Datameister

FILM: Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

43 posts in this topic

Having now ridden Disneyland's new incarnation of Star Tours for my third and fourth times today, I thought I'd take the time to write up some of my thoughts on this sequel attraction of sorts. Not exactly a conventional topic for this forum, since it is a theme park ride, but at the end of the day, it's still a film. Er, short film. Digitally-projected 3D short film. 11 digitally-projected 3D short films that can be combined in 54 different ways. Same diff.

First and foremost, I agree that the original Star Tours needed updating. Although it was a delightful little adventure in the Star Wars universe, its age was showing. The film looked deteriorated, the tourists in the safety videos were eye-poppingly 80s-ish, the 2D nature of the film limited its immersive abilities, and the lack of material from the prequels meant (sadly enough) that certain younger guests might actually feel a little alienated. Not to mention the fact that it was one single film, which is always going to limit the re-rerideability factor. So the idea of revamping Star Tours was fantastic, IMO.

Now that that's happened and I've experienced the fruits of Disney's labor enough times to process it a bit, I can confidently say that this overhaul is an extremely mixed blessing. Not for Disney...the line is always at least an hour or two long, FastPasses are running out after a just few hours, fans generally love the new attraction...and all this is with most annual passes blocked out. It's a home run for them. But it's a mixed blessing for me, and to explain why, I'll start with the bad.

THE BAD

One of the most surprising disappointments with this refresh is the downgrades in the queue. The extended queue has lost its spaceport theming and exposed PeopleMover track tunnel, and Disney has instead wrapped some temporary-looking metallic panels around the walls with a digitally-painted sci-fi cyclorama near the ceiling. (No offense to whoever created the image of Coruscant, but overlaying some darkened aerial photos with a few glowy circles and some fuzzy airbrush work in Photoshop does not a planet make.) Later, the baskets of interesting junk overhead are gone, along with the other views of the PeopleMover track. We're also treated to a rather annoying parade of projected shadows of aliens, humans, and droids on one of the wall panels. I guess it'd be okay-ish if not for the incessant visual gags and inaccurate depiction of light sources, though I did enjoy seeing the shadow of Jar Jar encased in carbonite.

Wherever you see new CG in this new attraction, it disappoints without fail. It starts with the big screen in the queue, which occasionally shows exterior views that look about as photorealistic as your average circa 2006 pre-rendered video game cutscene. Then we're later treated to new videos before boarding, which feature the droid Aly San San and some less-than-convincing shots of the Starspeeder and its pilot. (Am I seeing things, or is 3PO also CG when he's shown entering the cockpit?) Sadly, the ride film is no better. The entire thing feels very much at home in the prequel universe, except with somewhat inferior visual effects. It's a big digital fantasy. Gone is the battered real-world credibility of the original, which was extremely consistent with the feel of the original trilogy. What you see in the new Star Tours is an almost completely computer-generated universe in which a few live action performances are composited, and that's honestly what it looks like from start to finish. It's impossibly crisp and sleek. I've got absolutely nothing against CGI in and of itself, but my word, do I miss the days when practical models were used for things like this. Even the destinations themselves have a lot more to do with the prequels than with the OT, although I suppose I'll feel a little differently once I've seen Admiral Ackbar, Hoth, and the Death Star. There are even some hints of modern Lucas humor in there - pit droids beating each other up, a mouse droid falling into a pit, stuff like that. It's so plainly supposed to be funny, and it's so plainly not.

When it comes to the aforementioned live action performances, I'm not very impressed. It's unfortunate that they couldn't get James Earl Jones to provide Vader's distinctive growlings, and while I understand that modern-day Carrie Fisher wouldn't exactly make a great Princess Leia, I find it hard to believe that they couldn't have found an actress who sounded more like her. (The visual likeness is actually quite good...but the "help me, Star Tours" line is just wrong.) [EDIT: According to Wikipedia and IMDB, James Earl Jones did the voice, but I refuse to believe that. IMDB also claims that that's Carrie Fisher's voice, when we know that absolutely can't be the case.] The live action elements generally don't look much more real than the CG environments they inhabit, probably due in part to the fact that it's really hard to match the lighting in a truly convincing way.

The perspective of the 3D never looks quite right to me. I'm thinking maybe it'll help to sit dead center in about the second row, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Basically, the camera lens seems a little too wide, at least from the seats toward the back, which detracts from the realism. As is usually the case, I find that the "infinitely" distant elements (starfields, distant terrain, etc.) don't look quite far enough, though I'm starting to think maybe I'm expecting too much there. It also feels like...I dunno, like the elements that are moderately close have had their stereoscopic proximity somehow increased, in order to maximize the difference between the background and the foreground, but it doesn't look quite real to my eye. I prefer a more naturalistic look. I'm real picky when it comes to stereoscopic stuff, though. And the issues are magnified in a few spots by discrepancies between the onscreen motion and the physical motion of the cabin, most notably in the two opening scenes, with the Vader scene being the worse offender. I'm glad I don't get motion sickness.

