Time for another Star Wars article, this time masked with a Disney outlook. You know, I'm thinking about it, and Star Wars is probably one of the focal points of why I started this site. Or at least, its one of the very few things I knew I wanted to write about. Over the course of the past eight months or so doing X-E, its been a fun outlet for my by far geekiest obsession. I try not to get too inside in the hopes that casual fans can still enjoy the articles, but for all I know, half of you just skip over anything that says Star Wars. If that's the case, then there's nothing wrong with me saying that SE Luke was regular Luke with a 100 dollar sticker on the package. Everyone would get it!
But we're not gonna talk about toys today. And I'm sure you know - that's tough on me. We're not even gonna talk about the movies. No, this is a brand new Star Wars topic, this time taking us all the way back to 1987 and way across the nation for me to Disneyland! Yep...it's the Star Tours ride!
My parents had lugged me along on one of the cruise/vacation deals, and after sailing around the islands and arguing with my mother over the positive factors of wearing long pants in 95 degree weather, we were exported to California, or more specifically, to Disneyland.
Those of you who've been to a Disney park know, the rides are not short waits. We're talking a good 90 minutes or more for the hot attractions. In other words, very few people are actually patient enough to wait for the rides. Essentially, you pay all that money to get into the place just to spend yet more money browsing the 45,000 souvenier shops littering the park. If you add into that the fact that I was only with my parents, my desire to go on rides was at an all-time low point. But Star Tours...how could I miss this? A Star Wars ride? My parents, who at this point had to be regretting buying me that Jabba the Hutt playset when I was four, waited with me on the mile-long line to await my destiny.
At the time, the ride was new. To be honest, I'm too lazy to check if its still there, but I'm assuming it is. I do know that its been featured at several Disney parks all around the world. But this was 1987, and the thing had just come out. People were trying to get into this thing like it was the fucking fountain of youth. I've never seen people degenerate into line-cutting, barbarian monsters so quickly in my life. You'd think this was the ride for sex or something. Nuh uh...it was better than sex. It was Star Wars.
And there he was! C-3P0! I'm seriously not kidding when I tell you - I almost fainted. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Seeing this stupid Droid in the flesh was like seeing a Virgin Mary start bleeding from the eyes and spelling out 50 cent vocabulary words with her blood for me. I wasn't sure if I should ask it for an autograph or start looking for a mechanical cylinder near it's hips to suck. Either way, I was amazed. It was really C-3P0!
And R2-D2 too! Jesus! This was like going to a Betty White book signing and finding her sitting at the cute little desk next to Estelle Getty. You're not quite sure why the gods chose this day to shine the sun on you, but you're pretty fucking grateful. Best of all...this wasn't even the ride? When you got up to around the half an hour left of waiting mark, they'd throw these robots in front of you to hopefully make you forget you're wasting your entire admission price waiting for one ride. C-3P0 spouts of a ton of useless info...everything from stuff about the ride, to directions on how to get to the gift shop to buy some Star Tours memorabilia. Obviously, George Lucas had his hands producing this one.
Click here to hear 3P0's welcome message to guests on the Star Tours ride. (I can't believe I was able to find this either...)
So yes, aside from telling you about the ride, 3P0 hocked some souvenier snake oil. Star Tours managed to amass a number of collectibles. I went home with a poster which unfortunately survived only around three months, and a pennant not unlike this one:
Having this thing up in my room really told the tale. No Mets, Yankees, Jets or Giants. No Rangers, Devils...just C-3P0. There were all kinds of impulse buys. Little figures, mugs, pictures, hats, hell they even managed to hock aviator jackets in the middle of California. I'm telling you, if you've ever wondered why Pepsi went nuts throwing Jake Lloyd's picture all over their cans - people buy anything that has to do with Star Wars. And, for some reason, Star Tours also launched their own special Ewok doll...
Don't worry. I know, I promised...no toys. But showing you this Ewok is essential to the next part of the story. You'll see. For all intents and purposes though, that's a pretty cool doll. I never knew Ewoks wore shoulderpads. Guess it's a good idea, pretty easy to trip and fall on Endor with all those logs rolling around.
