Star Tours Trip Report
Star Tours, The Adventure Continues, reopened last week at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios after a prolonged refurbishment and reinvention. This well loved, motion simulator attraction has been wonderfully recreated in high definition 3-D with multiple thrilling destinations and 54 unique combinations of experiences.
On the evening prior to the official ride opening, I had the good fortune to attend The Disney Parks Blog’s after hours (midnight-2 am) meet-up to celebrate the ride. Very little information about the event was released ahead of time. I pictured the group of 500 attendees sitting in a room, listening to a panel of Imagineers discuss the ride and, perhaps, a character or two would appear. I also assumed that at some point, they would allow us to experience the ride. Turns out, my expectations were far exceeded by this event. It was truly a special evening, full of Disney details and magic.
Registration was at Blizzard Beach, between 10:45-11:59 pm. We arrived around 11:15 pm to a long line of Disney and Star Wars fans waiting to check-in and an even longer line of coach buses ready to transport us to the event. A DJ played music and conducted a Star Wars trivia contest while we waited. Soon enough, it was 11:59, we were on a bus and headed to the Studios!
As we turned into the parking lot, rather than pull into the main gate, we continued on an access road. We excitedly realized that we would be entering the park through the backstage. Exiting the bus, we were greeted by a red carpet, billowing fog and green glowing lights. Several planets floated high in the air and the AT-AT was visible- we were entering backstage of the Star Tours stage!
We passed through a white portal tunnel and were immediately greeted by members of the Cantina Band; other Star Wars characters also roamed the area. A Rebel Pilot DJ was playing music and Snig and Oopla, of Hyperspace Hoopla fame, were on the stage. It was at this point that I realized I was not attending a sedate informational panel but rather a Mix and Mingle Dance Party in true Disney fashion. We were free to wander around and to ride Star Tours as often as we desired!
The night passed so quickly. I spent most of my time riding Star Tours and interacting with the characters. I did want to take some pictures in the queue but with so much going on, I decided to focus on soaking up unique experiences and enjoying myself. For example, at one point, as I started to photograph the queue, Anakin Skywalker entered the building. We chatted a little and it became clear that he was planning to ride Star Tours. I knew that I had to follow him. The queue would still be there another day but I was unlikely to have another opportunity to ride Star Tours with Anakin Skywalker. So we walked with him and he sat down in the speeder next to us! When Darth Vader appeared on the screen, I wanted to give him a knowing nudge but I refrained, fearing that I might cause a rupture in the space-time continuum.
Another time, I was in the queue and Boba Fett entered. He had a young man, chicken-armed, and was leading him up the queue. I followed to see what would happen next. Boba Fett brought the man to the speeder gate and turned him in. He then grabbed several guests’ 3-D glasses and ran away with them!
There were multiple other highlights that evening. At one point, Imagineers Kathy Rogers and Steven Speigel held a Q&A session on the Star Tours stage, sharing a little insight into the recreation of the ride.
Also, I was one of the lucky guests randomly selected to receive a limited edition set of Star Tours posters, signed by the artists, Casey Jones and Jonathan Bishop.
The one downside of the evening was that it passed too quickly. There was much I didn’t have a chance to experience. I didn’t realize until after the event that the Disney characters were also out for photos, in their Star Wars costumes. They weren’t mingling but rather, were set up for meet and greets with photopass photographers. There also was an ice cream sundae bar, punch and adult beverages but I was too busy running around to partake in these offerings. I rode Star Tours four times, (bringing my total up to twelve for the week). Soon, it was 2 am and our buses took us back to Blizzard Beach. It was very late, especially with rope drop for the opening ceremony occurring the next morning, but it was well worth it!
I want to extend a special thank you to Adam Hansen and Don Sullivan for allowing my brother and me to attend this event as their guests. Unfortunately, Adam’s plans changed and he was unable to accompany us to the event. Also, a very special thank you to the Disney Parks Blog for arranging such an amazing event!