There's also the deeper issue of plot arc. The original Star Tours was planned out very, very well. You started with the chaotic "something goes horribly wrong" escape from the space port, which was followed by misadventures in a few Star Wars-inspired locales, and the attraction then culminated in joining the Rebels for the ultimate climax - destroying the (a?) Death Star. Immediately following this, you warped back to the space port and the adventure was over. All along the way, the music helped sell the emotional arc of the thing. (Now it just pops in and out, buried in the mix, often with strange choices of music.) With the new Star Tours, you've got a lot of different possible combinations, which is great, except that there's always a feeling at the end of..."Wait, it's over?" This is really a failure to construct the three final sequences more dramatically, in my opinion. (Actually, I've yet to experience the asteroids/Death Star ending, so that one could be different.) On Naboo, it's a big flurry of space combat and aquatic attacks and then you're suddenly in a random Theed hangar where we were apparently supposed to be. Wait, it's over? On Coruscant, it's a big flurry of space combat and dodging oncoming traffic and then you're suddenly landing on a random platform where we were apparently supposed to be. Wait, it's over? There's no sense of a climax. The action just ends.

Last but not least...who came up with the name? They should have kept the Star Tours II moniker and left it at that. "The Adventures Continue"? Really?

Okay, enough negativity.

THE GOOD

This is actually a really entertaining production. Although there were some serious problems with the queue, I appreciate a lot of the stuff in there - specifically, all the stuff that they kept from the original. ;) No, but seriously, the new travelogues are well done, the Captain Rex cameo is greatly appreciated, the baggage scan effect is just the sort of thing I love in theme park design, and the new safety video does a very nice job of mimicking the style of the original, minus the telltale signs that it was shot in the 80s. There are also some nice touches with the signage that help it feel more like a spaceport. The new signage outside is especially nice. And it does make sense that they needed to pick a cleaner aesthetic...in order to please the maximum number of fans, they needed to pick an approximate point on the Star Wars timeline that would allow elements from both trilogies, which meant splitting the difference between the two visual styles. I've also mentioned in the Star Tours thread that I appreciated Michael Giacchino's contributions...they really aren't heard too often or too loudly, but they do enhance the videos nicely.

Despite the issues with the way the shots were constructed, the 3D technology in this attraction is truly impressive. I'm 100% sold on Dolby 3D...I'd say it's a big improvement over polarization-based techniques, which require a weird-looking silver screen and have more issues with ghosting and brightness discrepancies and whatnot. Honestly, this Dolby 3D doesn't suffer from any of that, which makes it a lot easier on the eyes and a lot less distracting. It's really a pleasure to look at, on the whole. They even made the design of the glasses a little more cosmetically interesting than you usually see with 3D glasses. And while the use of 3D for conventional cinema is of debatable merit, I do think theme parks are a perfect environment for (limited) use of 3D. The purpose here is genuine, realistic immersion, not so much a cinematic experience, and 3D is helpful in achieving that.

The four different video segments all flow together flawlessly. It's no big mystery where the junctions are, of course, but that's not a problem. The original was split up into segments in the same fashion. It gives the proceedings a nice three-act structure (albeit with a slightly longer break before the third act for the hologram in the current incarnation) and allows for numerous destinations on the same journey. They also did a nice job with the overall feel of the first two acts...as with the original, there's a "something goes horribly wrong" escape followed by an unexpected detour to another world, and that structure works nicely. It establishes an appropriately exciting tone for the attraction. I even like the decision to add the Rebel plot storyline, at least in principle. People get a kick out of seeing their unsuspecting friend or family member listed as an infamous Rebel, and the hologram before the last act was a nice attempt to give us (and the overheating hydraulic actuators) a break while setting up what could have a been a real climax. And while I do miss the OT-based material sorely, the prequel sequences that they chose to adapt for the attraction are indeed the ones most worthy of that honor.

The bottom line is that although I only planned on riding this attraction once today (with the FastPass I waited a good 5-10 minutes to get), I ended up deciding to get in the hour-long standby line immediately afterward. It IS fun. More fun than I initially gave it credit for. Being surrounded by enthusiastic guests helps...the first time I rode today, people were really ooh-ing and ahh-ing with the various jumps and jolts. And the panoply of different combinations does make repeated returns much more tempting...you want to experience them all! I know I'll be riding again in the weeks to come, trying to get to Hoth or the Death Star, or to see the Ackbar hologram. (I've seen everything else, as of today.)

