“Lightspeed to Endor!” Before Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019, Star Tours was one of the few opportunities to live out your own Star Wars story inside the Disney Parks. The motion simulator first opened at Disneyland in California in 1987, with nearly identical versions following at Tokyo Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, and Disneyland Paris. The attraction got an entirely new story in the 2010s and was rebranded as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. From what Star Tours is to details about the updates, here is everything you need to know about the history of the first Star Wars attraction.
Spoiler Warning: While this article includes a number of basic story elements, it is largely spoiler-free for the current version of the attraction. However, it does contain spoilers for the original ride.
What Is Star Tours?
Star Tours is a motion simulator ride located in four Disney parks around the world. While other ride simulators existed at the time, the ride vehicle used cutting-edge flight simulator technology. Lucasfilm worked with Disney on the story, while Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created state-of-the-art special effects for the ride film.
Originally advertised as “The Ultimate Adventure!”, it is the first attraction based on the Star Wars franchise. It is also one of several collaborations between Walt Disney Imagineering and George Lucas before the Walt Disney Company purchase Lucasfilm in 2012.
What would eventually become Star Tours was originally conceived for a completely different movie. In the late 1970s, Tomorrowland was quickly becoming dated, and Disney was looking for a new attraction to revitalize the area. The original plan was to create a simulator ride around the Disney movie The Black Hole.
The attraction was supposed to include an interactive element where guests could choose the path the vehicle took. Unfortunately, the movie was a commercial disappointment, and the attraction was shelved. There were also plans for a Tron attraction in the early 80s that may have used similar technology. However, it was also shelved due to the performance of the film.
Imagineer Tony Baxter pitched an idea for partnering with George Lucas shortly afterward. Ron Miller, then President of the Walt Disney Company, reluctantly gave Baxter permission to talk with Lucas about developing an attraction. While an interactive rollercoaster was discussed, it too was canceled due to budget concerns. Miller was reportedly also concerned about bringing outside brands into the parks.
However, Miller was removed from the company in 1984 with Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg taking over. Eisner saw the potential of both investing in the Disney parks as well as partnering with George Lucas. Wanting to appeal to teens and young adults, Eisner’s then -14-year-old son Breck played a major role in Star Tours getting approved.
The partnership with George Lucas and Lucasfilm was extremely beneficial for the Walt Disney Company. In addition to Star Tours, they also collaborated on Captain EO and, later, The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, and countless other limited run productions.
With Michael Eisner onboard, Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm started developing the new attraction. Initially, the story was supposed to be about joining the fight against the Galactic Empire. However, it was eventually changed to focus on space tourism with guests getting swept up in their own Star Wars adventure.
Lucas was very interested in the flight simulator technology because it would allow him to change the story over time. During an interview for the Star Tours New Kit, George Lucas said, “One of the basic ideas behind this is that it’s reprogrammable. It relies a lot on software rather than hardware.” He goes on to add, “I think this will give us a big advantage in being about to upgrade the ride after a certain period of time.”
While they planned to create an all-new Star Wars adventure, the Imagineers and Lucas thought that encountering the Death Star was important to the story. While the film director Dennis Murren, a long-time Lucasfilm and ILM veteran, disagreed, it was ultimately kept in the final version.
Finding a location for the new attraction was also a challenge. With land at a premium, Disney ultimately decided to close Adventure Thru Inner Space. First opened in 1967, the once ground-breaking attraction had become dated over the two decades since. The attraction closed on September 2, 1985, making way for Star Tours.
Disney Imagineering focused on developing the ride system, ultimately purchasing four $500,000 military flight simulators. Lucasfilm handled the special effects and created the ride film. With a total cost of $32 million, it was one of the most expensive Disney attractions to date.
Opening and Ride Experience
The attraction opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on January 9, 1987. Michael Eisner hosted a grand opening and Disneyland remained open for 60 hours straight.
Set shortly after the Original Trilogy, guests boarded a Starspeeder 3000 for an excursion to the forest moon of Endor. However, you eventually get caught in the crossfire between the New Republic and a remnant of the Galactic Empire. In addition to a comet, you also encounter a Star Destroyer and a Death Star.
The attraction introduced Captain “Rex” RX-24, voiced by Paul Ruebens, and featured R2-D2 and C-3PO. Anthony Daniels returned to voice C-3PO, with Warwick Davis making a cameo as Wicket the Ewok.
A nearly identical version opened in Tokyo Disneyland on July 12, 1989. The Disney-MGM Studios, now Disney’s Hollywood Studios, version opened on December 15, 1989, about six months after the park. While the attraction was identical, the outside theming was adjusted to fit the working movie studio theme of the park. Star Tours opened at Disneyland Paris, originally Euro Disneyland, on April 12, 1992, the same day as the park’s grand opening.
What is Star Tours – The Adventures Continue?
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue is the second iteration of the popular Star Wars-themed attraction. Once again, Lucasfilm worked closed with Disney Imagineers to create a completely new ride experience. The all-new 3D film allows passengers to relive some of the most popular moments of the Original and Prequel Trilogies.
