Star Wars has become one of the most popular movie franchises represented at the Walt Disney World resort. When you visit Hollywood Studios, you can meet BB8 or Kylo Ren at the Star Wars Launch Bay. There are regular presentations of the live show “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. And any Star Wars fan won’t want to miss the special “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” projection and fireworks show at the end of a day at this park.
But families who have visited Hollywood Studios throughout the years know that Star Wars was first represented at Walt Disney World resort by Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, a simulator ride that puts riders inside these iconic films. It’s one of my favorite rides (and one that I never get tired of enjoying).
Here are 5 things you need to know about Star Tours: The Adventure Continues before your next trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
1. This ride has an interesting history.
If it’s been a while since you’re been to Walt Disney World, chances are Star Tours: The Adventure Continues is not the ride that you remember. The first version of this ride, simply called “Star Tours,” opened at Hollywood Studios (then called Disney/MGM Studios) in 1987. The ride was created by George Lucas and his team from Industrial Light & Magic and featured a first-person perspective film that took riders on a journey through the space to the planet Endor with familiar Star Wars characters.
Although the ride (along with its original character pilot RX-24) was popular, Disney made the decision to close Star Tours to give it a much-needed update. In September 2010, Star Tours gave its last ride and was closed for a multi-million dollar renovation.
The new version of the ride also brought with it an increased presence of Star Wars at the park. In fact, the Star Wars universe has become so popular that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a new land at Hollywood Studios, will open in 2019. The new land will feature new attractions, themed restaurants, and even an immerse hotel rumored to connect directly to the park itself.
2. Never the Same Ride Twice
One of the reasons that Star Tours: The Adventure Continues is one of my favorite rides at Walt Disney World is that it is next to impossible to experience the same journey more than once. That’s because there are almost 100 different journeys you can take to deliver the rebel spy (typically a randomly selected rider) to safety. Every ride sequence is randomized and can include any number of characters from the original trilogy, prequel films, and even the new sequels.
However, there are some aspects of the adventure which are the same ride-to-ride:
- C-3P0 is always your (unwilling) captain. After you are shown the pre-show video and receive your “flight glasses” so you can see the 3D effects, the doors open and you’re allowed to board the simulator. The simulator has four rows of seats and space is tight. If you’re afraid of small, dark spaces this may not be the most enjoyable ride for you. During a miscommunication, C-3PO is forced to pilot the Millennium Falcon, which makes for a bumpy (yet entertaining) ride.
- Your mission will always center on bringing a rebel spy safely to the rebellion’s base. The spy is chosen randomly and is typically someone on the transport. To have a better chance at seeing your face on the screen as the person with important intelligence to deliver, keep your 3D glasses off until the last second. It also helps to try to make eye contact with the cast member helping to board the transport. Typically, the cast member choosing the spy chooses a person without glasses on their face. I’ve also noticed they prefer children over adults. I’ve also been on the attraction when it was so busy that a random face was shown.
- The ride starts with the ship taking off but getting stopped. At this point, you may see Darth Vader or Boba Fett trying to prevent you from taking off. There is also a chance that Han Solo will fire on the Stormtroopers and will board the ship to take the controls. This ride is a simulator so the seats will move and 3D effects will pop out at you. It can be intense at times but still family-friendly. If you are prone to motion sickness, I’ve noticed that closing your eyes during this attraction will help.
- The rebel spy will be revealed by a member of the rebellion (either Admiral Ackbar, Princess Leia, Yoda or BB-8) and the coordinates for your journey will be passed along to R2-D2 for the next leg of your journey. It is here that there is a lot of variation where the rebel base is located. You could land on Naboo or the Death Star. There’s even a chance that you’ll go underwater and see Jar Jar Binx. This is the most action-packed portion of your ride. It’s always exciting to see where you end up. Even if you’ve seen a scene before, you will most likely see new details each time you ride.
- The ride always ends successfully. The rebel spy is delivered and you arrive at your destination with C-3PO and R2-D2. You exit the ride into Tatooine Traders, a great gift shop for the Star Wars fan. You can even build your own custom lightsaber here (which makes this a busy place. If you’re a big Star Wars fan, you’ll find merchandise here that you can’t find anywhere else.
3. FastPass+ Not Always Required
Disney’s Hollywood Studios operates its FastPass + reservations on a tiered system. Very popular rides such as Toy Story Mania and the Rock N’ Rollercoaster are on Tier A, meaning only one can be chosen each day. Star Tours is a Tier B attraction (along with the Hollywood Tower of Terror and other great attractions) which means you can choose up to two attractions each day.