THE VERDICT

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is a slick, fast-paced jaunt through the world of the Star Wars prequels, with a few older elements fortunately included as well. It features impressive 3D technology and a staggering array of destinations but somehow never manages to feel real. It's sure to attract long lines for years to come, and I know I'll continue to return for more, but I can't help feeling some nostalgia for the original - for its more interesting queue, for its use of physical models in the visual effects, and for its more masterfully constructed emotional arc.

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I've yet to experience the new version, but I'm sure I'll generally agree with your assessment.

I will say that from what I've seen of the new waiting line, I'm not impressed. The first part is basically the same, only set back in time. The second part, totally different. To be honest, it fits the prequels more than a droid junkyard from the original. The original didn't even make that much sense. Why do we walk by the spaceship and then into a droid maintenance bay? Sure, we get the feeling that something is amiss at this place, right? It's like a behind-the-scenes look we weren't supposed to have. A security check (though this admittedly feels too Earthly in its depiction) makes more sense.

Showing battered droids welding each other amid a menagerie of mechanical junk in a dank environment is definitely more in line with the originals. The sandcrawler in which robots are scavenged and dumped, a junkyard with a conveyor belt into fire and a dungeon established how the robots were regarded in the society in the classic trilogy. Midgets especially sure liked to pick on them. In the prequels, they're CGI'd all over the place and are like worker bees of the society. I guess we have to accept the explanation that robots are held in low regard in the old ones because of the droid army.

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Absolutely - the change in the droid room definitely reflects the different philosophy and visual style of the prequel trilogy. And honestly, that's okay with me, in theory. I just have a problem with the gimmicky shadow projections, and the (admittedly logical) absence of the junk baskets. The new luggage scan effect works very nicely, I think...it appears to be a Pepper's Ghost illusion, using physical props for the luggage and a digital display for the contents. I only wish they could have used physical props for both (to make the contents look less flat), but I understand that this probably wasn't a viable option. Oh, and like I said, in the Disneyland version, the PeopleMover/Rocket Rods track tunnel is totally sealed up in both this room and the extended queue, which I find to be really disappointing. I mean, the track has been vacant for a decade now (:(), but I thought it added some interesting dimension to both rooms nevertheless, and it was a little nostalgic for me. I can only hope that the panels are removable (probably not in the extended queue) so that when something finally ends up on that track again, there'll be views of (and from) the track once more.

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I'm thinking the PeopleMover track will never be inhabited again - especially after the RocketRods fiasco (a ride I actually quite enjoyed when it wasn't broken).

On a related topic, I think there is a systematic problem which has developed at the Disney Parks: now that the FastPass line has to join the regular queue so close to the boarding area, the queueing areas of many rides are left unused. This is particularly evident at Indiana Jones. People speed through one of the most inventive queueing areas in a matter of seconds - no more spikes crushing down from the ceiling, no time to play with the rope in the well, etc. A similar effect has occurred at Space Mountain (where regular riders are forced to wait an hour under the sun and subsequently speed through the air conditioned portion of the line).

At Star Tours, I wish they had fixed this somehow. Rather than punishing all riders by having us weave back and forth in a blandly decorated room with only soundtrack for ambiance, they should have expanded the themed queueing area and allowed FastPass riders to join through an alternate entrance, possibly missing some of the themed area but not sacrificing the experience for everyone else. I felt like there was little time to appreciate all the details crammed into that one little room with all the droids.

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The Peoplemover wall could be a good or bad sign for the future of that track. Maybe they're planning to replace/renovate it, so it would make sense to shield the Star Tours queue from construction.

Fastpass doesn't work well unless a ride is designed for it. Even then, there are certainly agreeable arguments against it overall. I feel like themed queues are definitely hindered by the system. I've never even seen the queue for Toy Story at MGM, visible only to the "stand-by" line, because I've only ridden it with Fastpass. Stand-by is always 2 hours.

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I'm thinking the PeopleMover track will never be inhabited again - especially after the RocketRods fiasco (a ride I actually quite enjoyed when it wasn't broken).

I'm not sure what to believe. It's a problem that Disney is certainly aware of, but there's no telling exactly what's going to happen with it. My guess is that any change will have to wait for the inevitable overhaul of Tomorrowland as a whole. At that point, they'll either rip out the track or substantially retrofit it in order to support a new attraction. I understand that the lack of banked turns creates some serious engineering challenges, and I understand that the lack of emergency exits creates some serious safety and legal challenges, so putting something new up on that track would be no mean feat. But I'd be really sad to see it go away altogether. It's a great track layout that offers a wonderful indoor/outdoor tour of all of Tomorrowland, enhancing the experience for both the riders and the guests down below. I'm quite nostalgic for the Rocket Rods, and surely would be for the PeopleMover as well if I'd ever ridden it.

