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Spoiler-FILLED review – Star Tours: The Adventures Continue report featuring full ride binaural audio

Spoiler-FILLED review – Star Tours: The Adventures Continue report featuring full ride binaural audio

The updated and upgraded version of Disney’s classic Star Tours attraction was recently unveiled to guests days before its official grand opening on Friday, May 20. Since midday Saturday, excited guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park have streamed through the enhanced queue and onto the now 3D-equipped ride, emerging with smiles.

And it was on Saturday that I took my first four rides aboard Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. I’ve already posted my spoiler-free thoughts on how well Disney has improved upon the Star Wars-based attraction. But I know some of you want to be spoiled with all the details from within.

No video or photography has been allowed inside during this preview test phase, so I can’t offer a look inside yet. But I have included released artwork to accompany descriptions below. In addition, no audio recording restrictions were present when I was there on Saturday. So mixed in with my description of all that is Star Tours 2 below are several binaural audio files (wear your headphones while listening!) from the attraction’s queue, pre-show, and on the ride itself. And since the experience changes every time this version of Star Tours is ridden, I’ve featured four complete audio ride-throughs, including the first-ever public preview of the ride from Saturday.

If you want to hear me talk all about the attraction, be sure to listen to Show 319 of the Inside the Magic podcast which includes spoiler-free and spoiler-filled reviews.

But beware. There are many surprises to be found throughout the new Star Tours experience, so I highly recommend you do not read on unless you want them all spoiled for you. If you want to stay surprised but still know if the ride lives up to the hype, then read my spoiler-free review instead.

From here on, spoilers are frequent and detailed. May the Force be with you.

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – Queue

Entering Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at first feels roughly like the same experience as it has for many years. But after turning the first corner, guests will notice some changes. The layout of the first queue room remains the same, with the centerpiece being a full-size Starspeeder being attended to by C-3PO and R2-D2. But it’s now the Starspeeder 1000, in bright orange and white. C-3PO is looking shinier than ever and the duo have new dialogue and banter. Classic Star Tours fans will recognize some of the audio in this area, including a variation on the familiar “Kuchana kuchana” line. But the story of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue now takes place years before the original, so nothing is quite the same.

Star Tours is a flourishing intergalactic space travel company in this story and guests have just entered their travel facility, about to embark on a journey through the Star Wars universe. As such, each room throughout the queue serves as an airport-like experience, with this first one giving guests a glimpse of what they’ll soon be boarding. Likewise, overhead, a giant new HD rear-projection screen plays a loop of new Star Tours commercials, touting why they’re the best choice for outer space travel. Many of the commercials are hosted by Star Tours’ new spokes-droid, Aly San San. She also introduces the IC-360 droid, which can now be seen on the Starspeeder 1000 as well. This droid is the device that allows the 3D imagery seen during the ride, according to the story.

Listen in to this queue area as Aly San San describes the IC-360, after which C-3PO and R2-D2 have a conversation:

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-QueueRoom1.mp3" text="Star Tours - First Queue Room - IC-360 droid commercial" dl="0"]

Also introduced here is the advanced pilot droid for Star Tours, AC-38. We’ll certainly see more of him later.

The whole first queue room has never looked better. Screens that were formerly static images are now animated, giving new life to the area. The droids and Starspeeder look brand new. The giant rear-projection screen is crisp and clear, using the best technology available. The audio system is loud and easy to hear. It will all feel very familiar to Star Tours fans, but with enough new elements to stay entertained.

Moving around a corner to the next queue area, the former droid room has been converted into a security checkpoint where luggage and humans are scanned. But before we reach those points, guests will notice a familiar set of droids immediately to their left.

It’s none other than RX-24, better known as Captain Rex. But remember, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is a prequel to the original attraction, so this is an early model – and it’s defective. But if you listen closely, you might notice some familiar (but slightly distorted) audio.

Listen to Captain Rex, as heard in the new Star Tours 2 queue:

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-CaptainRex.mp3" text="Star Tours - Second Queue area - Defective Captain Rex clip" dl="0"]

There are actually two RX-24 droids, one painted red and white. Near those are the familiar bird droids, locked in a cage, part of the previous queue area.

