There's that saying that goes "when it rains, it pours" and that's certainly true when it comes to announcements from Disney regarding changes to the parks. Last weekend, Disney announced a new version of Star Tours as well as some changes to Muppetvision 3D (along with some more changes to other parks that this column isn't interested in). The changes represent the focus of the future for Hollywood Studios over the next few years and confirms some rumors that had been out there for years. What do these changes mean for the Studios? What is the final product we're going to see? Are these changes good? These are some of the many questions these changes raised at the very same time answering some major questions.
Let's start with the big news, which is Star Tours 2. At D23, Disney Parks Chairman Jay Rasulo announced a new edition of Star Tours would be coming to Hollywood Studios and Disneyland, to be completed in 2011. Work begins in October 2010 and at first, I was curious why it was taking so long to just begin working on the project, but upon further examination, Disney's fiscal calendar begins on October 1st. My guess is that the budget for 2009-2010, which begins on October 1, 2009, was set and/or maxed out and so the budget for Star Tours 2 couldn't be financed until the next fiscal year and makes sense as to why it would take so long.
The most intriguing aspect of the new ride is the 3D technology along with the promise of things "that have never been done before in theme park attractions". This excites me because when it comes to innovating theme park attractions, Disney certainly is the best at it and that means Disney isn't just creating a new film. Rather, they are truely redoing Star Tours from the ground up and we can expect a completely new experience, both visually and from our other senses. I applaud Disney for going the extra mile and not just doing what we all expected and instead raising the bar for what an attraction update can be.
These days, Star Tours usually has a very short wait or none at all. It has a lot of capacity and its popularity wanes compared to the attractions on Sunset Boulevard or Toy Story Midway Mania and while I expect the new version to renew interest in Star Tours, it's still considered by some "an intense" attraction and therefore, don't expect the wait times to balloon skyward because of the change. There's no doubt in my mind that longer lines will persist, but I'm glad Disney is getting around to updating this attraction as it's due.
What we know about Star Tours 2 is we've seen a film clip that is about 30 seconds long and centers around a pod racing scene. As a Star Wars fan, I wasn't exactly thrilled when I saw it. Yes, I was excited to know a new Star Tours ride was coming, but I was dissapointed pod racing was selected to be at least part of the attraction because the entire pod racing scene from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was, well, dumb and un-necessary. It's come to light that the ride may in fact center around many other worlds and pod racing will not be the center focus of the film, so all is not lost. I was hoping for something closer to the other rumors out there of a Star Tours featuring a few different films and you can either choose a destination or get a random film, which would play right into the whole story line of Star Tours being a galactic tour guide, and while it isn't that, I'm not upset with the new attraction by any means nor am I labeling it a failure. Like a spoiled child, I lament over what I could have had and not what I have.
Overall, I'm pleased with the announcement of the new Star Tours. I think because the rumor of this sort of a change have been out there for so many years now, I'm not surprised by the announcement so my enthusiasm for it is somewhat diminished. It's like when you think you know what you're getting for your birthday all year and then you get it and while happy to get it, the thrill of getting an unknown gift isn't there. Considering it's going to be at least a year and some change before we get to ride the new Star Tours (and very likely longer than that since 2011 is the only time frame we have), I'm going to have to remember that patience is a virtue and wait for Disney to unwrap their latest surprise.
Next week I'll take a look at Muppetvision and look at the changes that have been announced and speculate as to what could be coming with that change as well as looking to the future of what we can expect.