On a related topic, I think there is a systematic problem which has developed at the Disney Parks: now that the FastPass line has to join the regular queue so close to the boarding area, the queueing areas of many rides are left unused. This is particularly evident at Indiana Jones. People speed through one of the most inventive queueing areas in a matter of seconds - no more spikes crushing down from the ceiling, no time to play with the rope in the well, etc. A similar effect has occurred at Space Mountain (where regular riders are forced to wait an hour under the sun and subsequently speed through the air conditioned portion of the line).

At Star Tours, I wish they had fixed this somehow. Rather than punishing all riders by having us weave back and forth in a blandly decorated room with only soundtrack for ambiance, they should have expanded the themed queueing area and allowed FastPass riders to join through an alternate entrance, possibly missing some of the themed area but not sacrificing the experience for everyone else. I felt like there was little time to appreciate all the details crammed into that one little room with all the droids.

Yes. This is a big (if understandable) problem with a lot of FastPass attractions. As you noted, Indy is quite possibly the worst sufferer, because you've got a nice but simple outdoor queue followed by a deeply immersive and atmospheric indoor queue, and your average non-FastPass user is going to spend a lot more time in the former. And speaking of Space Mountain, I had an interesting experience yesterday - I rode it early enough for the FastPass queue to not be set up, but late enough for there to already be a half-hour wait. As a result, the line was just progressing steadily through the outdoor and indoor queue areas, as far as I could tell. Then, shortly before I reached the indoor queue, the cast members had us stop for about 10 minutes to create a gap inside. Then they allowed us to proceed, and we of course zipped through the themed indoor queue, as usual. It really is an unfortunate setup, though I again understand why it has to be that way for attractions that were designed in the pre-FastPass era.

EDIT: Man...it is downright sad that the podrace in TPM looks more convincing than the podracing scene in this attraction, which was created a decade later. Compare:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbU7awEHV60

Way too smooth and digital - everything from the textures to the camera movements. Wish I could say that the rest of the attraction fares better, or that the CGI had been improved after they released that promotional video, but it wouldn't be true. Anyone know how much of the original podrace sequence was done with physical models? It actually holds up very well to this day, I'm noticing. (The digital creatures driving the pods being the exception.)

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I have a question for you data, is the screen size for the actual attraction any bigger than it was with the old ride or is it the same size?

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Same size, as far as I can tell. The Starspeeder interiors are virtually unchanged, as far as I can tell, with the obvious exceptions of the projections themselves and the pilot.

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When I first saw that podracing footage, I was let down. Not because of the CGI cartoon, either. Because that was the update rumored to be done a decade earlier.

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I don't blame them for including podracing as one segment...it's a natural fit, though it would have been a massive disappointment if it'd been the whole ride. What bothers me is that they couldn't even match the realism of a film that was released 12 years ago. Oh, and the randomizer program seems to favor podracing...out of four ridethroughs, I've only gotten something else once, and I have a friend who says his ratio of podracing to Hoth/Kashyyyk has been something like 8:1.

Speaking of podracing, another little thing that irks me - 3PO refers to the snagged racer engines as doubling our power. Since when can a pair of little Earthbound (Tatooinebound?) rockets compare to the power of a space vessel that traverses millions of lightyears in the blink of an eye? We're going a hundred times faster than the podracers when we enter the atmosphere.

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Well, while I'm sure it's fun, the entire ride certainly sounds quite stupid. All this random crap from all over the universe coming at you as you zip from one place to the next, Darth Vader on a hovering thing, help me Star Tours, you're my only hope, etc. Disney and Star Wars fans are known for being freaks when it comes to details. Combine the two and you'll probably find Star Tours is one gigantic fuckery of continuity and logic. But it's in 3D and rocks around.

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Same size, as far as I can tell. The Starspeeder interiors are virtually unchanged, as far as I can tell, with the obvious exceptions of the projections themselves and the pilot.

Really? Wow that is fairly disappointing. One of my biggest complaints about the old ride was that the screen was far too small, and I was really hoping that the new version would make the travel vehicle, and the screen of course, bigger. Especially since this whole thing is 3D... wow. Very surprising. It really was the one improvement I was really hoping to look forward to.

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Well, while I'm sure it's fun, the entire ride certainly sounds quite stupid. All this random crap from all over the universe coming at you as you zip from one place to the next, Darth Vader on a hovering thing, help me Star Tours, you're my only hope, etc. Disney and Star Wars fans are known for being freaks when it comes to details. Combine the two and you'll probably find Star Tours is one gigantic fuckery of continuity and logic. But it's in 3D and rocks around.