Moving further up the ramp, guests encounter the new G2-9T luggage scanner droid. His look is quite similar to the droids formerly seen in the Star Tours queue, but now he has a different function.

This luggage scanning scene is a source of great comedy, entertainment, and plenty of Star Wars and Disney references. As each piece of luggage slides into view, a 3D x-ray view reveals its contents, which is always something unexpected. From light sabers and blasters, to Madame Leota (from The Haunted Mansion) and a Captain EO robot, guests will consistently be surprised by what they see inside. And the G2-9T droid cracks jokes along the way.

Further up the ramp, a lit panel offers a view of familiar silhouettes passing by. Characters such as R2-D2, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, and the new IC-360 droid can be seen, as if they were wandering the Star Tours port.

Up the second ramp, a G2-4T droid (quite similar to the G2-9T) is performing security duty, but this time it’s on guests. A thermal scanner gives guests a chance to wave their hands and see themselves on the screen in real-time. Meanwhile, the droid (reportedly voiced by actor Patrick Warburton) is making jokes about what he sees within each guest as they pass through security. One of my favorites is the line, “Great job sir. Your mind is completely blank.”

Listen to audio from the second queue room, including the luggage and security scanning droids:

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-QueueDroids.mp3" text="Star Tours - Second Queue area - Luggage droid" dl="0"]

There is more to see and hear in this queue room than ever before and not nearly enough time in one trip through to experience it all. I’ve heard the luggage droid loop alone is 15-20 minutes long, though most guests will see this droid for no more than a couple minutes. Likewise, the jokes from the security scanner droid keep guests happy and entertained while wiating to board.


Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – Pre-Show

First, I’ll offer descriptions of the scenes that make up Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. Following these descriptions, you can scroll down for binaural audio of several full rides through, each with different scenes.

Guests arrive at the boarding area. There are six Starspeeder cabins available. Guests pick up 3D glasses before finding their rows to board. The 3D glasses used for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue are far superior to those found in Disney’s other 3D attractions. The flat, plastic glasses Disney normally uses are replaced by comfortable, sunglass-style glasses that offer a much more secure feeling – necessary for bouncing around on the ride. The lenses are much clearer than the standard polarized ones as well. The only downside to these new glasses is in their beveled edges, which distort the colors of the on-ride picture. Fortunately, it’s easy to not look through the edges and stay focused on the center.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The pre-show entertainment while waiting to board revisits the humor of the classic Star Tours safety video, presented in a new way. A series of short clips displayed on HD monitors above guests’ heads begins to set up the story of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.

Guests find themselves peeking into the Starspeeder hangar, where final touches are being made before flight. Enter C-3PO, who has been given the mission of telling our AC-38 “Ace” pilot that he’s in need of a quick repair.

On the video, C-3PO enters the Starspeeder 1000 cockpit and tells the AC-38 to hurry back after his repair before it’s flight time. After that moment, Aly San San appears on the screen once more to begin the safety video. Star Tours fans will quickly notice it’s a shot-by-shot remake of the original, much-beloved safety video, but now in HD and with new characters and gags. Fans remember the previous safety video’s host’s crazy hair:

In the new video, a similar-looking woman with similar-looking hair boards the Starspeeder along with plenty of other Star Wars characters shuffling in to sit down and fasten their safety belts. A plush Ewok is placed under one seat and the safety spiel concludes.

Listen to the complete Star Tours 2 pre-show audio including C-3PO taking a seat in the Starspeeder and the safety video:

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-Pre-show.mp3" text="Star Tours - Pre-show Video" dl="0"]


Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – The Ride

Finally aboard the Starspeeder 1000, guests will find few differences at first. Seats are the same. Seatbelts are the same. The cabin looks generally the same. But once the cabin doors shut, the experience dramatically changes from the old ride, sending guests on an exciting new adventure that far surpasses the classic Star Tours experience.

Each ride aboard Star Tours: The Adventures Continue begins the same way, with the automatic flight system being engaged before the AC-38 droid has a chance to return. So C-3PO, who is most definitely not a pilot, is stuck in the captain’s chair as we embark on our journey.