Note that some popular shows like Fantasmic, the Frozen sing-along, and the Beauty and the Beast show are also eligible for Fast Pass + reservations. Keep in mind that you can choose one more reservation (from any tier) after you’ve used your original three selections.
At this park, your Fast Pass + strategy should definitely be based on who is in your party. If you’re a huge Star Wars geek, choosing Star Tours as a Fast Pass + reservation is a no-brainer. If you have a child over the age of 8 who is okay with some intensity but not yet prepared for the thrills of the Hollywood Tower of Terror, this is a great choice as well. Those who are pregnant or have back/neck problems should avoid this ride. I also wouldn’t recommend it for children younger than eight (and of course you must be taller than 40”).
However, if you’re not visiting during peak times or if there are other attractions at this park that are more appealing to you, this ride may not be the best use of your three Fast Pass + selections. The line for Star Tours: The Adventure Continues moves fast, the queue moves quickly, and if you visit first thing in the morning it’s usually possible to wait less than five minutes. However, if you’re visiting during a busier time (like Christmas or Spring Break) and want to be sure you experience Star Tours, I wouldn’t hesitate to book the Fast Pass +.
Whatever you do, I wouldn’t recommend using your Fast Pass + reservations for any of the shows at this park. If you’re interested in getting into Fantasmic early, I would recommend booking the Fantasmic dinner package. If you’re planning on eating at the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant, Hollywood & Vine, or Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano already, the dinner package gets you Fast Pass + reservations and a lovely meal.
The other shows are not difficult to get a seat for unless you’re travelling at peak times. With so many fun attractions at this park, there’s lot to see even if it does feel like a construction zone right now.
4. There are many Easter eggs to look out for!
I typically ride Star Tours more than once during a Walt Disney World vacation. Sometimes I’ll book a Fast Pass + reservation so I can ride during a busier time of the day. But I’ll also spend the time to wait in line because there is so much to look at for a big Star Wars and Disney fan like me.
Here are a few secrets of Disney World from this attraction:
- The G2 droids you see in the queue are actually recycled geese from an old Disney attraction. In the original Star Tours attraction, these birds were animated and danced above a doorway. Now, they sit in a cage near the old host of the Star Tours journey, a droid named Rex.
- You’ll hear a page for Egroeg Sacul (an anagram for George Lucas) in the terminal if you’re in line long enough. It’s homage to the series’ creator that has been in the ride since it opened in 1987.
- Make sure you pay attention to what is happening as the droid scans luggage. There are several references to Disney properties. Look for Madame Leota from the Haunted Mansion, a Stormtrooper helmet, Wall-E, Aladdin’s lamp, a set of mouse ears (with the name Luke embroidered on them, or Chip and Dale. You’ll often hear giggles coming from this part of the queue.
- There’s a hidden Mickey in the up-ramp as you head toward the boarding area. The shadows you find there look like R2-D2 with Mickey ears (leading some people to call it R2-MK).
- On the screens right before the preshow, you will often find that some of the riders may look familiar. Disney has started to use the information from your Magic Band to transport your name and hometown to these screens. It’s always fun to hear a younger Star Wars fan recognize their name. This feature can also be found on It’s a Small World at the Magic Kingdom and on the Rock N’ Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios.
5. This ride is constantly being updated.
In addition to the endless combinations of ride possibilities, Disney also updates this ride when new Star Wars movies are released. That means that you could see Darth Vader at the beginning of your ride and end up seeing BB-8 or Finn later on. While this can be a little confusing for people who are super concerned about the Star Wars canon, I find it really fun.
Beware that if you choose to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios after a recent update, the ride may be “frozen” so that every rider will get to experience the new scenes. For example, a new adventure featuring a battle in Crait from “The Last Jedi” will be included to the ride in fall 2017. This means that you might experience a similar ride if you choose to get on Star Tours more than once. But Disney also includes details in the ride that aren’t present in movie trailers, meaning you may get clues to the new film’s details.
In my opinion, Star Tours is a must-see attraction for your visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I would also caution you not to miss out on this ride while you can. There are many changes happening at this park right now (and it almost seems as if most the park is being renovated right now). When the long-awaited Star Wars land opens, Disney World rumors are swirling that this ride will be closed permanently. It won’t fit in with the new land’s theme and many believe that Disney will want to isolate all the Star Wars experiences to one spot in the parks.
Before you lose out on this family-friendly experience, don’t hesitate to book your Fast Pass + reservations for your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation. You won’t regret it!
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