Along time ago, in a theme park far away. Disneyland had only its intellectual properties from its creations. That was all about to change when Michael Eisner took over the Walt Disney Company. So buckle up as we fly into the history of the first simulator-based attraction, Star Tours at the Disneyland Resort.
Before Michael Eisner took the helm at Disney, He was in charge of rival Paramount Pictures. During his time there, he responsible for many number one hits. Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Star Trek were just a few. His favorite film he was responsible for was Raider of the Lost Ark. The film was created by Star Wars creator George Lucas. Every studio except Paramount rejected it. Eisner believed it had as much potential to be as big a hit as Star Wars. It became the highest-grossing film in 1981.
Fast forward to 1984 when Eisner took over at The Walt Disney Company. One of the main projects was to revitalize the theme parks and make them more appealing to teenagers. Eisner reached out to Lucas to see if he would help pump fresh ideas into the parks. Lucas was very eager to get his intellectual properties into the Disney Parks. He agreed to become the executive producer of the new 4-d film Captain EO starring Michael Jackson. This paved the way for him to pitch his idea to bring Star Wars to Disney.
The original idea pitched from Lucas was completely different from what we now have on the parks. He wanted to create an epic dueling roller coaster located in Tommorland. You would have the opportunity to choose between the dark or light side. Due to the size and scale of the idea, there was no way it would have fit into the very packed land. Imagineer Tony Baxter would come to the table with an idea he came up with a few years earlier, a motion simulator attraction. Baxter’s idea was to create a ride that could simulate being on board a space cruiser and would be easily reprogrammed.
Lucas loved the idea of the simulator Star Wars based attraction. He agreed to a percentage of the merchandise from the attraction and also a six million dollar fee to create the film to go along with the ride. Construction began on September 3rd, 1985, and would replace The Adventure through Inner Space. The story of the ride takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi. Guests would board an intergalactic touring company. You would see some of the iconic locations from the original trilogy. Lucas came up with the idea of having a droid pilot the ship. It was decided that the pilot would be a nervous first-time pilot named Rex. Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, voiced Rex.
Anthony Daniels would also reprise his role as C-3po. He also shot the opening sequence for the film in the pre-show for the ride. This was also done so the Imagineers could get reference footage to the audio-animatronics that are in the queue. The figures of C-3po And R2-D2 are actual props that are from the original Star Wars movie. Also, the two G2 droids are the skeletons on two geese from America Sings attraction.
Lucas and his team at Industrial Light and Magic had the daunting task of shooting the film for the attraction. It was shot on 70mm film and all done on miniatures and models, just like the original films costing six million dollars. For the motion simulator ride system, Disney purchased four military flight simulators at the cost of $ 500,000 each. The simulators were attached to six hydraulic actuators. They were able to tilt 35 degrees front, back, and side to side. Each unit weighs in at 26000 pounds.
At the whopping price of 32 Million dollars, Star Tours opened on January 9th, 1987. On hand for the grand opening were Michael Eisner, George Lucas, and many of the characters from the Star Wars Saga. To celebrate the launch of the new attraction, Disneyland hosted an event where the park was open for 60 hours straight. The attraction was a huge success and opened at Tokyo Disneyland, Disneys Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Paris.
With the overwhelming success of the attraction, the guests wanted more. The ride was designed to be reprogrammed easily, and Lucas asked Disney to consider a reboot of it after Star Wars episode 1. Disney was hesitant at first because they were concerned it would become outdated. After all, two more movies were coming out right after episode 1. Disney decided to wait to discuss a reboot until episode 3 went into production in 2003. Disneyland finally closed Star Tours on July 27th, 2010, to begin the massive overhaul of the attraction. The attraction would come back with a new name and an astounding 54 different forms of the show. It would feature characters and locations form all six movies. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue opened at Disneyland on June 3rd, 2011.
As of December 20th, 2019, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue now features locations from all 9 Star Wars films and even features Batuu from Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. For over 30 years, Star Tours has been entertaining guests at many Disney Parks. What is your favorite planet you have visited? Have you been the rebel spy? Share your favorite Star Tour experience below, and May the Force be with you.