January 9, 2019, marks the 32nd anniversary of one of the most popular attractions in Disneyland, Star Tours. In the beginning, this race through space attraction wasn’t what it turned out to be. Originally, Disney was making a ride simulator attraction based on their sci-fi film The Black Hole (1979). With an estimated cost of $50 million, Disney felt it was too high of a price for a film that was only so-so in popularity. Heck, the movie only cost $20 million to produce and it only made $35 million at the box office.
Disney decided to go another route. They would capitalize on their partnership with Lucas. Lucas had just produced Captain EO that was going to open up in September 1986. After a deal was made, both projects were in production.
George and his team at ILM started work on the film for the attraction while Disney bought four flight simulators from the military for $500,000 each. Disney gutted out the building that once housed Adventure Thru Inner Space. The entrance queue was left the same, but the screen that used to have the giant snowflake on it was replaced with video screens.
After the movie was installed into the simulator, a programmer sat inside it while the movie played. They used a joystick to move the compartment around to coincide with the movements of the film. A computer recorded it and used it for every simulation.
At 10:00 am of January 9, 1987, Disneyland opened its gates to hordes of people. Fans from all over the place showed up in costume to go on the ride. Disneyland stayed open for an astounding 60 hours straight. They closed up the park at 10:00 pm on January 11, 1987.
Michael Eisner and George Lucas
After 23 ½ years of entertaining guests, Star Tours closed down on July 27, 2010. Disney wanted to update the video with new footage to include the prequel trilogy. One year later, on June 3, 2011, the attraction reopened as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. At this time George Lucas started talks with Disney to purchase Lucas Film from him.
Here are some interesting fun facts about the attraction.
- This new version of Star Tours pre-dates the previous version. Now you will be riding in a StarSpeeder 1000, whereas before you rode in a StarSpeeder 3000.3. The first Star Tours timeline was set after the film Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (1983). This one is set in the timeline between Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope (1977). Which would make it set in the same time as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).4. While waiting in line, a voice announcement calls out for an illegally parked speeder, license number THX-1138, which is the name of George Lucas’ famous USC student film, as well as the name of his first film made for commercial distribution in 1971.5. On the PA system in the waiting area, a voice says, “Mr. Egroeg Sacul, Mr. Egroeg Sacul.” The name is “George Lucas” spelled backward.
6. On the PA system in the waiting area, a voice page says “Mr. Tom Morrow,” who was a character in Flight to the Moon (he later became Mr. Johnson for the overhaul called Mission to Mars, which closed in 1992). He later became a separate character for the attraction Innoventions, which opened in 1994.
7. The C-3PO and R2-D2 in the queue are actual props from the Star Wars movies that have been fitted with Audio-Animatronics.
9. Patrick Warburton provides the voice for the G2-4T droid that is doing the body scans near the end of the queue. Patrick also provides the voice for the AC-38 droid that is supposed to be piloting the ship. You can also see him on the attraction Soarin’ Around the World in California Adventure as the flight attendant.
11. While waiting in line, you can see the prototype for the Rex droid that will be piloting the future Star Tours StarSpeeder 3000.
13. Watch the G2-9T droid as he scans the luggage. There are 71 scans to see and a few little jokes that come along with the scans as stated by the droid. They have changed slightly over the past few years after its opening, but here are a few of them:
•You can see a robotic hand that is said to belong to Luke Skywalker.
•When he sees a Goofy hat he says, “Souvenir hats in the shape of Jar-Jar Binks, how goofy is that?”
•Incredible’s super suit.
•Major Domo and Minor Domo the drum android from Captain EO.
•Some battle droid heads that say “Rodger,” to which the G2 droid says “You can call me Roger if you want to,” making a reference to Bambi.
•An Ewok playing the drums on the helmet of a Storm Trooper.
•A Buzz Lightyear toy to which G2 says, “To Tatooine… and beyond!”
•A prototype droid of the future captain, Rex.
•Lando Calirissian’s luggage.
•Pod racing gear.
•Space helmets. The oxygen tanks are labeled with the old logo for Space Mountain and “DASA” (Disneyland Aeronautical and Space Administration) – both from Disneyland in the 1970’s. G2-9T ignores all that, though. Instead, he sings “Star Tours, nothing but Star Tours” which is an adaptation of the “Star Wars” song created by Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live.
•WALL•E, and then in a later scan you see WALL•E’s stuff: lights, a VHS tape, a shoe with a plant growing in it.
•Some pirate gear, including Hook’s hook.
•R2-D2 Mickey Mouse ears.
•A Monster’s, Inc. teddy bear.
