It has been a long time since the end of the Clone Wars, and the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader continues to tighten his grip on the Empire as the galaxy moves closer to the brink of a great civil war.
A new intergalactic spaceline, Star Tours, seeks to preserve unrestricted intergalactic travel in this age of tyranny. Freedom fighter Captain Raymus Antilles has assigned two droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, to help launch the spaceline, fueling Imperial suspicion that Star Tours is part of the Rebel Alliance.
Star Tours is about to open its first intergalactic space terminal in the Earth System as rumors of a fearsome weapon of mass destruction dash all hopes for peace and freedom in the galaxy…
As a young teenager I will never forget the first time I walked through Disney’s MGM Studios and was greeted by the giant AT-AT Walker protruding from the Ewok village. This was a moment I had dreamed of since watching Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi over and over again. There was no imaginary universe that I spent more time in than the Star Wars universe. I dreamed of becoming a Jedi knight like Luke Skywalker.
When I arrived at Star Tours, I wanted to spend hours just soaking in the Ewok village that sets the stage outside. Even today, I can’t walk under the giant AT-AT walker without imagining myself shooting a tow cable up to the belly of the beast and slicing a hole with my lightsaber to toss a thermal detonator inside. Needless to say, I am a Star Wars nerd. Those that know me really well know I am recording today’s podcast sitting next to my collection of over 70 original Star Wars figures and ships. It is fair to say I’m a little excited about exploring my all-time favorite Walt Disney World ride.
Star Tours- The Adventure Continues is a motion simulator ride that takes you on high thrill journey into the dogfight between the evil Empire and the heroic Rebellion. Even if you are not a huge Star Wars fan, I believe this ride can be a lot of fun. Of course, to have fun you need a good ship. Fortunately, I know a ship that might suit us. She is called the Starspeeder 1000. What, you’ve never heard of the Starspeeder 1000? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs! No wait, I’m thinking of another ship, but this one will still do the job nicely. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, please pause the podcast and go watch Star Wars: A New Hope. Before you get on board your Starspeeder 1000, you get to wind through the elaborate queue of Star Tours- The Adventure Continues.
The detailed outdoor scene brings to life icons from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi. After you pass through the forest of Endor and the Ewok village, you enter the interior of Star Tours. This line of star speeders was created to transport space tourists across the galaxy. In the first room you can see a huge screen showing departures to multiple locations, similar to the departures and arrivals screen at an airport. There is also a life-size Starspeeder 1000 being worked on by R2-D2 and C-3PO. Seeing these two famous droids in real life gets me excited every time!
Announcements are made overhead about upcoming flights and several other droids greet you along your way to the docking station. It doesn’t take long to arrive at the flight gate. Here you are given 3-D glasses to wear once on board. Before the doors to your Starspeeder 1000 are opened, you get to see the final preparations on the screen above. Your pilot, AC-38 or Ace, gets called away during the final prep. C-3PO boards the speeder to make some repairs to the ships binary motivator. Meanwhile, another droid named Aly San San comes on screen to give final instructions before boarding.
As the gate doors open, you are greeted with the glorious sound of the Star Wars anthem as the previous crew disembarks. You fill in the empty seats and your flight is about to begin!
If you rode Star Tours prior to 2011, you will remember a different experience from the updated ride of today. In its original form, the ride took place during the time frame of Return of The Jedi. Tourists were being taken on a peaceful excursion to the moon of Endor. Unfortunately, your rookie pilot Rex, made a series of wrong turns. The resulting mayhem bounced riders around as they narrowly escaped a Star Destroyer and then went on a run to help destroy the Death Star. The ride featured a couple of jumps to light speed and was a ton of fun. Now, I could probably have continued riding that version of Star Tours until the Tauntauns came home. However, others complained that the ride became a little played out and dated. With the expansion of the Star Wars universe through Episodes I, II, and III, there was opportunity to refresh the ride.
In Star Tours- The Adventure Continues, riders are actually taken back in time. This version of the ride takes place in between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope. This timeline allowed George Lucas and the Disney Imagineers to create a Star Wars adventure that covers the newly expanded universe. Of course, this meant some elements from the original ride would have to go away. If you miss Rex, the rookie pilot, you can still find him in the queue of the ride. Remember, this timeline takes place before he gets his big break. Look for RX-24 as you pass droid customs in the queue and give him a little wave.
With the new timeline and story in place, riders are in for a special treat. Rather than have a single storyline that riders repeat over and over, the ride now has multiple destinations that are randomly generated. With the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, there are now even more worlds to explore. You might get to travel to Jakku! Each ride begins the same way: you board the ship, buckle in, store your carry-on items below your seat, and put on your 3-D glasses. Next, you see C-3PO still working on the ship from the captain’s chair. Much to 3PO’s dismay, the ship’s doors close and the star speeder begins take off. It seems R2 is up to another one of his secret missions and whatever space travel plans you had have gone out the window.
Leaving the spaceport is the first scene with two different possible scenarios. You could be docked next to the Millennium Falcon, or you could be face to face with Darth Vader. In either scenario, your speeder is scanned as a group of Storm Troopers are looking for a Rebel Spy. Turns out the spy is in your midst, and may even be you! More on that in just a bit. For now, you have to break free and hightail it out of there.
When you are free of the spaceport, you have to do some fancy flight maneuvers to avoid the crossfire of an epic space battle. After you are clear, you make the jump to light speed and are safely away. Next up, you may come out of hyperspace and find yourself in the ice planet of Hoth, the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk, or the desert planet of Tatooine. Depending on your destination, you will either be flying alongside snow speeders as you avoid huge imperial walkers, be dodging speeder bikes in the forest, or racing Sebulba in the Boonta Eve Podrace.
