The new and improved Star Tours attraction at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida will be a force to be reckoned with, including 54 “truly amazing” variations that give riders an ever-changing experience, according to Anthony Daniels, the actor who portrayed C-3PO in the “Star Wars” films and revisits the role for the theme-park attraction.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is the name of the reimagined attraction, and Daniels put an emphasis on the plural: “It’s adventures, not adventure.” It speaks to the variable nature of a ride that will take visitors through different landscapes and scenarios in the Jedi universe — be it the frozen tundra of Hoth, the gleaming spires of Coruscant or the unfinished innards of a still-under-construction Death Star space station.
Work is still underway on both attractions, which have been billed as state of the art. The Florida ride opens May 20, while its Anaheim counterpart takes flight June 3. For Daniels, the first Star Tours — which opened in 1987 — set a high standard for innovation, and the coming version carries that to new heights.
“It’s remarkable, just extraordinary,” Daniels said Wednesday during a visit to Los Angeles. “We did the first Star Tours almost 25 years ago, and I rode it in October [in Florida] just before we closed and blew the place up. It was huge pyros. And they’ve been really, really busy, and they’re busy, in fact, today working on the pre-show. The ride is finished, but the pre-show is being put in.”
Signature characters such as Darth Vader, Yoda, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Boba Fett will appear in the new narratives, but Daniels was especially enthused to find out that his “old friend” C-3PO would be the pilot of the ship that takes Disney park visitors on their intergalactic escapade. Daniels has (in body and/or in voice) inhabited the role of the persnickety protocol droid in all seven theatrically released “Star Wars” feature films. He is also the narrator of “Star Wars: In Concert,” the live-music, multimedia show that makes its only scheduled North American stop for 2011 at the Hollywood Bowl on June 3 and 4. [UPDATED: An earlier version of this post had wrong dates.]
Daniels said he was giddy when he found out that his gleaming, gold-colored alter ego would be at the controls.
“Threepio is the pilot, and it’s huge for me,” the 65-year-old native of Salisbury, England, said. Senior Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering “Tom Fitzgerald, who sold me the concept [of the first Star Tours attraction] 20-some years ago, sat across a desk and acted out the whole ride for me — he’s that kind of guy and just one of my favorite people. He came to England about two years ago, and we were sitting there having drinks when he said, ‘I want to tell you about the new Star Tours,’ ” Daniels recounted as he walked through the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday. “The bit you’re going to really like is that C-3PO gets to be the pilot. I kept it a secret for a while, but we had to admit it. As soon as the build started and C-3PO was put in the flight simulator, the news was going to get out.”
He offered a tip for riders: “I won’t tell you why, but all I’m going to say is when you’re in your loading position about to get on the Starspeeder 2000, just watch the monitors. Please pay close attention. There’s a lot of footage there that we spent months creating and this whole storyline is going on, so don’t miss it because you’re looking at the floor. The pre-show is something you’ll want to enjoy before you reach the cabin. And then when you’re inside, of course, and the doors close and you have your seatbelt on, you’re off on the adventures of a lifetime.”
There is no aspect of the attraction that is more intriguing than its “branching” variables. Essentially, the ride is divided into three acts, and each of them has multiple variables, so riders could find a completely different experience on the second, third or fourth run through the George Lucas universe.
“It is beyond inventive,” Daniels said. “You’re going to much love it, and you’re going to much love it 54 times. You may never see all of it. It’s completely random. So you may see the same thing three times or you may have three different [ride sequences]. So there’s this extraordinary sort of slot machine effect, isn’t there? You don’t know what’s going to come up in the rows in those windows. It could be triple cherry. Each ride is gorgeous within in its own light. You will go back more than once.”
At the start of the interview, Daniels was reticent about the new Star Tours details, but he opened up after he was told that the multiple-scenario capability of the attraction has been public knowledge for weeks.
“Nobody told me that! I’ve been so secretive about this. The story variables — I haven’t spoken to a soul about them. I just recorded them. I will tell you I got very confused in the recording; how they kept track of which storyline we were on, I have no idea. The inventiveness of the way they segue is remarkable. You wouldn’t know that you’re about to go into a different storyline and then come out of that and go back to the old one. You can bounce around and, really, the internal makings of this are extraordinary. It’s like nobody’s business. It branches, and you don’t know which branch you’re following. And I had to try to understand it all because I’m flying this stuff. It took way longer to record [than comparable types of jobs]; it was two solid days recording, and by the end of it I was just exhausted. A lot of it is ‘peril acting,’ and that’s pretty hard on your vocal cords.”
Daniels was protective of plenty of other secrets, however, saying that the new Star Tours will surprise fans in other ways.
“There are things they have not told you — and I’m not going to tell you those — but there are experiences that are unique to this ride. There are things that they’ve done, things that I don’t believe have been done before and certainly not in this way. You are going to be knocked out. Look, I don’t get paid any more money for being nice about it. I’ve already been paid. And I can tell you this: I adore it. I can’t wait to get on the ride and see it myself and, well, see myself.”
With a smile, he added: ” My attitude is that I want to save it for Christmas morning. Let’s unwrap that gift together.”
– Geoff Boucher
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