•Items that look like letters, but make up a riddle, O-bee-wand-key-N-”o”-B (Obi Wan Kenobi).
•Indiana Jones’ luggage with contains a fedora and a whip.
•A Madam Leota head from the Haunted Mansion.
•A microscope and a big snowflake to pay homage to Star Tours predecessor Adventure Thru Inner Space.
•Another pair of Mickey ears with the name “Luke” stitched on the back.
14. In one of the bags, the G2 droid scans you can see V.I.N.CENT, the android from the Disney film The Black Hole (1979), who was voiced by Roddy McDowall and also known for his voice as Mr. Soil (cranky old ant) from A Bug’s Life (1998). He also starred in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Planet of the Apes (1968), That Darn Cat! (1965) and over 250 other films and television series. This was a nod to the film because that was the original theme of the attraction.
15. After crashing down on Coruscant, the Starspeeder lands on a platform and nearly misses a fuel tanker truck. The truck was placed there to pay homage to the fuel tanker truck in the original show.
16. When entering the asteroid field near the Death Star, C-3PO says, “I have a bad feeling about this.” This was one of the lines that was spoken by Rex the pilot in the original attraction that was voiced by Paul Reubens.
17. The voice actress that portrays Aly San San, the android stewardess in the pre-boarding video, is none other than Alyson Janney. She is known for her roles in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), American Beauty (1999), Nurse Betty (2000), Finding Nemo (2003), The West Wing (1999-2006) and dozens more. The most common place to recognize her is in your car. She is the spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente and can be heard frequently on the radio in their commercials.
18. The rest of the cast:
•Dee Bradley Baker – Boba Fett (voice)
•Anthony Daniels – C-3PO (voice)
•Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia (new voice with archive footage)
•Tom Fitzgerald – G2-9T (voice)
•Sterling Hedgpeth – Rebel pilot
•James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
•Tom Kane – Admiral Ackbar (voice)
•Marianne McLean – Mon Mothma
•Frank Oz – Yoda (voice)
•Paul Reubens – RX-24 (voice) (archive sound)
•Fred Tatasciore – Gungan captain (voice)
•John Boyega – Finn
•Marianne McLean – Mon Mothma
•Lindsay Schnebly – AC-38 “Ace” (the pilot droid)
•Robin Atkin Downes – Security guard
•Rob Howe – Rebel pilot
•April Royster – Naboo squad leader
•Darren Criss – miscellaneous voices
19. The giant screen you see while waiting in the queue originally had another screen there for the previous attraction, Adventure Thru Inner Space. The screen was used to show Guests a giant, colorful snowflake.
20. The queue when you first enter is still the original attraction queue. The Omnimover load area was located past where C-3PO is standing.
21. When the attraction first opened, the seats were made out of a foam-type material over which were cloth covers, like movie theater seats. If a guest became ill while on the attraction, a Cast Member would pull off the cover and take it out for cleaning. Meanwhile, a new cover was put on the seat. The problem was the foam would sometimes absorb the liquids into it before the cover could be removed and replaced. It wasn’t very clean. Terri Hardin was brand new to Imagineering at the time when Disney came to her and begged her to make a “vomit seat.” She sculpted a seat that could fit buttocks, but was shaped to “gather” the liquids that might end up on the seat. And, it had to be made out of non-absorbent material. This was Terri’s first project in Imagineering. I am sure that, since 1987, the seats have been changed out with a different style, especially after Star Tours: The Adventure Continues was added in.
22. The giant microscope from Adventure Thru Inner Space that the Omnimover entered was in the spot that houses the Starspeeder.
23. In the original film, you could see a giant microscope prop in the first scene when you fly out of the hanger. It is just to the right before you exit through the opening into space. Look it up on YouTube.
24. The Death Star sequence has the Mighty Microscope from Adventure Thru Inner Space on the left side of the tunnel as you exit the space station.
26. There were originally 54 different possibilities in the storyline on this attraction. The entire attraction’s sequence is randomized. This type of experience is known as a “Choose Its Own Adventure” because it has a branching narrative. The system chooses the course of each specific ride, just like in Indiana Jones Adventure. This gives Star Tours the advantage of different experiences every time a rider boards the attraction, or sometimes the same; it’s a gamble. The main priority of delivering the Rebel spy to safety is accomplished no matter what the sequence is. The Rebel spy is chosen from among the riders in each StarSpeeder. In other words, it may be you, or the person sitting next to you. Keep an eye on the screen to the right to see who it is. When referring to the spy, the characters on screen will alter their dialogue, depending on the gender of the person chosen as the spy and refer to the spy as him, her, or them.