Well, in all fairness, Star Tours has never been great in the continuity and logic departments. The original placed you right alongside Rebels blowing up a Death Star in exactly the same way that the first one was destroyed, but Luke isn't present, and the story seemed to take place after ROTJ, so it really didn't make a tremendous amount of sense. To some degree, it was always a faintly illogical experience for people who wanted to join in on the action but didn't need it to make a huge amount of sense. But yes, now you can literally escape from Darth Vader, run into Chewbacca, and receive a transmission from Yoda all in a couple of minutes, and it does start to feel more'n a bit scatterbrained.

I guess at the end of the day, my three biggest issues (in order of descending importance) are the reliance on bad CGI, the lack of a decent climax, and the downgrades to parts of the queue. If not for those problems, my feelings about this attraction wouldn't be so mixed.

Really? Wow that is fairly disappointing. One of my biggest complaints about the old ride was that the screen was far too small, and I was really hoping that the new version would make the travel vehicle, and the screen of course, bigger. Especially since this whole thing is 3D... wow. Very surprising. It really was the one improvement I was really hoping to look forward to.

I'm not surprised that there were no modifications to the size of the vehicles or screens - that would have been a really substantial change to make with limited payoff. They'd likely have to rebuild the Starspeeders from scratch, with new hydraulic actuators and everything. And the size of the room where the Starspeeders sit is a limiting factor...you can only fit so wide a vehicle in there, and you can only fit so many lengthwise.

Now, what would have been really cool (in a perfect world) is a BTTF-style setup, in which numerous Starspeeders are surrounded by a huge concave screen. That would allow for a greater sense of depth and allow them to put windows in the sides of the vehicles and whatnot.

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Yeah I was hoping for more of a BTTF/SIMPSONS ride approach. Would have allowed a lot more use of the 3D as well. Anyway, I'm still excited to got see this ride. I'm gonna go in October. :)

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That just wasn't going to happen with current Disney management, especially for a refurb.

Most of the ride elements are recycled. That seemed to be a priority. Keep everything as-is if it's not being removed, then change the screens and dialogue. It's impressive they even added Threepio into the ship.

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It's an understandable choice, IMO. Although it would have been nice, I also understand that this would have cost a LOT more time and money, with somewhat limited payoff. If they were going to invest more money in this overhaul, I would have preferred to have them invest in better visual effects. I mean, seriously...did ILM just hand off the files to Disney's own 3D animators or something?

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Perhaps Lucas thinks the CGI in the ride looks good. The visuals effects of the prequels certainly became less believable and more like a cartoon as they went on. By Sith, it looked like a Pixar movie with live actors dropped in. This and the TV show are the further regression.

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Although disappointing, the cartoonish CGI is not surprising. It is a ride, after all, and most people are too busy hanging on to their seats. Even I didn't pay much attention to the the graphics - there was a lot going on. It was about the quality I would expect.

No doubt the ride would benefit from higher quality graphics, though. But as Data has alluded to, there is a certain cost-benefit analysis that goes into Disney's decisions. On the whole, Disney has been more likely to "spare no expense" than, say, Universal or Knott's. Disney's rides, even in recent times, are still lightyears (:rimshot:) beyond most of the output at other parks.

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Just got back from finally riding this about 6 times the last 3 days! I actually loved it! I think it's better than the original, which I never thought I would. I just found it much more engaging, fun, and loved that it was different at least in one or more aspects everytime I went on! Some of the ordeals I went through were (SPOLERS) Darth Vader trying to board the ship and uses the force on ship and tosses it around, Bobba Fett chasing after us through the Death Star, flying through the Hoth ice planet battle (we got this one a lot for some reason, lol, and for those who ever went on Back To The Future The Ride, I am fairly certain one part was very much inspired and even line-referenced from it), Pod Racing, flying through the Coruscant city, and of course, Naboo... underwater... with the Gungans... aka.. JAR JAR BINKS! Noooo! LOL. To be honest though, the 3D at the very end of the underwater part was actually very well done, and the "crash" moment was totally unexpected and scared a LOT of people, including me. It was 3D that actually worked right! However, I am still upset that I have yet to go to Endor! Apparently that is one of the options, right? I saw it depicted on a postcard in the giftshop. Anyone else able to go to Endor? I want to finally fulfill what the original ride promised so long ago, hahahaha!

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Glad you enjoyed it, scallenger! :) Endor isn't one of the options, but you can go to Kashyyyk and experience and Endor-style speeder chase that also includes Wookies.

BTW, I've now experienced all the different segments. I can conclusively say that the Geonosis/Boba Fett/Death Star/Rebel hangar segment is my favorite ending by far, and Hoth is a strong contender for my favorite middle section. The visual effects are less conspicuous, for one thing.