As you grew closer and closer to the five-minute mark, you'd pass this giant screen. Aside from showing you a teaser about the ride, back in '87, it also presented you with a really fucked up opportunity: an Ewok birthday party! I swear I'm not kidding. You could have your own birthday party starring the Ewoks at Disneyland. Can you imagine that? Say some 5 year old girl throws a party there, and most of her little girlfreinds have no idea what Star Wars was. Picture the end result when 50 little monkey bear creatures come running at them with plastic spears from a side entrance. Remember, we didn't know the Ewoks were cute until one of them ate Leia's potato chips. Before that - horror!
If you don't believe me, check out this ad for the Endor Express by clicking here.
Anyway, at this point you were getting really close. And what a build up! All this action and you still haven't been on the ride. Fuckin Elvis didn't get a preshow like this, and it still wasn't finished!
More robots. The sad part is, all the hooplah beforehand was probably better than the ride itself. In this case, a weird little Droid is tending over some really beaten up R5-D4s, all the while beeping while pointing to a sign than directs you to the nearest souvenier stand. And now, finally, it was time to actually go on the ride. By this point, half the people were either sleeping or running for their lives after 3P0 repeats his three lines for the 700th time. The survivors got to go on Star Tours.
The ride itself was actually very cool. Its a lot simpler than the fanfare suggested...just an oversized flight simulator dolled up with effects, video, and sounds from the Star Wars trilogy. Of course, no ride would be complete without a cheesy warning video shown beforehand. In this case, we get characters from the Star Wars universe showing us what could go wrong if we don't follow the rules...
Chewbacca and one of the many famous Mon Calamari demonstrate the right way to participate on Star Tours. Seated, buckled in, and non-smoking. The bad Star Wars aliens were then shown throwing food at each other while lighting up cigarettes. I know not many of you have seen Ree-Yees take a drag, but let me tell you, its a surreal experience.
Jesus, I can't believe how long this article is getting. I figured this would be a breeze. Oh, it 3 AM. Let's do a quick post. Idiotically I choose Star Wars to post about. I could easily spread this over three pages to make more money, you're just lucky I'm too lazy to do it at 5:30 AM.
It's Rex! Once you see Rex, you're about to embark on an adventure like never before. C-3P0 and R2 are dealing with the incoming crowd, so its up to Rex to guide you through your journey. I should mention that while the ride itself is a simulation, Rex is actually there in the simulator with you. Once he forgets where he's supposed to be driving the Starspeeder 3000, your adventure begins.
And there's the Starspeeder, in all its glory! Of course, it wasn't actually flying through space. The ride worked sort of like a mini-movie theatre that moved. Only it moved a little too much, as a lot of people ended up getting pretty sick on the ride. Through the years, its become notorious for that and Disney has amended their warning signs to show that they can't be responsible for anyone vomiting. Its all in your hands.
Once the ride started, you went all over the Star Wars universe. From the ice-planet of Hoth, to the barren desert wasteland of Tatooine, the ride really covers all bases, all the while teasing as if you're about to crash head on with the Death Star.
Its definitely a cool ride. One of the great things about Disney/MGM for all you nostalgia freaks out there: they invest way too much money and marketing into these themed rides to just rip 'em down when they aren't the in thing. There's a lot of great rides like this there. Universal Studios, too. But that's another article entirely, you're not gonna believe what I have for you. You can actually download and watch the ride! Live through it for yourself in a 2" grainy realplayer recording! First, check out some pics from the ride, then dL the whole thing for yourself! It's a short download, and harder on the eyes than Princess Leia's song number at the end of the infamous SW Holiday Special. But hey, not everyone can get up and go to Disneyland. If they could, then we'd all be there right now, buying little ceramic ducks for that person on your Christmas list who's just so hard to shop for.
Backtracking, and making sure that I give you more info on this ride than you can stand, we have to go outside the attraction for a moment. Why? Because I don't think any of you can go to sleep at night without being able to compare how the thing looked at day and night. So here you are...
And, as a grand finale, if you walk back even further, you'd see the most amazing sight of all time. The true 8th wonder of the world. A full-size, real-life, bona fide AT-AT!
Unfortunately, you couldn't go in the AT-AT. But if you tried hard enough, you could touch its foot. And that's closer than most people will ever get. Well, except for Dak...but he had to get stepped on and killed by the thing to pull off that feat. Your mission is a little safer...you just gotta avoid getting yelled at by security guards who are programmed to smile even when its completely inappropriate for the situation their in.
We're on it, Vader. We're on it.
I know that if you look hard enough at this picture, you've gotta be able to find one guy scratching his ass.