The line had quickly grown out of control beyond even what Disneyland had planned for, leading to confusion as cast members scrambled to lay down green line tape on the ground. The line stretched around the main plaza into Main Street which is a considerable distance from the actual attraction. As cast members got the confusion under control, people began to see just how massive the wait would be for them, the line zig-zagging around the other side of the plaza several times, finally finding a set of line ropes which led deep into Tomorrowland only to turn all the way around, heading back out to Main Street one more time on the opposite side of the street. From there, the line returned to Tomorrowland again, zig-zagged in front of Star Tours' entrance, dropping into a pre-queue room blasting Star Wars music and with a blacklight-enhanced Star Tours mural ringing the ceiling.
All of that would have to wait until after the opening ceremony though. The park opened that day at 9am, the ceremony ended over an hour later. Unfortunately, instead of a large ceremony in an open place where everyone could see, park management made the poor choice of sticking it in the middle of Tomorrowland which they then closed to the public, and which only a handful of line-goers could actually view or even hear. The line didn't get moving for those first official public riders until 10:20am. From the place I stood in the plaza under the sun from 9am, it took 2 hours and 40 minutes to get near the pre-queue room next to the main attraction, and then they opened extra zig-zag ropes outside to boot. The pre-queue room took 25 minutes to get through at that point, and another 15 minutes to get through the main attraction queue. Later in the day, the pre-queue room took nearly twice that time, and they were feathering the main queue line so it'd go quickly inside, which makes little sense since THAT area is where all the cool stuff to see is. While the park wasn't offering Fastpasses that day, they did have the system all set up and ready to go across the way in Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. However, it was clear by the people using alternate passes that management needs to rethink how the Fastpass system works on this line, there isn't enough thought about experiencing the queue as it was intended.
At 12:20pm, I finally got to the point where they hand out the 3D flight glasses and get lined up at one of the 4 gates (it appeared Gate D was being used for VIP and media rides, I didn't go as registered media so I can't be sure, but they were using an alternate door for those riders, and everybody was getting shuffled into gates A-C). At 12:32pm, my first ride on the new Star Tours was over.
So, what's changed? Let's start outside, the attraction marquee is new in metal tones and has lighted stars and occasional moving hyperspace lines - a fantastic effect, especially at night. The Star Tours logo beneath the name has been updated to a more modern shape, reminiscent of the original but clearly tweaked and its colors removed. There's the aforementioned Fastpass zone and Fastpass info board. The cast members have new outfits, a more complicated prequel-era smock/tunic affair.
Inside the main queue, at first glance the main room looks unchanged aside from colors, with the same layout as before: a Starspeeder sitting on an elevator, C-3PO standing aside it at a diagnostics panel, a control room high above with a Mon Calamari at controls, and a giant angled display on one wall. But quickly one notices that the giant screen is no longer a collection of blinking LCD gray panels that occasionally has a rear projection video, now it is a single massive screen alternating from a view of the Star Tours spaceport (since moved from a land-based facility of the original to a space-based one) with Starspeeders and various Star Wars ships flying by, through a flight schedule board that switches from Aurebesh to English (although oddly, the numbers remain the standard numbers the whole time, despite Aurebesh having a number system), and finally to one of several new promo videos. The Starspeeder is now a Starspeeder 1000 rather than 3000, and aside from the color changes, the biggest differences are a lack of external blaster cannons, and the hatch behind R2 now houses a camera droid instead of the techno-stuff that R2 used to work on. All the dialog in this room is new, Anthony Daniels has recorded new lines, and there are new PA announcements with Star Wars takes on modern travel.