As the blast shield is lowered, guests catch their first glimpse of the new 3D visuals on Star Tours. The large HD projection looks crisp and clear, offering plenty of depth. The first sight is within the Star Tours hangar and it is at that point that the attraction branches into its first randomized scene. Two possible intros exist, though after four rides through I have only seen one. One features Darth Vader and Skytroopers and the other follows the Millennium Falcon.

After turning a corner in the Starspeeder 1000, Darth Vader emerges riding a hover platform and orders us to halt. It’s a menacing moment that was missing from the previous Star Tours and is great to see Vader so early on in the experience. We quickly learn that there is a Rebel spy among us in the cabin, who is identified on the smaller right-side screen in the cabin. It’s a photo of a guest chosen from within the riding crowd, a common Disney gag that always gets a laugh. But Vader isn’t laughing, as he wants to board and capture the spy. He reaches out and, using the Force, pushes our cabin around in a strikingly believable and exciting moment.

Artoo isn’t willing to comply, quickly arming the laser blasters and firing away. Vader pulls out his light saber and deflects the shots, but the maneuver gives us enough time to escape in reverse out of the hangar and into space, quickly jumping into light speed.

Here’s another branching moment, where one of three Star Wars destinations can be reached: Tatooine, Hoth, or the Wookie planet Kashyyyk. In four rides on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, I never once made it to Tatooine for a pod race, despite that scene being the one Disney has been promoting since the update’s announcement in 2009. Of the two I saw, the Hoth experience is my favorite, offering a trip through a classic Star Wars battle in a new way.

It was said at an Imagineering presentation at Destination D over the weekend that it was Star Wars creator George Lucas himself who made the final call to include the AT-AT battle on Hoth in Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. He, and the Imagineers, realize that it doesn’t entirely fit the timeline of the new attraction, set between the prequels and the original trilogy, but his reply was simply, “Who cares?” It’s exciting to fly across the icy surface of Hoth, around the laser-blasting AT-ATs, and back out into space.

The other planet I’ve experienced in this spot on Star Tours is Kashyyyk, which is the least interesting of all the destinations.

It starts out exciting, flying quickly through the forest in a speeder bike chase against Imperial troops. Chewbacca stars in a laugh-out-loud moment, as the Starspeeder inadvertently catches him on the windshield, after which he slides off, leaving handprints behind. It sounds a bit slapstick but comes across very well in 3D. After the speeder bikes are disposed of, the remainder of time spent on Kashyyyk is rather dull, calmly flying through scenic areas with little else going on before blasting into space.

A sense of peril is present throughout most of the new Star Tours experience, heightened by C-3PO’s frantic exclamations for R2-D2 to safely navigate us through it all. Threepio, despite practically screaming throughout the entire attraction, never once gets annoying, with the lines perfectly delivered by actor Anthony Daniels. I thought I would miss Paul Reubens’ performance as Captain Rex, but having C-3PO there really makes it feel much more like a Star Wars ride than ever before.

Following the first destination and return to starry outer space, another randomized scene takes place, this time in the form of an “incoming transmission.” A familiar Star Wars-style hologram appears in 3D. Here guests see Princess Leia, Yoda, or Admiral Ackbar developing the story further by telling C-3PO that the Rebel spy was planted in our cabin on purpose so we could help him/her to safety. In a powerful Star Wars moment, Leia exclaims, “Help me Star Tours. You’re my only hope.” The holograms look incredibly lifelike in a way that only a crystal-clear 3D projection could achieve. It’s a quiet, cinematic moment in the middle of two exciting scenes and all guests in the cabin are happy to remain silent while watching. Threepio accepts the task of joining the Rebel Alliance and the Starspeeder 1000 is sent off speeding to another destination.

In this third and final act, three more destinations are possible: Coruscant, Naboo, and the Death Star above Geonosis. Coruscant is definitely the weakest of the bunch, but all are wholly entertaining.