There were 11 random segments of the film. It starts with two opening segments, four primary destination segments, and four hologram message segments followed by four ending destination segments. With the variable possibilities, it makes for 96 different possibilities of combinations. After Disney started making Star Wars films they would insert clips and characters from the new movies, like Finn. It throws off the timeline of the attraction, but that is what people like.
These were the original scenes before Disney started adding current clips.
The two main first scenes:
•Darth Vader, Imperial Stormtroopers, and Skytroopers arrive to arrest the Rebel spy aboard the speeder. Vader force grabs the Starspeeder. The Starspeeder fires at Vader causing him to release his grasp.
•An Imperial probe droid detects the presence of the Rebel spy onboard the Starspeeder. At the same time, Han Solo starts shooting at a group of Stormtroopers and races up the boarding ramp of the Millennium Falcon.
The 4 scenes following the lightspeed jump:
•The Starspeeder almost crashes on Hoth, where a battle between Rebels and Imperial AT-ATs is happening. The Starspeeder enters the battle before careening off a cliff.
•The Starspeeder reaches Tatooine and enters the pod race alongside the big cheater Sebulba. After the race, the Starspeeder rockets back to space.
•The Starspeeder lands on Kashyyyk and is chased by Imperial jet speeders as it speeds past on-looking Wookies. While the jet speeders are chasing Chewbacca and another Wookie, Chewie falls off the back of his vehicle and lands on the Starspeeder’s windshield.
•The Starspeeder lands on Jakku and follows the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Finn, while being chased by TIE Fighters. The Starspeeder crashes in the wreckage of a Star Destroyer where scavengers rip the Star Tours logo off the front of the StarSpeeder.
Once back in space, an incoming holo transmission gives direction of where to take to Rebel spy by one of 4 characters:
•Jedi Master Yoda
For the fourth and final scene, there are 3 different outcomes after R2-D2 sets the coordinates.
•The Starspeeder reaches Coruscant, that is under attack by the Republic’s Clone troopers. The Starspeeder then plummets through the planet’s atmosphere and into the bustling sky traffic of the city planet and lands on a landing platform.
•The Starspeeder enters Naboo’s space, which is under attack by the last Trade Federation armies. The Starspeeder plummets into the water near Otoh Gunga after speeding past Jar Jar Binks. As it torpedoes through the water, it dodges attacks by giant sea creatures, then surfaces and crashes into a repair hanger.
•The Starspeeder exits light speed to enter an asteroid field surrounding the uncompleted Death Star. Boba Fett chases the Starspeeder through the asteroids until they charge through the center of the Death Star and enter light speed again after Boba Fett discharges a sonic bomb. It reaches the Rebel fleet, and lands onboard the Mon Calamari Cruiser.
27. After The Force Awakens was released, Disney added scenes into the show with Finn, BB8, the Millennium Falcon, and Jakku. The opening sequence with Darth Vader was removed, as he did not exist in Episode VII. Adding these elements to the show changed the timeline of the experience.
28. In the television series Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018), there is an episode called “Droids In Distress.” Rex is in the episode as the pilot of a Star Commuter Shuttle.
29. In the television Star Wars: Clone Wars (2008-2019), Star Tours is both mentioned and has billboard ads.
30. Always smile while onboard. A guest is “randomly” picked to be the rebel spy and their face is put up on the screen unless that guest is Richard Woloski from the Skywalking Through Neverland podcast, he never gets picked.
Here is a list of the Hidden Mickeys on the attraction;
31. When you are standing in the queue, there is a projection wall that shows silhouettes of people and androids passing by. Watch carefully as there is an R2 unit that puts out two satellite dishes on its head and turns to face you, making them appear to be Mickey ears.
32. In the queue, you can see a Mickey on the readout in front of C3-PO.
33. Across from the scanning droid, there is a shadow on the wall that makes it look like the droid is wearing a pair of Mickey ears.
34. Pay close attention to the scanning droid’s baggage scans. A Mickey plush is in one of them.
35. One of the bags he scans also has a Sorcerer Mickey hat in it.
Tell me, are you a fan of Star Tours?
If you liked these fun facts, check out my book that has over 3,700 fun facts in it about Disneyland and Disney Movies. Imagineer Terri Hardin, the one who made the “vomit seat,” wrote my foreword for me.
The Video Press Kit From 1987.
A Complete Ride Thru.
The Full Film From The Original.
Here is an episode from the Skywalking Through Neverland podcast as they interviewed Imagineer Mark Eades about the attraction.