The second room of the queue used to be a detour us "tourists" had to take, seeing the back room of Star Tours where droids were being repaired (by other droids) and systems were being worked on. Now, however, the area is intended to be the regular Star Tours gate line, there's a baggage check scanner droid (seems to be the same droid in that location as before, with a few pieces of chrome plating added, and a new, less enthusiastic attitude), and beneath him is a sea of more bags waiting for check. Across from that is the original Captain Rex, who is chattering portions of his original dialog away as he sits in a crate along with other defective droids. The hanging parts baskets have been removed, no longer fitting the theme of the room. The back silhouette panel showing droids being worked on now has video silhouettes of Star Wars denizens on their ways to other gates, and the silhouettes have many Star Wars touches including Stormtroopers rushing by, and even a crowd-favorite, Jar Jar Binks frozen in carbonite being carted by - that particular silhouette, quick as it was, was instantly recognized by those in my line. At the top of the line, the cranky systems droid surrounded by smaller LCD gray panels has been changed to a final security check droid with a line-scanning IR camera on a big screen behind him as well as 3 smaller screens in front of him. The droid is the same, again with new blue chrome plating, but the new dialog is now from actor Patrick Warburton, with the pitch raised, written in his unique style and personality. After that, the 2 turnstiles are now flanked on either side by small areas with trays and trays of flight glasses, and curtains that occasionally have a cast member putting out more trays.
The gates look the same, they're still designed too short for the number of people in each row, they still have monitors above most of the doorways. The video is mainly very CGI goings on around the pre-flight stuff on the Starspeeder, including a gaggle of pit droids, and 3PO coming out to run diagnostics on the ship. In the middle of that, a new pre-boarding safety video comes on, now given by a WA-7 droid (a waitress droid like FLO from Dexter's Diner in AOTC), and after the main spiel she winks off for a moment before giving similar instructions in Spanish. Finally, it's boarding time, and the Starspeeder interior is unchanged, aside from a different blast shield covering the cockpit.
The ride itself was a massive crowd pleaser, my first trip, almost nothing was audible because of the loud cheering and excitement after every big moment. The 3D glasses are slightly color-shifted, which I wasn't expecting, lightly purple and green lenses, perhaps to further accent the polarized effect. The glasses themselves are bulkier units than previously used in Disneyland 3D events, perhaps to ensure they don't fly off during the movement of the simulator. The ride is broken up into 11 segments which alternate from ride to ride like a choose your own adventure book, each element seamlessly moving to the next. I will say however that almost everything on my 2 rides was the same, except for the beginning, and I've heard similar reports from Disneyland's version of the ride - hopefully the other worlds and characters will be brought into rotation heavily soon. There are supposedly 54 different rides that can be experienced, so the fact that many reports are the same 2 seems statistically unlikely unless something had been set to do so.
I don't want to give away too much really, the many surprises are a big part of the fun. But I will say that the timeline of where this fits in the canon is confusing. There's a lot of prequel elements, Wookiees still fighting on Kashyyyk, but now they're fighting Luke Skywalker-era troops. There are ANH-era Star Destroyers flying next to prequel-era Corvettes, that sort of thing. It seems to take place before ANH, but late in that era, around the time of The Force Unleashed, or even later. But no matter the canon, it's a lot of fun, and a lot of Star Wars. While it may lean a little too heavily on major characters being shoehorned in where it hadn't before, the new in-ride footage is very solid, no longer merely mainly cannibalized material from ANH the way the original was (don't get me wrong, I love the original like it was a part of my family, but the whole trench run is lifted wholesale from ANH complete with its notable mistakes). The actual simulator aspect is essentially the same, it moves largely like it used to, although a few of the actions are definitely not standard operating procedure.
After the ride, there are numerous glasses return bins, and then the Star Trader. The first room, the all-Star Wars merchandise one, has been reoriented, has doubled the space available for the Hasbro Build-Your-Own-Lightsaber kiosk, and has a number of new ride collectibles, including the 2 new Hasbro attraction figure sets in great number (the original boarding party set with Teek and Ree Yees is also still there). The store carries regular Star Wars figures, of course, and ironically, pricing on figures there have now been met at regular retail - you can pay the same for TVC figures at Toys R Us that you pay at Disneyland, how weird is that? The most recent TVC wave, by the way, was Wave 4, AOTC.
All in all, opening day proved very popular for the new Star Tours, and should provide fans with a number of new, exciting Star Wars experiences for years to come.
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