The new Star Tours attraction that will soon debut at Disneyland adds several layers of 3-D realism to the 1980s-era simulator ride, making the experience less like watching a movie and more like being in the middle of the action.
I took a few preview rides Friday at Disneyland on the updated attraction, which offers 54 possible storylines, and I found myself wanting to jump back in line after each galactic journey.
With lifelike digital imagery and high-definition, 3-D characters that slam into the Starspeeder 1000 windshield, Star Tours 2.0 is light-years better than the 1987 original. I found myself repeatedly grasping for a handhold as our motion simulator fell down chasms, dodged laser fire and raced across the stars.
Spoiler alert: Star Tours 2.0 ride details below
The queue area features the same layout as the old ride with new layers of details and plenty of sight gags (including a few hidden Mickeys). C3PO, the accidental pilot of our Starspeeder, sets up the storyline of the Empire's search for a Rebel spy during the pre-show.
My favorite new character in the queue area is the thermal-scanner droid who doubles as an interstellar stand-up comic: "What did the droid say to the human? One zero one one zero one zero zero zero one one. What, you don't speak binary?"
The Starspeeder motion simulators, which to the untrained eye look almost identical to the 1987 originals, remain largely unchanged on the inside with some of the armrests still showing telltale signs of decades-old grime.
But that's where the similarities between the old and new rides end.
The new journey takes riders on a sightseeing tour of the "Star Wars" galaxy, with possible stops at Hoth, Kashyyyk, Tatooine, Coruscant, Naboo or the Death Star, depending on which of the random storylines your flight crew draws.
So far I've been to five of the six possible destinations. My favorite was Naboo, where the Starspeeder dives underwater and encounters a slobbery sea creature that shakes the vehicle with a big 3-D finale that's startling even when you know it's coming.
If I could request my favorite storyline, I'd choose the storm-trooper launch sequence with the Tatooine pod race (the inspiration for the Star Tours reboot), the Yoda emergency transmission and the Naboo finale.
But then again, I still haven't seen the Death Star sequence or watched the Princess Leia transmission. My preferences could change. I guess I'll just have to ride again.
I found only two faults with the new ride:
The mid-ride transmissions from Leia, Yoda or Ackbar literally bring the voyage to a halt, interrupting an otherwise thrilling ride.
And if you're prone to dizziness, the 3-D imagery may mess with your equilibrium.
But those are minor quibbles with an otherwise fantastic update to a venerable classic.
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