ORLANDO, Fla. — The new 3-D version of the Disney theme park ride "Star Tours" is a quantum leap above the original.
Riders will face the unexpected — thousands of different permutations in the story line.
The ride's repeat business should be superb.
The original 1987 "Star Tours" ride "was relatively simplistic," says "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. "It went through basically an asteroid field and then we got into a battle, sort of above the Death Star kind of thing but it was very simplistic."
Now "it's much cleverer, in the fact that we now have like 50 places to go. You never get the same ride twice." Lucas says there are a lot of secret cookies and other events as well. "You'd have to ride the ride for at least 100 times in order to get to see it all."
On the way to the ride's spaceship, the line winds through a spaceport complete with heat imaging panels and animated 'droids, including the films' C-3PO. The five minute ride starts when you're buckled into the Starspeeder 1000.
A Rebel spy is alleged to be on board, and the Imperial forces chase the ships through different worlds from the "Star Wars" saga — swampy Dagobah, icy Hoth, sophisticated Naboo, Kashyyyk, the Wookiee home world or the interior of the Death Star — as it attempts to deliver the spy to the Rebel Alliance.
Characters from all six movies might appear including the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, R2-D2, Yoda, Princess Leia and Jar Jar Binks, or a new set of stormtroopers created for "Star Tours" called Skytroopers.
Back in the real world, the 3-D glasses make the trip look stomach-twistingly realistic as the animatronics in your seat buck and weave in time with the digital film. Once you've landed, you exit via the gift shop complete with miniature Yoda dolls, diecast Racers cars and a make-your-own lightsaber booth.
"Now that we're digital, we can create, we can insert new story lines, new pieces and can have even more than 54," says an enthusiastic Tom Fitzgerald, senior creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering.
"Almost the whole thing is digital," says Bill George, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). "There's a few segments that were shot with live action sequences, like the Wookiee that hits the window — that was a live action piece. The Darth Vader is all digital, the stormtroopers that are running are all digital."
"The "Star Wars" universe is something that's well established, the people really, really know the characters and the environments and so for both Glenn (McIntosh, ILM Animation Director) and I, who are so major Star Wars geeks, we wanted to make sure that everything we used was authentic. That may sound simple and straightforward but it's not."
When asked if he was going to continue to develop new worlds, Lucas says it's a wonderful idea.
Fitzgerald agrees: "Wherever "Star Wars" goes, we'll go."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
"Star Tours: The Adventures Continue" is at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Disney World: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/hollywood-studios/attractions/star-tours/
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