"Star Wars" creator George Lucas and Disney president and CEO Bob Iger joined thousands of fans, as well as some favorite characters from the movie, to board Starspeeder 1000 flight motion simulators. In addition to adding 3-D effects, the new Star Tours features R2-D2, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca.
"We decided to place our storyline between the two sets of Star Wars trilogies, giving the project the working title 'Star Tours 3.5,' " Tom Fitzgerald, executive vice president and senior creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a press release. "This time period gave our show team the ability to tap into the very best of the 'Star Wars' characters and adventures.
"But turning the clock back also required some interesting changes for the Star Tours show. The Starspeeder 3000 would need to be an earlier model, the Starspeeder 1000, with a new pilot..."
The original Star Tours attraction opened in late 1989, 10 years before the three "Star Wars" prequels were released. The original attraction was powered down in 2010 so Imagineers could begin work on the new version.
The fun begins even before visitors board their craft. C-3PO and R2-D2 are the first to greet guests waiting in line, and Animatronic characters add comic relief to the wait. At the end of the line, riders walk through a heat-sensor before boarding their simulator.
"It was fantastic," said Victor Gory of Toronto, Canada. "When you have been such a fan for 30 years, it just makes it that much better."
And repeat visits are encouraged. The attraction features more than 50 story combinations, so it's unlikely a guest will have the same experience twice. For an added touch, one rider in each ship may be identified as a Rebel spy.
"Star Wars" characters including Yoda, Admiral Ackbar and Boba Fett pop up to offer help -- or hindrance -- during the journey.Actor Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO in the movies, was in Orlando on Friday.
"Wow! Back in the gold suit for the first time since 'Revenge of the Sith,' but on this occasion in front of a beloved Starspeeder," he said in the press release. While greeting guests Friday, he admitted the costume wasn't very comfortable. "It was awful," he said. "I could see straight ahead for thousands of miles, but you had to be so careful to not bump into other things."
The revamped attraction opened Friday at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. It will open June 3 at Disneyland in California. "The ride is so cool," Fernanda Marino of Orlando said. "Even if you are not a fan you should come out and see it."