Once you escape the excitement of this leg of the journey, you fly back into space where you stop to receive a hologram message. This message will come from either Master Yoda, Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar, or BB-8. Regardless of the messenger, each will task you with safe delivery of the rebel spy aboard your ship. They then give R2-D2 the coordinates for the rendezvous point.
When the hologram ends, it is once again time to make the jump to light speed. The thrust of the Starspeeder throws your head back as the screen ahead is filled with the blue lines of hyperspace. When you exit this time you will be in Coruscant, Naboo, or Geonosis. Now you will have to deal with buzz droids, under water sea monsters, or the fearsome bounty hunter Boba Fett and his ship the Slave 1. Each final scene brings the ride to a close in a unique way, leaving each rider with their heart racing.
When your ship is safely docked, the doors to your right are opened. Your five minute space adventure has come to a close, but there are many more awaiting you. What you just experienced was 1 of 96 different journeys! Every ride is randomized, meaning you could return and have the exact same experience, or you could ride Star Tours the rest of the day and never see the same thing twice. This element makes this a ride you will want to experience more than once. I think I average about 3 rides per visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Now, I realize not everyone will fall in love with this ride the way I have. My parents have not been on Star Tours in years because they felt a little too queasy after experiencing the motion simulation long ago. While I am prone to a little motion sickness myself, it has never been a problem for me on Star Tours. If you are worried about motion sickness I suggest requesting a seat on one of the front 2-3 rows. The back row is the roughest for those prone to queasiness, but can also be the most fun for thrill-seekers.
Fastpass + is available for Star Tours- The Adventure Continues, and comes in handy if you plan to ride in the middle of the day or want to get in multiple rides. However, Fastpass + is not necessary if you ride early. I like to start my day at Star Tours as soon as the park opens. I just got back from visiting the Studios this past week and I did just that. I went straight to Star Tours and rode the ride back-to-back without a Fastpass +. There was no line, and I walked right on both times.
While I was riding Star Tours, my parents went straight to Toy Story Midway Mania. My wife was back at the resort that morning so I got my Star Wars fix solo style. I have probably been on this ride as a single rider more than any other in the parks. However, I am very happy to say that I have found a couple of little riders that will follow me for years to come.
One of my all time favorite Disney memories was made last year when I took my twin nephews on the ride for the first time. They were just tall enough to reach the 40” height requirement. Neither of them were familiar with the Star Wars universe just yet. They had seen R2-D2 before and they knew their Uncle B was a big fan of whatever this Star Wars thing was. As we climbed aboard our Starspeeder 1000, I had one nephew on each side of me. Now, one is a little more cautious than the other when it comes to rides, so I was a little unsure of how he would handle things. This ride is intense! The sudden movements involved in space flight can throw you around quite a bit. Well, I watched him with great delight as his apprehension turned to excitement the more the ride went along. On the other side of me his brother was screaming, “This is awesome, this is awesome!” every time our ship made the jump to light speed. When we came off that ride the first time the three of us shared an expression of pure joy. I took 2 nephews on board and came out with 2 little padawans. Their love for Star Wars was sparked that day and has only grown since. This past Halloween they were Darth Vader and a Clone Trooper.
Of course we rode Star Tours- The Adventure Continues more than once that trip! On our second or third ride, one of the boys was selected as the Rebel Spy. I mentioned this earlier, but let me explain in detail. The Rebel Spy is the critical piece of the plot in the ride’s story. What better way to have some fun than to incorporate an audience member into the story. The Stormtroopers scan of your vehicle is followed by a quick shuffle of different faces on the screen ahead. Finally, the scan stops and lands on one face. That face belongs to someone on board that particular flight. When it landed on my nephew’s face it was pure Disney magic! He was now a part of the story. When we got off the ride he couldn’t wait to tell his Mom and Dad that he was the Rebel Spy. In a genius marketing move, you can purchase a t-shirt inside Tatooine Traders saying, “I am the Rebel Spy”. What kid wouldn’t want this after being selected on the ride?
There is no sure-fire way to be selected as the Rebel Spy, but there are a few tips I can share that will help your chances. The picture used for the Rebel Spy will be taken shortly after you come on board. I have seen someone selected from various spots within the ship, but the most common spot seems to be in the first 3 rows towards the center. If you can score a forward middle seat you have a good chance. Next, be sure and face forward and sit rather still after you have been seated and are buckled in. Wait to put on your 3-D glasses until right before the ride starts. This will maximize the opportunity for them to take a good picture of your face. If you or someone in your party is not selected, my best advice is to keep on trying! What a great excuse to try the ride again and again.
With life-size droids, elaborate sets, randomized ride experiences, and a chance to be incorporated into the ride, Star Tours- The Adventure Continues delivers in a big way. Any thrill-seeker should have a lot of fun on this ride. Star Wars fans will never want to leave. Also, the ride’s merchandise shop, Tatooine Traders, offers a great selection of Star Wars goodies to add to your collection at home. You can build your very own lightsaber, design your own toy droid, or have your face imposed on your favorite Star Wars character. When you leave the shop, there is a super cool photo op directly ahead. You can climb aboard a life-size Speeder Bike with the Endor forest as your backdrop.
Thank you for indulging me as I rambled on a little longer than usual. This is my favorite ride of all! Please come back each week as we explore a new Walt Disney World ride. Until then, make each day a ride worth taking!