The long-awaited successor to the classic Star Tours attraction has finally opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios. What can riders expect from Star Tours: The Adventures Continue? Theme Park Tourist correspondent Charissa Arsaoui headed to the park to find out.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (often dubbed Star Tours 2) sits on the site of the original Star Tours, which opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios back in 1989. An all-new plot, 3D special effects and a host of new characters have been introduced as Disney seeks to exploit the enduring popularity of the Star Wars universe, taking riders for a spin through some of sci-fi's most famous locations.
Physical changes have been made to the original Star Tours ride system, which was derived from military flight simulation technology. This includes the introduction of a greater range of movements, which are synchronized with the ride movie. The movie itself is now presented in high-definition Disney Digital 3D, rather than the 2D presentation of the original attraction.
From the moment I stepped foot into Disney's Hollywood Studios, I knew I was in for a challenge. My mission was simple. Make my way over to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and prepare for what I believed to be one of the most highly anticipated new rides in the theme park's history.
Spoiler warning: Some minor plot spoilers are revealed later on in this review - you can safely read on for the next couple of sections even if you wish to avoid these.
Beating the lines
My suspicions about the ride's popularity were correct. The line wrapped around the attraction. Even the queue for a FASTPASS was long. In 100 degree Florida heat, I didn't want any part of waiting. I could feel the make-up melting off my face as I approached the machine, inserted my ticket, and got a FASTPASS permitting me to access the ride between 4:30 to 5:30 PM. The regular line for the ride had a 50 minute wait. In my humble opinion, that is way too long for even a Jedi to be standing underneath a relentless sun.
Although opting for a FASTPASS gave me over seven and a half hours of time to kill, I knew right away that I had made the right choice. As a Florida resident and one that has visited Disney's Hollywood Studios before, I realize the value of this piece of paper. A FASTPASS allows you to breeze through the line, ride Star Tours, and move onto the next attraction without any hassle. It gives you time to take in other Star Wars Weekend related events including celebrity-filled motorcades and autograph sessions.
If I would have waited in line, I would have missed seeing Chewbacca and Minnie Mouse dressed as Princess Leia. I wouldn't have had time to attend the parade or watch children under 12 years of age practice their lightsaber skills at the Jedi Training Academy. I also wouldn't have been near as excited as I was to visit the new attraction. There's something about Florida humidity that kills anticipation.
Preparing to board
Around four o'clock, I made my way back to the attraction. Young Jedis were being dressed for an upcoming demonstration. Their parents stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind a roped off area which made it impossible for me to see over their heads. I finally shifted my stance and was able to take a few photos of the boys and girls in action. There wasn't a child on the stage that day that wasn't smiling.
Image: Steve Sim
Having an event like that at the center of the attraction softened the blow for the young people who did not meet the ride's height requirement of 40 inches (102cm) or taller. While their older siblings stood in line to ride Star Tours, they prepared to battle Darth Vader. Making these demonstrations a scheduled part of the attraction was a wise move on behalf of Disney's Hollywood Studios. There were far less tears shed because of this one detail.
As I approached the entrance for the ride, I was greeted by a Walt Disney World employee. He promptly informed me that I arrived too early and would have to continue to wait until my FASTPASS was active. He was polite so I didn't take offense. I decided that it would be appropriate to allow myself to really take in my scenery. How else could I objectively review Disney's Hollywood Studios' newest ride?
From what I could see on the outside, Star Tours was shrouded in mystery. Cloaked by trees, it was hard to recognize the ride at a distance. The only thing indicating that it had anything to do with Star Wars itself was the giant replica of an AT-AT walker out front - something that was already present for the original attraction. Had I not seen the dozen or so signs pointing me in the direction of the ride, I would have likely missed it.
Even the young Jedis blended in because it was, of course, Star Wars Weekends. There were very few places you could go that were not part of the festivities. This was one area that needed improvement. In fact, I half expected the outside of the building to be a little more high tech.
Image © Disney/LucasFilm
Once I was permitted to enter the FASTPASS entrance, however, my opinion changed. There was a whole lot of eye candy to take in. In fact, I felt mildly disappointed that the line moved so quickly. I enjoyed looking at the different Star Tours memorabilia as I was walking along. Before I could get a second glimpse, I was handed a pair of 3D glasses and told by an employee to stand in line in front a numbered door for the ride.
