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Star Tours: An epic update

This past weekend saw the soft opening of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and I was lucky enought to be on hand for the first ride as well as subequent rides after that.  After riding Star Tours a number of times, I've come to the same conclusion many others seeminly have: this ride is amazing.

After riding it, I knew I liked it but I tried to nail down exactly why I thought Star Tours was so good.  In the end, I really believe it's the details.  And the details are what makes most Disney World rides so much better than the competition.  There's so much detail in the ride and queue that it made the new Star Tours so much more than just a film update.

While the ride is really, really cool, I think the place to start is the queue.  If there's one thing that has radically changed over the last 10 years or so it's the queues at Disney World.  Queues used to be like the ones we see in Fantasyland. Dull and boring switchbacks that are just a glorified corral to keep guests in until it is their turn to ride.   But recently, we've seen a big change.   I remember Tower of Terror being the first attraction that I noticed that the queue was more than just a line.  The spectular detail in the hotel lobby and even the creepy hotel grounds outside set the story.  Likewise, the queue at Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom redefined once again what a good queue is.  Suddenly, ride queues had become a part of the story telling process just as much as the ride itself.  

The queue at Star Tours follows the path set by other attractions.  It establishes the feeling of a star port but also conveys a lot of great information and subltle nods.  Since I'm staying spoiler free I wont give specific examples, but the queue in Star Tours is something you need to take time and look at.  If there's a 45 minute wait or longer, take that as a good thing because that will give you plenty of time to enjoy the hidden details in the queue.

The ride doesn't disappoint either.  It's a high-energy, thrilling trip through space that takes us to places in the Star Wars galaxy that we've always dreamed of.  The various planets you will visit are exquisitly designed and the visuals are stunning.  Like the queue, there's a lot of great detail and even if you see the same planet twice, be sure to watch the details in the background as you will find lots of easter eggs that Imagineers have hidden.

Regarding the random ride sequences, we've heard that there will be 54 possible ride scenarios but after riding I think that's a tad bit misleading.  Or rather, I think we've all assumed that to mean something it isn't.  There aren't 54 completely different films to see, but rather a set of ride elements (11 to be exact) that you can see in varying orders.  Think of it like the random ride sequence at the Tower of Terror.  One ride on Tower might give you a quick drop, then a full rise, then two quick drops.  The next ride might be a full drop, half rise, quick drop, full rise, full drop.  You're still rising and dropping, it's just a different order and Star Tours is similar.  You may visit one planet in two different rides, but you will likely see different planets as well or in different orders.

I'm not complaining about the random rides, I just think people's expectations need to be aligned better.  The randomization definitely makes Star Tours a ride you want to ride over and over again.  And combined with all the hidden details, it's a real winner.  To me, the worst reaction someone can have after riding a new ride is "That was good, but I don't need to ride again".  On Star Tours, everyone I ran into was even more eager to hop back in line and check it out again.

Star Tours officially opens on May 20 and I'm interested to see how the ride fares in terms of crowds and demand, especially after Star Wars Weekends are over and we get somewhat more "normal" crowd conditions.  As a Star Wars fan, I am thrilled to have a Star Wars attraction that we can be proud of once again and a ride people are talking about.  I definitely feel that Star Tours is now back in the top 5 attractions for Hollywood Studios quite easily.  Is in the top 3? Well, that would be a discussion for a different day but you could make the argument for it.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 by