The trip to Coruscant begins in the midst of an outer space battle. After avoiding numerous explosions, we find ourselves careening toward a planet after a brief droid attack on the windshield, ending up in the middle of the nighttime bustling streets of Coruscant (not daytime, as shown in the artwork above). Flying through Coruscant, the Starspeeder avoids flying vehicles and buildings before finding a landing place aboard a platform, nearly crashing into a fuel tanker (much like in the ending of the original Star Tours), ending the ride.

Another of the third act destinations is the planet of Naboo. The scene begins in the air, flying around bright yellow Naboo starfighters in the midst of battle. Following a few blasts, the Starspeeder 1000 dives down into a lake heading to the underwater Gungan city. After nearly running over Jar Jar Binks (which everyone is excited about), a Gungan leader sends out a Bongo as a guide to safety. But safety is far away as a giant sea creature invades, smashing the Bongo and sending the Star Tours Starspeeder seeking safety. After evasive maneuvers, we’re guided back out of the water and seek landing in a nearby hangar. But the Starspeeder doesn’t quite stop in time, ending the journey with an impressive 3D effect of a Naboo starfighter’s pointy nose crashing through the windshield sending glass flying everywhere.

The third possibility for the finale of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue puts the Starspeeder 1000 and its passengers face-to-face with Boba Fett in his Slave One ship, above the planet Geonosis and near an under-construction Death Star. A space chase ensues, as Fett is trying to claim his bounty – the Rebel spy. Evading Fett, the Starspeeder finds its way inside the Death Star, dodging in all directions before ultimately emerging out another side and finishing off Boba Fett with a sonic wave blast.

And thus concludes Star Tours: The Adventures continue, an amazing experience with a huge variety of Star Wars scenes to be enjoyed upon every visit. It still feels like the classic Star Tours attraction, with all excitement and humor intact, but enhanced with better visuals, better characters, and an overall better sense of adventure.


Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – The Ride

My first ride aboard Star Tours: The Adventures Continue was perfect. Not only was it the first-ever public preview of this attraction, but sitting in the back row of our Starspeeder 1000 were several Walt Disney Imagineers as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios Vice President Rilous Carter, who was chosen to be the Rebel spy. You can hear the excited fans’ reaction in the first recording below.

Now, wearing headphones, listen to four separate full rides aboard Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-HothLeiaCoruscant.mp3" text="Star Tours - Full Ride, First public preview - Darth Vader, Hoth, Princess Leia, Coruscant" dl="0"]

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-KashyykLeiaGeonosis.mp3" text="Star Tours - Full Ride - Darth Vader, Kashyyyk, Princess Leia, Geonosis" dl="0"]

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-KashyykYodaCoruscant.mp3" text="Star Tours - Full Ride - Darth Vader, Kashyyyk, Yoda, Coruscant" dl="0"]

[wpaudio url="http://www.insidethemagic.net/StarTours2audio/StarTours2-KashyykYodaNaboo.mp3" text="Star Tours - Full Ride - Darth Vader, Kashyyyk, Yoda, Naboo" dl="0"]


Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – Opening Information

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is still in a soft opening / testing phase at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While it has opened daily since Saturday, there are no guarantees it will remain that way before it officially grand opens on Friday, May 20. At 10:15 a.m. in front of the Sorcerer Hat, there will be a special dedication ceremony for the attraction, after which it will officially be open to the public. Prior to Friday morning’s dedication, Disney is hosting midnight meet-up for fans to ride Star Tours and talk with Imagineers about the attraction, so check back here for a report from that event in a couple days.

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is also opening at Disneyland in California on June 3, 2011, though Cast Member previews are currently ongoing soft openings are likely to take place soon, following a May 20 day-long invitation-only event for the lucky 1,200 who were chosen via the Disney Parks Blog.

Disney and Star Wars fans alike are excited about this new attraction with good reason. It’s a fantastic update to a classic ride that has returned the once-dated attraction to a top spot on my list of favorite Disney attractions. Lines are sure to be long once it officially opens, but the wait is worth it. Time spent in the updated Star Tours queue is entirely entertaining and part of the overall ultimate experience that fans have been waiting decades for.


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