I've also been the Rebel spy now, which I greatly enjoyed. But I must admit, now that I've done "everything", I feel much less need to ride it again. In other words, the attraction had great re-rideability while there were still segments I hadn't seen, but now I've done 'em all (after perhaps six rides), and it's dropped much lower on my priority list, especially considering that the lines remain long-ish.

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I've also been the Rebel spy now, which I greatly enjoyed. But I must admit, now that I've done "everything", I feel much less need to ride it again. In other words, the attraction had great re-rideability while there were still segments I hadn't seen, but now I've done 'em all (after perhaps six rides), and it's dropped much lower on my priority list, especially considering that the lines remain long-ish.

That's not surprising for a SoCal resident, but for me to rack up six rides would take a few years (maybe even six) at the rate I attend Disneyland (about annually). Not to mention that Star Tours makes me sick so I ride once maximum each visit to Disney, regardless of the number of days I'm there. So I'm not worried about the ride "getting old" in the near future, at least for me.

I prefer the new version to the old one. But maybe someday they'll throw the "Star Tours Classic" back into the mix.

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Naturally. :) But I was under the impression that the choice to create multiple storylines was partly a reaction to the ever-growing number of annual passholders who visit the parks all the time and need greater incentives to keep riding over and over and over again. My point was simply that this strategy doesn't work indefinitely.

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Naturally. :) But I was under the impression that the choice to create multiple storylines was partly a reaction to the ever-growing number of annual passholders who visit the parks all the time and need greater incentives to keep riding over and over and over again. My point was simply that this strategy doesn't work indefinitely.

True - unlike WDW, Disneyland has to cater primarily to annual passholders, which changes the dynamic of their attraction design. I still wonder why no one was riding the old version, though (most people don't get motion sickness like me) - there are plenty of old rides that still get ridden regularly, like Matterhorn, despite being static and predictable after all of these years. There was hardly ever a line at Star Tours before the reboot.

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Star Tours eats a lot of guests. It's was so well-conceived in the late 80s that its design would far outlive its original incarnation. Even with the new version drawing more crowds, there's never a significant wait at WDW. I can't speak for Disneyland right now. Maybe the lines just seem long compared to how it used to be.

I'm a firm believer that not all rides need to be updated/changed to remain popular and relevant. Refreshed a bit, perhaps. Captain EO and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, for instance, can't stick around forever. I generally like what they've done with the Haunted Mansion. The soul of that attraction is untouched. The bride is the only thing that doesn't fit in as well, but I've gotten used to it. Everything else is generally a wonderful cosmetic enhancement. It's how you remember it, just subtly enhanced. Even Pirates' additions aren't that bad...I'm mostly bothered by the changes and things they've removed. Adding the movie characters I think HAD to happen given the success of that franchise.

Off on a bit of a tangent here, but so this brings us back to Star Tours. The original ride was still strong the last times I enjoyed it, but it needed some love. I realize they weren't going to refresh it without changing over to accommodate the prequels. My main issues are these:

- ST had a more coherent story. ST2 is a bunch of random scenes.

- ST2 doesn't seem to have much motion and its scenes aren't done as well. It's actually rather boring, in my opinion.

- The droid room to baggage check feels like a downgrade. The old room had more details and things to look at.

- ST2 looks like a Pixar movie. ST actually looked like the original movies.

- Rex vs. Threepio. Both are awesome, but I prefer Rex. I felt on my rides that Threepio wasn't connecting as well with the riders. He also isn't even piloting the ship, just narrating the journey? Rex was formerly one of the coolest things you could see at the Disney parks, as he piloted your ship and interacted with you and to the situations encountered.

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Star Tours eats a lot of guests. It's was so well-conceived in the late 80s that its design would far outlive its original incarnation. Even with the new version drawing more crowds, there's never a significant wait at WDW. I can't speak for Disneyland right now. Maybe the lines just seem long compared to how it used to be.

You're right that ride capacity has a lot to do with the length of the line, and you can't necessarily judge the popularity of a ride based on the line. For example, Dumbo has a rider capacity of 600/hour whereas PotC has a capacity of 3400/hour, so just because the line for Pirates is shorter doesn't mean fewer people are riding it.

I did some research and found that ST has about a 2000 rider per hour capacity, which is about the same as the other major attractions (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, etc.). So based on that fact, I think ST had an abnormally short line before the reboot. I suspect what it boils down to is that it just isn't that thrilling of a ride (there are no drops or loops - just simulated motion). If that's true, eventually ST2's ridership will also drop off (not just stabilize).