Original Sequel Plans
Around The Phantom Menace, Disney looked at updating the ride. The plan was for guests to travel to Tatooine for the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace on Tatooine. They planned to use 3D technology with special 3D glasses that looked like Anakin Skywalker’s podracing goggles However, Disney was concerned this new experience would become dated quickly.
Instead, they decided to hold off until after Episode III. In 2005, George Lucas announced that Star Tours II was in production at a panel at Star Wars Celebration III. Filming ultimately didn’t begin until 2009. As with the original, Lucasfilm and ILM created the ride film while Disney handed the physical attraction updates.
Development & Production
To better fit the Star Wars universe at the time, Lucas and Disney decided to move the timeframe of the attraction to the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. As a result, the StarSpeeder model changed to 1000 instead of 3000 and the color of the StarSpeed also changed from blue to red.
Taking advantage of the latest technology, they were able to realize one of George Lucas’s hopes for the original attraction. The new experience had a module storyline that could easily be updated and expanded. However, the planned time change caused a problem with one of the planned sequences. Imagineers really wanted to include Hoth under siege by AT-ATs.
While they discussed ways to make the location work within the constraints of the timeline, George Lucas ultimately agreed it made the most sense. Effectively creating a retcon, he proposed that the Rebel Alliance could have used the Hoth base sometime before The Empire Strikes Back.
Although they previously announced a close date in October 2010, the original Star Tours closed on July 27 at Disneyland and on September 7 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The original attraction remained open until April 2, 2012 at Tokyo Disneyland and March 16, 2016 at Disneyland Paris.
During Celebration V in August 2010, Disney showed a preview ‘commercial’ that included Endor, Bespin, and Alderaan as potential locations. This was likely a version of the updated queue video. John Lassetter supposedly suggested the Kashyyyk segment. A Mustafar segment was discussed but never created.
While they planned to keep Captain Rex during the unproduced podracing update, Ace was later revealed as the new pilot in late September 2010. At the same, Disney also announced that Allison Janney would voice spokesdroid Aly San San.
However, it was later confirmed that Ace was supposed to be the pilot but that C-3PO would accidentally become the pilot just before take-off in October. Additional characters were confirmed in February 2011, and the list of destinations were confirmed in April of the same year.
In 2010, the Disneyland and Disney World attractions closed to make way for a new story. The attraction reopened at parks on May 20, 2011, as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. The original Tokyo Disneyland attraction closed in 2012, reopening with the new experience in 2013. The Disneyland Paris version closed in 2016 and reopened in 2017.
The new film featured four distinct sections with two or three options each. The opening segment involves an encounter with Darth Vader or a squadron of stormtroopers. Next, you travel to either Hoth, Tatooine, or Kashyyyk.
Afterward, you receive a holographic message from Admiral Ackbar, Princess Leia, or Yoda before finally traveling to Coruscant, Naboo, or Geonosis. Each final location features its own unique landing sequence.
Sequel Era Updates
The Star Tours – The Adventures Continue story was expanded three more times to include locations from the Sequel Trilogy. Jakku and BB-8 from The Force Awakens were added on November 16, 2015.
To coincide with The Last Jedi, Disney added extensive updates on November 17, 2017. These included two new open segments with Kylo Ren and First Order troopers, holograms of Maz Kanata and Poe Dameron, and a visit to Crait.
The ocean moon Kef Bir, a new hologram from Lando Calrissian, and the planet Exegol were added on December 20, 2019, the same day The Rise of Skywalker was released.
When these updates were first released, they were locked into the ride program to guarantee you experienced them. They were later included in the regular rotation of sequences.
Is Star Tours Part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
No, Star Tours is not part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While The Last Jedi updates do include a major connection to Batuu, the attraction exists outside of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While neither Tokyo nor Paris have Galaxy’s Edge lands yet, it seems unlikely that the attraction would exist inside those lands either.
Where Is Star Tours Located?
There are four nearly identical Star Tours attractions located at Disney parks around the world. It is located in the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It is also in Tomorrowland in Tokyo Disneyland.
In Walt Disney World, Star Tours is located in the Echo Lake area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From its opening in 1989 to 2008, the park was originally called Disney-MGM Studios.
The fourth version is located in the Discoveryland section of Disneyland Paris. The park originally opened in 1992 as Euro Disneyland.
While neither Tokyo Disneyland nor Disneyland Paris has a Galaxy’s Edge at this time, it seems unlikely that Star Tours would appear in either location. Not only would it deviate from the existing Galaxy’s Edge layout, but neither park really has the space to include the Star Wars land near the existing Star Tours attraction.
Rooks is an SEO strategist, writer, and content editor that occasionally masquerades as a designer, photographer, and cook.
A lifelong Star Wars geek, his earliest memories are playing with Kenner action figures while watching the Original Trilogy on VHS. Aside from keeping up with the latest Star Wars movies, shows, books, and comics, he enjoys living out his own Star Wars story at Galaxy’s Edge East.
Aside from Star Wars, his fandoms include the MCU, Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica, and the Lord of the Rings. Other hobbies include traveling, craft brewing, and beat-matching.
Rooks is passionate about cooking and loves discussing and occasionally writing about food, beer, and cocktails. You can usually find him hamming out words at a local coffee shop or brewery, eating around Orlando with his wife, and doing anything to avoid folding the laundry.