Star Tours as we know it is on it's way out, to be replaced by Star Tours 2 starting in September. Before we lose this classic Disney attraction forever, let's take a look at the story of the attraction and what we, as guests, are meant to understand. Some of it is obvious while other aspects can be a little harder to grasp.
Let's start with the outside of Star Tours. Like all attractions in Hollywood Studios, you need to pretend you're at a film studio and in the case of Star Tours, we are in the Backlot area of the park, having passed that fake guard booth near Backlot Express that marks the separation between "Hollywood" and the "movie backlot". Star Tours is in a sound stage, which is a building where movies are filmed. The exterior of the sound stage depicts the scene from the moon of Endor, complete with Ewok village and AT-AT walker.
Think of the outside area as a place where they can film the moon of Endor scene because it won't fit inside the sound stage. Knowing that the attraction is supposed to take us to Endor, why would we be seeing the moon before the ride? In film production, much of the time scenes are filmed out of order and in this case, we actually see the end before we experience the beginning or middle.
Next, we pass underneath the Walker, we notice if we look behind us that the AT-AT walker isn't fully decorated and the other side of it isn't there. This is an example of a classic movie trick where set designers only need to make enough of a prop or scene for whatever the camera sees. There's no sense in spending time, effort and money on something that will never be seen in the film, so the AT-AT walker is only decorated on two-thirds of the body because the other third will never be seen by the camera.
Moving past the AT-AT, we now leave the moon of Endor set and into the sound stage, stage 12 to be exact. This particular part of the queue, the entrance to the stage, is meant to separate you from the next scene and plays a part in setting the story that you are on a movie studio. A large sign overhead lets you know this is a "Hot Set", which means filming is actively occurring here.
If you look to your left or right, you'll notice the walls and this part of the queue in general has no theme. There are mostly bare walls and the only sign of set design is at the end of the queue before the queue turns right. Again, this part of the queue isn't going to be filmed in the movie, so no need to decorate. If you take some time, you'll also notice the chairs for the two big stars of the film, R2-D2 and C3PO.
There's even postings for the crew of the film shoot, with all sorts of relevant information if you were a working crew member on this film shoot and needed to find pertinent information either about the film, studio or something else in the area like the blood drive or aerobics classes available. Being in the sound stage, this is where the crew will spend much of their time and need a central location for any information that needs to be posted.
But as soon as you turn the corner to your right...
...you're right in the middle of the next scene in the film, the Star Tours room with the stars of the film, C3PO and R2-D2. Since this room is going to be seen from many angles (hence the winding queue), nearly all of this room is themed, including the ceiling and floors. Filming in this scene could occur anywhere and it starts the story of the attraction, where we see a giant screen telling us all about what the Star Tours company can do for us, like bring us to exotic planets in the galaxy.
Next, we pan over to C3PO and R2-D2, who are talking to each other about repairing the Starspeeder 3000. This conversation drops hints to the audience of what to expect, as the two work to repair the space ship for it's next cruise. The two also mention some of their travels together that have been well documented in the original Star Wars trilogy. The Starspeeder sports some damage on it's side, another sign of what's to come.
The next scene is the droid room and there are two parts to this area, labelled Sector 2. The first part of the area features G2-9T, seen working on an older astromech droid named R5-D2. G2-9T is busy working on this droid in hopes of repairing him. Clearly, he's much more interested in making conversation than doing his work and this also marks the entrance of another main character in the film: you! G2-9T's comments to guests in the queue are a means of bringing the guest into the plot of the film.
He asks questions such as assistance in repairing the droid and if we know anything about these type of droids. Given that G2-9T isn't doing much actual work, an overseer voice constantly reminds him that he will be shutdown unless work progresses. It doesn't and G2-9T is shut down "for reloading of labor programs" and we move on to the next scene.
Next is G2-4T, who looks a lot like G2-9T but is in a more senior position in the work rank and is like a foreman for the other workers. He's in charge of Sector 2 and tries to get information to you and everyone else. He jokes about the safety of the Starspeeder, another hint of what's to come. Before we can fully figure out why it may not be a great idea to take a ride on Starspeeder, G2-4T is shut down as well for lack of production and we move onto the boarding area.
Since this area is going to be seen completely in the film, all areas of the boarding zone are decorated and it's another immersive room. The preboarding film tells us not only how to board the Star Speeder 3000 but plays the role of suspending our disbelief and furthering the plot of the film that we are going to the moon of Endor.
We are promptly boarded where the main story of the film is shown and this is pretty self explanatory. Your pilot, RX-24, is piloting for the first time. If you pay attention, there's a sticker on him that says "Remove before flight", as if he has just come from the droid factory and someone hasn't properly set him to operate. Now the focus of the film shifts to the screen ahead of us and we fix our attention on the flight path of the Star Speeder.
And that is basically it. You exit the ride after and once you emerge into the gift shop, the theme once more disappears from the walls until we emerge into the gift shop, which has its own theme of being in Tattooine. Having completed the attraction, we've also finished the story of the film and you've experienced everything that the plot of this "film" called for.
Note that some photos in this article were used from Flickr