Have you ever experienced a dream where you were in a familiar place, but it was a completely bizarre and mixed-up version of reality? It’s all true to the spirit of the place—but twisted and distorted, with everything turned around.
That’s exactly what I experienced on a recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. On a geek pilgrimage to the newly revamped Star Tours attraction as a birthday present to myself, I felt like I was in hell in the Twilight Zone (the only reason I say “hell” is because of the heat; I’ve never known a more oppressive, humid heat than in my few days in Orlando).
For those accustomed to the original Disneyland experience in Anaheim, Calif., the most logical place you’d look for Star Tours would be Tomorrowland. Sadly, in Orlando, you would be mistaken; where Star Tours should be, there is a Monsters, Inc. show. Star Tours, it turns out, is in a completely different park called Hollywood Studios. Getting there from Tomorrowland requires a trip on the monorail and a shuttle bus. There it is, miles away, nestled along the edge of the park between the Indiana Jones stunt show, the Muppet 3-D theater and the American Idol Experience.
Inside, the queue area has been less changed than updated. It still features a giant screen showing travel videos and departures, and C-3P0 and R2-D2 bickering back and forth as they repair a Starspeeder 1000. In the original ride, they were repairing a Starspeeder 3000. Yes, this is a prequel. Yes, I think it’s awesome. And no, I’ve never disliked a Star Wars prequel, movie or otherwise.
Other worker droids continue to crack wise and entertain you, but instead of maintenance, they’re in charge of security. I’m pretty sure one of them is voiced by Patrick Warburton, and he cracks jokes at your expense as he scans your life signs and X-rays you for contraband.
The ride itself is what is new and different, and it’s novel for a few reasons. First, the experience is different every time you ride it. With six possible destinations you can fly to and a few other random variables, it’s a guarantee that you’ll never get the exact same experience twice. Secondly, they’ve upgraded the film of the ride to incorporate digital 3-D, but I assure you that it’s actually awesome. There are also plenty of Easter eggs for fans of both the original Star Tours and Star Wars in general.
As a great fan of George Lucas’ world and Disney parks, I was intensely satisfied with the entire experience contained inside the ride. I don’t see myself enjoying it in Florida again any time soon, however. Aside from Florida’s crippling heat, Star Tours is, by and large, the only thing in Disney’s Hollywood Studios that I’d want to do over and over again. Sure, the Muppet show is great and the Twilight Zone-themed “Tower of Terror” isn’t bad (the presentation and design of the ride is much better in Anaheim), but there’s not much else there for me. Hell, the one roller coaster in the park made me want to throw up—not because it was bad, but because it was an officially licensed Aerosmith ride, featuring the members of the band and their obnoxious music.
For my money, I’ll stick to Disneyland, where I can walk from Star Tours to Sleeping Beauty’s castle in about 40 seconds as opposed to a 40-minute commute. But will I be making the trip to Star Tours again? You bet your sweet ass I will. The new ride is a must for any Star Wars fan, young and old, because now, more than ever, it truly immerses you into a galaxy far, far away—and that feeling for me is nothing short of priceless.
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.