Then again, I've noticed that people no longer run for Splash Mountain in the morning like they used to, although the line still gets long in the afternoon. I think Splash is one of the most detailed, well-designed, thrilling adventure rides anywhere. If its popularity can diminish over time, I guess it can happen to any ride.

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I cant wait to ride ST2. I'm going to WDW in January and I am most excited to ride the rebooted Star Tours. This will be the 6th year in a row that I have gone to WDW in January. The past five years Splash Mountain was closed for repairs. As of today I believe Splash Mountain is going to be open in January. Splash Mountain is definitely one of the best rides in all of WDW. I cant imagine any of the 3 "Mountains" getting old.

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I still wonder why no one was riding the old version, though (most people don't get motion sickness like me) - there are plenty of old rides that still get ridden regularly, like Matterhorn, despite being static and predictable after all of these years.

Are they static and predictable, though? Part of the inherent appeal of a non-video-based attraction is that the experience usually completely surrounds you, 360 degrees in every direction. Because of that, you can look in an almost infinite number of combinations of different directions at different points in the attraction. A video-based attraction tends to occupy a rather limited part of your world - you can take in the whole thing without even moving your head. There's also the fact that video-based attractions tend to have a single audio track that runs all the way through, such that it always sounds exactly the same. In contrast, dark rides and the like typically use a number of different audio loops that combine with unpredictable timings to create an experience that is not quite so identical.

On the one hand, these distinctions seem rather trivial...but I'm convinced that they really do play a big role in making real-world experiences more repeatable. Not the sort of thing that would be likely to arise in a focus group or casual conversation, but I have a feeling it's there beneath the surface. It's definitely a big part of it for me. Take any chunk of Pirates that's equal in length to Star Tours, and I can guarantee you there's a LOT more I haven't seen in that part of Pirates.

Now, on the topic of capacity, yes, that is a HUGE factor in line length. I work at a fairly high-capacity attraction right now, and it's not some huge E-ticket. So on slow days (like today), our lines get extremely short, sometimes to the point of being a walk-on, but we still pull in very decent numbers - easily 1500 per hour or more, and our target is closer to 2000. All it takes is a slight, momentary reduction in capacity (caused by temporarily stopping the ride, for instance) to suddenly make the line back up. Once things get moving again, we munch our way through the line until it's a walk-on again. If people were getting in line for a lower-capacity attraction at an equal rate, the line could easily build up to 45 minutes or more. I've seen that happen at other attractions.

Another interesting factor in line length is the listed wait time, oddly enough. Some attractions allow you to manually adjust the wait time, based on your own approximation, and the backwards irony of it all is that you can actually affect the length of the line by changing the listed wait time. Shorter listed wait times draw in people at a faster rate, and longer listed wait times draw in people at a slower rate. Which makes sense, of course, but it's amusing to stand there for thirty minutes or so and watch the length of the actual line swing back and forth like a pendulum as the listed wait time gets adjusted. (Of course, I'm honest with my listed wait times - I'm not just playing games with it or anything. But I do get a kick out of watching the line as I make appropriate changes to the listed wait time.)

The dynamics of queues is very interesting...

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So you work at Disneyland, I take it? Come on, which ride do you work at? Maybe I saw you! :D Haha.

Btw, I loved my first trip on the new Star Tours better than the rest I had on my trip. Maybe because it was all original trilogy induced. It went from the escape from the tie fighters to Hoth to Admiral Ackbar's projection to Bobba Fett's chase through the incomplete Death Star 2! ;) If only it had started off instead with Vader using the force on the ship that trip would have been even more perfect, but regardless, it was a great adventure that really made me go back for more.

I also admit that I really didn't expect the very end of the Gungan adventure's windshield crash at all, and it really was an effective use of "fun 3D".

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I still wonder why no one was riding the old version, though (most people don't get motion sickness like me) - there are plenty of old rides that still get ridden regularly, like Matterhorn, despite being static and predictable after all of these years.

Are they static and predictable, though? Part of the inherent appeal of a non-video-based attraction is that the experience usually completely surrounds you, 360 degrees in every direction. Because of that, you can look in an almost infinite number of combinations of different directions at different points in the attraction. A video-based attraction tends to occupy a rather limited part of your world - you can take in the whole thing without even moving your head. There's also the fact that video-based attractions tend to have a single audio track that runs all the way through, such that it always sounds exactly the same. In contrast, dark rides and the like typically use a number of different audio loops that combine with unpredictable timings to create an experience that is not quite so identical.

On the one hand, these distinctions seem rather trivial...but I'm convinced that they really do play a big role in making real-world experiences more repeatable. Not the sort of thing that would be likely to arise in a focus group or casual conversation, but I have a feeling it's there beneath the surface. It's definitely a big part of it for me. Take any chunk of Pirates that's equal in length to Star Tours, and I can guarantee you there's a LOT more I haven't seen in that part of Pirates.

