Out With the Old...
(Old) Star Tours Exterior
Had the chance to ride the revamped Star Tours (2.0? 3D? the Adventure Continues?) this past Sunday. Here are my 99% spoiler free thoughts.
The best way I could describe the attraction is that it's the original Star Tours rejuvenated. The skeletal frame of the Star Tours you knew and loved is very much still intact. You still shuffle into a hangar bay where R2 almost blows up the Starspeeder. You still proceed to a room full of droids doing menial tasks. You still board a Starspeeder and end up going on a journey where everything seems to go wrong but your somewhat inept pilot still manages to bumble his way through. Like I said: this is still Star Tours. It's not a new ride, or even a sequel really, at all: this is a reboot.
That said, the upgraded technology is both welcome and amazing. The 3D screens are incredibly crisp and immersive, never looking like a "film" like the dated Star Tours film of old. The ride experience is even more action-packed, with near non-stop thrills and more boisterous cabin movement. The animatronics in the queue all seem upgraded, especially the C3PO figure which seems to be a newer technology AA figure with much more lifelike movement displaying fine detail. Plus, there are plenty of little nods to Star Wars lore, the original Star Tours, and even Disney and Pixar franchises. It's great to be able to go through a queue and pick out little details for the first time. This is the Disney you love.
While I think the refresh is almost unilaterally a success in every way, I can't say it's perfect. The word "heavy handed" was uttered as our group got about halfway through the queue and I feel like if this attraction has a fault that may be it. At times the ride can almost be a tad too self aware. References and nods often cross over from subtle to slamming you over the head blatant. In addition, I'm sure a few may feel the ride is a bit too frenetic and video-game like, constantly throwing action and peril at you. The experience, at least the variation I saw, could have benefitted from a few more quiet moments to soak it all in. However, I'm sure repeat viewings will dull the kinetic energy a bit as you begin to know what to expect, so maybe the imagineers made the right call and designed it for those riding it for the 50th time rather than the 1st. It's a better long term strategy for sure, but time will tell.
Still, those are minor, potential quibbles. I love that Star Tours is relevant all over again, and I'm pumped to ride it again and again and see what variations I get. It's exciting to know that I'll need to ride this thing for years before I could even hope to see every variation. This is a new breed of attraction for a new era: the first ride designed for annual passholders and repeat visitors. I think what we see here may prove the design seeds of how Disney attractions stay relevant as the century progresses. This self-awareness of Disney fans and their repeat visits is certainly something new, and it seems to be manifesting in interesting ways, both good and bad. I feel like it's something Disney will refine more and more as time goes on as it's very new territory right now. Either way, it's still exciting.
At the end of the day I think the only thing that matters is whether guests feel compelled to ride an attraction beyond the first ride. Anything less is a failure. By that metric, I think Star Tours is undoubtedly a success. It's a fun, exciting, Star Wars themed adventure, just as it always was, but with even more reason to go back and visit it again and again. I'm glad they took the time to bring it back to life rather than let it rot in the past or replace it with something completely new. I know Disney fans are impossible to please as they simultaneously crave new things and hate change, but what they did with this ride might be the just the answer Disney was looking for.