completely real- I believed I was going faster than the speed of light and it was amazing! I have a vague memory of the comet and actually being genuinely worried we were going to run into the fuel ship at the end. I honestly don’t remember much else from that first experience, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve been on it since throughout the last decade and I have scores of wonderful memories from going with family, boyfriends, grad night, the first time I went on it with my husband and now, a new memory of our first baby-switch experience the day after opening day of the refurbished Star Tours.
My first impression was, “oooh shiny!” everything is beautiful- brand new, painted, redone and pretty. Sort of. On the surface, that’s true- the sign outside, the updated wait time counter, the fresh coat of paint on R2 and C3P0 inside, the grating all pretty and a better digital screen showing scenes of potential vacation spots you may visit.
There were some changes in the line, robots, voices, tasks they are completing, and our dear Rex, now removed from the cockpit and placed in line, broken and outdated. Kind of sad, but an homage to the past and a nice touch for those who look for nostalgia like that.
Our dear “eyebrow” lady telling us our safety tips has gone the way of many a hard working American and been replaced with a robot. Same speech, no eyebrows. They’ve updated the video you watch entirely with new passengers and what not, but otherwise, identical. Again, all new and pretty – this area was a perfect replica of itself, but newer and less dated. Now, in another decade, we may not think so- but for now, it looks great.
Getting in the shuttle-
What I noticed was the pretty, shiny and new all seemed to stop once I got into the shuttle. The seats were obviously the same ones, the armrests were the same, lacking the feeling of new material and the seatbelts were the same, looking worn with chipped paint. I could tell everything had been cleaned to the point where I felt bad for whoever had the job of taking a wire toothbrush and bleach to each crevice making sure it was pristine. And that it was, but it was old and I had expected a complete referb. Not bad, just not what I had expected.
Now the ride itself. I’m not going to spoil the experience by going into too much detail here and whatever my nit-picky opinion is, I still say- go on it yourself and decide on your own. What I will say is the overall experience felt nearly identical to the original. There were some great effects with sound, lighting, movement and 3D technology. I was impressed with the storytelling mix-and-match feature in which everyone got a different journey. Because we did the baby-switch, I got a different voyage than my husband. We were able to compare notes later and see what was different. They boast a total of 53 different possible outcomes in storyline but there are a few things that seem to be constant. I went to Hoth and he went to Tatooine. I got to survive a near-death experience on a mountain top after dodging almost being crushed by AT-AT’s and he got to be in a pod race. We both almost got shot in an asteroid belt and fly through the Death Star, go into hyperspace and deliver a rebel spy unscathed to safety. Somehow, I feel like he got the much nicer version. Pod race vs. almost certain death… Hmm…. does that seem fair?? SO yeah. That’s that, all in all, similar themes to the original and there were things I both liked and things I didn’t so much. Overall my assessment is as follows:
Originality: Two light sabers. The story was different but the theme was the same. There was some running, chasing, following, dodging, Death Starring and that’s all very well and good, but it’s kind of like someone covering an old song. It might seem new, but it’s really just a modern version of the same old thing.
Use of available technology: Three light sabers. I thought the use of 3D glasses was unnecessary considering you’re supposed to be in a shuttle. In a shuttle, everything will appear outside your windows. In a shuttle, you don’t have asteroids blasting out at you so there’s no reason to make them 3D. I thought a better approach would be to have utilized the new 3D screens themselves, so those images of what’s outside the windows actually felt three dimensional without taking away from the realism by giving people glasses to wear. I also felt the motion of the shuttle was a little lacking in realism. Going into hyperspace just wasn’t as hyper as it used to be and left me wanting more.
Expression of available storyline: Only one light saber here- I felt they missed a tremendous opportunity to expand upon the vision using anything from the Clone Wars animated series, to video game storylines and beyond. There is literally, multiple universes out there they could have and for some reason chose not to explore and that made me sad.
Line: Two light sabers. With a fast past, it’s a breeze by comparison, but half of the line is still outside with no covering. Just be sure to get there when the park opens to get your fast pass or you’ll miss your chance. We got our’s before 9am and there wasn’t an available opening for fast past until 3:15. So get there early and plan on a long day. We made it into the park only 30 minutes after it opened and the line was already 2 hours long. The line just to get a fast pass was 20 minutes. As for going on the ride without a fast pass; not much would be worth baking in the sun for over an hour and a half before you even get to the in-doors portion of the line. I ended up with a sun burn even with a fast pass. My advice, get to the park before they open and go straight there. Or just wait until the novelty of the shiny new toy wears off and go when the line isn’t so long.
Cast Member/Magic experience: Out of a scale of five, I’m only giving three, as I was underwhelmed by the cast members attending this ride. They seemed to be one of two things; hyper controlling jerks or unenthusiastic idiots. There were very few middle of the road people, and more who didn’t seem to know what was going on than did and things were disorganized. Guests would ask questions and instead of the answer or, even an “I’m not sure but let’s find out for you” it was “um…. Well, I don’t know, sorry I can’t help you, maybe the person at the front of the line can answer your question.” The cast members attending the line were harsh and abrasive, telling people what to do rather than helping them have a good experience. I’ve seen this more times than not, and I admit, I’m biased. I was a cast member and I know how it’s done and I take personal offense when it’s done incorrectly. I will not have my magic experience taken away just because you are a type A crazy person who needs to prove you are better than everyone else or let you get some power trip off of talking down to people. So there. I gave it three because there were a small few that were truly focused on providing an amazing guest experience and they were awesome.
Total average light sabers- Three light sabers. To sum up; there are a lot of cool new features on top of the same old ride. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, I really did, but the whole experience left me wanting more. Maybe I’m too critical, but I feel they missed the mark in one too many places for me to really LOVE LOVE LOVE this new ride. I probably won’t go on it again until the craze dies down and the line is back down to a respectable 35 minutes or less.
Have you been on it yet? Do you agree or disagree? Your thoughts and opinions are welcome!
Here are a few pictures I took: