Just after 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, 2011, while hundreds of Disney fans were attending the D23 fan club event Destination D: Walt Disney World, the rope was dropped at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park for “flight testing” of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. This soft opening preview was the first time park day guests had the opportunity to ride the new version of the popular Star Wars-based attraction, which opens officially on Friday, May 20.
A crowd of 40-50 excited fans had gathered outside Star Tours after hearing rumors of the ride opening. A few minutes of rain didn’t dissuade this crowd from standing in front of the attraction. While rumors don’t always pan out, this time they proved to be true and shortly after the rain let up, Cast Members, wearing their new Star Tours costumes, opened the ride for previews.
Many Cast Members, managers, Imagineers, and even the vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios were there for the moment, watching guests’ reactions as they stepped inside. It was also being strictly enforced that no photos or videos were allowed inside the attraction or its queue during this testing period. But I did record the excitement of the crowd when the rope dropped outside and when Cast Members greeted the first group of guests off the ride in the gift shop, which you can watch in the video below:
I had the opportunity to ride the new Star Tours: The Adventures Continue four times today. With 6 familiar Star Wars destinations and 54 combinations of scenes and events guests can see when riding, my four trips through gave me only a sampling of all that is available to enjoy aboard this new version of Star Tours. Having visited five of the six destinations and seen several of the other elements, I can safely say that this version of Star Tours is an amazing improvement over the version that dated back to the 1980s. All the fun of the Star Wars film saga is packed into the roughly five-minute ride.
But the story begins before even stepping aboard the Starspeeder 1000 vehicle. The Star Tours queue has been given a makeover, mostly in the form of a sprucing up. It’s an improved version of the previous queue, with today’s technology replacing older effects and screens. New jokes replace old as do new, yet completely familiar droids. But there are plenty of in-jokes and tributes to the old version of the attraction to be found throughout. Star Tours fans will still feel at home inside.