Flying with Star Tours
Within a matter of seconds, I was instructed to take a seat and stow my belongings underneath it. This was a bit of a struggle because I had two large bags with me. I was the last person in my seat and still hadn't put my safety belt on when an employee approached me. I told her that I had it buckled and then the lights were dimmed. You can see the interior of the Starspeeder 1000 vehicle in the commercial below:
Without divulging too many details, I'd like to say this. There's a reason why this ride has fans. Not only are the 3D graphics realistic, the light-motion simulator vehicle, Audio Animatronics characters, and in-cockpit special effects are to be applauded. I had a perma-smile on my face as I was transported to a "galaxy far, far away." The video below gives an impression of this, although it can't recreate the 3D experience:
There are 54 different possible scenarios that a person can go through on the ride which amounts to a day filled with fun for Walt Disney World guests of all ages. If a person wanted to, they could ride Star Tours from open to close (which happened to be 8am to 12am the day I went) and still be surprised by something they see on the screen in front of them.
Twists and turns
Spoiler warning: Some minor plot details for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue are revealed below.
C-3PO acts as pilot for the new ride, and it's a fitting role. With the beloved Star Wars character as the guide, I felt like I was in good hands through my intergalactic journey. There were a lot of surprises as we made our way through the galaxy, dodging whatever obstacles we encountered. From direct attacks from other spacecraft to hairpin turns, there was plenty to look forward to as the simulator went from one location to the next at rapid speed.
Image © Disney/LucasFilm
Part of Star Tours' appeal is just how interactive it is. One of the things that I really liked about the ride was how it incorporated a hologram of Princess Leia into the storyline. Other characters like Yoda also make an appearance in other versions of the ride, although I was only able to experience it once due to the heavy crowds.
Here are some of the highlights of Disney's Hollywood Studios' new Star Tours ride:
- The 3D graphics were top rate and the storyline was realistic.
- The 3D glasses were comfortable to wear and easy to take on and off.
- The seats were generous in size and there was ample leg room.
- Handicapped individuals were easily accommodated.
- There are 54 variations of the ride which makes it one you'll want to visit over and over again.
Here are some of the downsides of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue:
- It seemed a little too short for my liking.
- The storage space under the seats left a lot to be desired.
- The outside of the attraction was boring.
- The corridor leading to the exit was long and confusing.
To be quite honest, I haven't had this much fun on a ride in years. The only fault I could find with it was that it didn't last long enough. In comparison to the amount of time I would have had to wait in line without a FASTPASS, I would venture to say that I would have been more disappointed in the duration of the ride had I been standing in a queue all day.
Image © Disney/Lucasfilm
The itty, bitty storage spot underneath my chair was also a pain to contend with. Considering how efficient Disney's Hollywood Studios was in exporting people through the lines, getting them loaded onto the ride, and directing them off the ride, I think that they should ask people to check large packages before stepping onto the Star Tours platform. I felt rushed and embarrassed because I didn't want to hold everyone up.
Overall, I have nothing negative to say about the new Star Tours ride. It was well worth the wait and it ran circles around the old attraction that it replaced. I can't wait to go to Disney's Hollywood Studios so I can ride it again. I wonder what scenario will play out on the screen in front of me the next time I ride it. With 54 variations, it really is anyone's guess.
Things to take note of
If you're planning on riding Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, you might want to know that:
- Service animals are not permitted.
- Video Captioning is available. Speak to Guest Relations to obtain an activator that can be used on the ride.
- If you have small children, you can take turns riding Star Tours while the other parent waits. See a Cast Member for details.
- You should be in good health with no back or neck problems.
- If you are using a motorized scooter to get around the park, you will need to transfer to a wheelchair before riding the attraction.
- FASTPASSES are available for the ride.
- Women that are expecting should not ride Star Tours.
Share your thoughts
Have you experienced Star Tours: The Adventures Continue? How do you think it compares to the original attraction? Let us know by adding your own review and rating.
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