I decided to make a post about Star Tours because it will truly be missed by many Disneyland fans, even though the excitement for Star Tours II: The Adventures Continue is lingering in all of our minds. The ride that became Star Tours first saw light as a proposal for an attraction based on the 1979 Disney live-action film The Black Hole. It would have been an interactive ride simulator attraction, where guests would have had the ability to choose the ride car's route, but after preliminary planning, the Black Hole attraction was shelved due to its enormous cost—approximately $50 million USD—as well as the unpopularity of the film itself.
But instead of completely dismissing the idea of a simulator, the company decided to make use of a partnership between Disney and George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, that began in 1986 with the opening of Captain EO (a 3-D musical film starring Michael Jackson) at the California park. Disneyland then approached Lucas with the idea for Star Tours. With Lucas' approval, Disney Imagineers purchased four military-grade flight simulators at a cost of $500,000 each and designed the ride structure.
Meanwhile, Lucas and his team of special effects technicians at Industrial Light & Magic produced the first-person perspective film that would be projected inside the simulators. When both simulator and film were completed, a programmer then sat inside and, with the aid of a joystick, manually synchronized the movement of the simulator with the apparent movement on screen. On January 9, 1987, at a final cost of $32 million, almost twice the cost of building the entire park in 1955, the ride opened to throngs of patrons, many of whom dressed up as Star Wars characters for the occasion. In celebration, Disneyland remained open for a special 60-hour marathon from January 9, 1987 at 10 am to January 11, 1987 at 10 pm.
Advertised as "The Ultimate Star Wars Adventure!", Star Tours puts the guest in the role of a space tourist en route to the forest moon of Endor, the site of the climactic battle of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, via the Star Tours travel agency. Much is made of this throughout the ride queue, which is designed to look like a spaceship boarding terminal: posters advertise voyages to different planets, and a giant screen informs riders of the benefits of going to Endor. This area is stocked with Audio-Animatronic characters that seem to speak to the ride patrons (including C-3PO and R2-D2), as well as a life-size mock-up of a StarSpeeder 3000, the fictional spacecraft which riders are about to board. According to the book Disneyland Detective by Kendra Trahan, the figures of C-3PO and R2-D2 in the Disneyland attraction are actual props from the original film, modified to operate via Audio-Animatronics.
Guests then enter a maintenance area where an apparently under productive G2 droid performs repairs on another droid while being distracted by the observing guests, and another droid inadvertently points out all the supposed flaws of the Starspeeder 3000 and its RX pilots. The G2 droids are in fact the animatronic skeletons of two geese from the defunct Tomorrowland attraction America Sings. A ride attendant escorts guests to one of several loading stations where they wait for their turn to ride.
At the end of the ride guest unload from the Starspeeder and go into The Star Trader shop.
Below is a blueprint of Star Tours showing how the queue and ride vehicles fit into the building, and a video of Star Tours.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Every Disney Resort except Hong Kong Disneyland has a version of Star Tours. All of the rides are the same but the buildings and queues vary a little. In Disney's Hollywood Studios the outside of the ride looks like a movie set of the planet Endor. The queue is almost the same as Disneyland's except the very entrance of the building has some chairs for the actors and some filming equipment. The store at the end of the ride is called Tatooine Traders. The Star Tours in Disney's Hollywood Studios opened on Sept. 7, 1989.
Below is a video of Disney's Hollywood Studio's version of Star Tours. This was taken during the final flight ceremony, so this was the last day of flights before the attraction closed.
The Star Tours in Tokyo Disneyland opened on July 12, 1989 and was actually the second Star Tours to open (almost two months before Disney's Hollywood Studios's version). The ride building looks like a building that one would see in a Star Wars movie, and the queue has more detail to it than the American versions of the ride. Also this version of Star Tours has audio in both Japanese and English.
At the end of the ride you will see Officer Zzzyxx and he mans what looks like a futuristic baggage screening desk outside of Star Tours at Tokyo Disneyland. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Rays in Walt Disney World. According to HiddenMickeys.org, he was first developed for Tokyo Disneyland then re-used (and modified) for the Orlando park.
Below are a couple videos of Tokyo's Star Tours. The first video is the queue, the second is of the safty pre-boarding video, and the third video is the ride.
The Star Tours in Disneyland Paris was the only Star Tours to be an opening day attraction on April 12, 1992. The ride building looks like a Star Wars space information receiver and it has a replica of an X-Wing Fighter out front. The queue is very similar to the one found in California's Disneyland.
Below are two videos. The first one is the pre-board, and the second one is the ride.
If you have ever wondered how the motion simulators worked below is behind scene footage of the simulators for Star Tours in Disneyland Paris.