I think you're on to something there. Even though ST2 has various combinations, the ride experience is heavily controlled so that the variations in "destinations" are really the only possible differences.

Whereas each time I ride Splash Mountain, any number of minute factors can change: I may get backed up before the big drop, increasing the tension. I may enter the "Zip-a-dee Lady" room at a different spot in the loop and hear different lyrics. Depending on the weight and position of each rider in the log, the drops could be faster, wetter or less stable. In other words, there is an infinite combination of ride experiences, versus maybe a dozen for ST2. (Actually - what is the number of combos? How many destinations are there? And can they play in different orders?)

For a simulated ride, Indiana Jones does a MUCH better job of being spontaneous than ST2.

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Well put, Jeff. Of course, as I said, these differences may seem incredibly trivial and inconsequential to folks who disagree, but I know this plays a huge role in my enjoyment of fully three-dimensional attractions, and I can only assume that other people are similarly affected to some degree.

So you work at Disneyland, I take it? Come on, which ride do you work at? Maybe I saw you! :D Haha.

I work at many locations... :ph34r:

Btw, I loved my first trip on the new Star Tours better than the rest I had on my trip. Maybe because it was all original trilogy induced. It went from the escape from the tie fighters to Hoth to Admiral Ackbar's projection to Bobba Fett's chase through the incomplete Death Star 2! ;) If only it had started off instead with Vader using the force on the ship that trip would have been even more perfect, but regardless, it was a great adventure that really made me go back for more.

Yeah, having the OT-based segments really does make the experience more enjoyable for me - better visual effects on the whole, more reminiscent of "real" Star Wars, and then the Death Star ending simply feels so much more like an ending than the Naboo and (especially) Coruscant segments. However....

I also admit that I really didn't expect the very end of the Gungan adventure's windshield crash at all, and it really was an effective use of "fun 3D".

...I do agree here. This always seems to get a great reaction...definitely surprised me the first time. The depth and the timing work very well, and since you've sort of been conditioned not to expect things flying in your face for the last few minutes, it's much more of a shock.

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I will be on this ride Wednesday! I'm going to try and count how many times I go on the ride over the 10 days that I will be in WDW.

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I went to Disneyland/CA Adventures on the 27th-28th (seems to be one of the peak visiting times--I have never seen lines so long). I rode the new Star Tours and I liked it. One thing I thought was a little weird was that Vader himself would come personally to arrest a Rebel spy. As the head honcho it doesn't seem like he would risk his life like that, unless it was a matter than only he could deal with (ie a jedi). Even in Star Wars when he came along, he didn't enter until after all the good guys had been killed. A little complaint, but for some reason a memorable one. Also, the voiceovers were pretty bad. If they can find a very convincing Rod Serling impersonator for Tower of Terror, I'm sure they could've done better for Admiral Ackbar and Vader.

For me the biggest problem was the score--it was mixed waaaay too quietly. That downgrades the new version considerably IMO. The fact that there are a bunch of different versions upgrades it considerably, IMO. So it's about as good as the original version.

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Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones!

I said it before, I'll say it again. I think they should have gone back to the drawing board with this new ride. Star Tours is still the Disney attraction you can recreate in your living room. Put Star Wars on a big TV and rock around in your recliner. It was awesome for its time. These days, it's measured against something like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. They downgraded the queue and changed the movie...big whoop.

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Really? Well they should've waited for a few more takes, it didn't sound anything like Vader.

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I still have a hard time convincing myself that that's really James Earl Jones. It always sounds like a bad imitation to me.

And yes, the Disney parks have been extraordinarily busy. The last week or two of December takes "crowded" to a whole new level. Yesterday was the worst I'd seen it.

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Oh yeah, I don't think there was a major ride in either park with a line less than 60 minutes when I was there. Some of the FastPass lines I waited in were 45 minutes. Thank God for Single Rider!

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I rode it 12 times during my week at WDW. I really enjoyed the ride. The variety and different ride combinations kept me coming back for more. Its a huge upgrade over the original. I would only ride the original once per trip.

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As would I. I'll be interested to hear whether the re-rideability lasts for you, though...as I said before, I've found myself being much less interested in riding the attraction now that I've experienced all the segments. Sure, there are combinations I haven't had yet, but they're made up of segments I've already experienced, so they wouldn't feel very new. Still a fun attraction, no doubt, but I remain firm in my conviction that this attraction is only an improvement in certain respects (e.g., 3D, digital projection, the luggage scanner in the queue, the randomization, the Rebel spy). I sorely miss the original in other respects (e.g., VFX, exclusive featuring of the OT, less emphasis on characters, better story arc, better music).

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