Last November, I talked to Frank Oz for a story about the future of three franchises, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica.” It was an absolute treat to chat with the witty and wise Oz, and as the conversation wound down, I had to ask him about his standing in the world as “the voice of Yoda” — I was curious how that particular role as the Jedi elder had resonated in his own life.
“People ask me to do it all the time, and as I rule I just don’t,” said Oz, who was down at the Ritz Carlton in Orange County. “I have a real respect for the character, and I think you start to lose that if you just do it for silly things.”
My next question was a natural one: So when was the last time you did the voice?
“It was not long ago at all, I was recording dialogue for the new Disney ride.”
It turns out Oz had been in the studio putting down new tracks of dialogue for a major overhaul of Star Tours, the Disney ride that made its official opening in early 1987. Oz realized he had spoken out of turn and, through the folks at Lucasfilm, asked that I sit on that little tidbit until there was something more detailed to share with the public. A scoop was promised, and since I didn’t have all that much info I agreed to wait for it — especially considering that Oz and his family were on vacation and he took the time to come to the phone and help me with a big piece that greatly benefited from his contribution.
Now I see that Slashfilm has a story on the ride update so the jig is up. It’s my own fault for not checking back more often with the Lucasfilm folks, but, well, these types of projects are hard to keep quiet anyway. Here’s a snippet from the piece by Peter Sciretta, which reveals that a secretive production has been underway in West Hollywood:
The ride really hasn’t been updated since it opened in 1987. It’s not the total podracer reboot that was rumored a few years back, thank God. I’m hearing that its essentially the same ride but updated. It sounds to me like they might be shooting the footage in 3D, but I’m not sure.
Our source reveals that the revamp will incorporate prequel characters (like Naboo citizens and Geonosians) along with many aliens from the original trilogy (Aqualish. Bith, Rodians, etc). In the action sequence, the Star Tours vehicle is now going to be chased by Boba Fett. C3PO and R2-D2 are still the hosts, and Anthony Daniels will be recording his parts this week. Admiral Ackbar holographically communicates with the Star Tours vehicle. Right now they’re shooting mostly green screen footage, as it is the middle part of the production timeline.
It’s funny, I just recently went to Florida with my wife and kids and we made it by Disney World. My son, Ben, who is 7, took his first ride on Star Tours and adored it. He’s a huge “Star Wars” fan and he loved the silly escapade (which, by the way, features the voice of Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee Wee Herman, as the daffy robot pilot). Looks like sometime soon he will get a whole new adventure. I’ll be a bit sad to see the original herky-jerky ride go the way of the “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” ride, which was my childhood favorite. But, sentimentality aside, the old ride is certainly dated and, compared to the rollicking Indiana Jones or sleek Buzz Lightyear rides, it must seem like a museum piece to many in the Xbox generation. Here, check out this flashback, which really takes me back:
— Geoff Boucher
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