Johnny Depp is a tough act to follow, so Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo brought in the heavy artillery today to announce plans to update the Star Tours attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla.
Rasulo deadpanned that he had some “bad news” for the Disneyphiles attending the D23 Expo — Star Tours would close in Oct 2010. On cue, Stormtroopers marched on stage as the martial sound of John Williams’ “Imperial March” played. Darth Vader appeared on the giant screen overhead, and intoned, “The Emperor is most displeased with plans to close Star Tours.”
Rasulo said Star Tours would reopen on 2011 as a 3-D simulation that, among other facets of the ride, recreates the pod-racing scene from “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” The audience donned 3D glasses to watch a sequence, in which the space-age vehicles veer through canyons, across the flats and speed into the arena on Tatooine.
“If that doesn’t fire you up,” Rasulo said. “You’re in the wrong meeting.”
At a news conference after the presentation, Rasulo said there would be physical changes to the ride — although he offered few additional details. He said “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has been involved in every aspect of the attraction and the storytelling.
“Ever since we did our original Star Tours attraction with George, the relationship with Imagineering has been very, very close,” Rasulo said. “We strive for authenticity in everything we do. This is a Lucas idea, this is Lucas storytelling, interpreted by Imagineering.”
The first Star Tours attraction opened at Disneyland in January 1987, and is believed to have been the first to adapt flight-simulator technologies for a theme park show. In it, visitors board a Starspeeder 3000 piloted by an android, careen through a giant frozen comet and join an intergalactic dogfight between the Rebel Alliance and the evil Empire. Yoda was not in the sequence shown, but last year Frank Oz, the voice of the diminutive green Jedi, told the Hero Complex that he had recorded new dialogue for the ride upgrade.
–Dawn C. Chmielewski
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PHOTOS: Disney / Lucasfilm
Check out this clip from the new Star Tours, Guests aboard Starspeeders join in a high-speed pod race through the desert canyons of Tatooine: