I have to confess that my relationship with the Star Wars universe has grown quite complex over the last decade. I was seven years old when Star Wars came out (Eff all that “New Hope” noise) and 13 when Return of the Jedi came out. At seven I was playing with the action figures and by 13 I was wearing out the grooves on the soundtrack records and studying my Starlog articles. These movies provided much of the inspiration for me to pursue a career in production and entertainment.
I had the Star Wars soundtrack on 8-Track. I kid you not.
Many, many years ago I experienced both Captain Eo and the original Star Tours at Disneyland in Anaheim. Last Sunday I was able to experience both attractions again. Honestly, I can’t even find the words to try and touch on the surreal nature of that experience. I was prepared to mock Captain Eo, which certainly does not hold up very well when viewed online and on bootleg dvds that I may or may not have in my possession, but damn if it didn’t lead to whoops and applause from the audience on a sleepy Sunday morning at Epcot.
I may or may not have been contributing to the cheering.
Spoiler alert: I was loudly contributing to the cheering.
I have been somewhat burned-out on Star Wars lately. The constant and almost daily gags on the internet, the continued cash-grabbing by Lucas, 3-D conversions, and the ongoing embargo of the original and unmolested versions of the movie that don’t feature all kinds of noise and cgi droids filling the screen all the time not to mention all the distracting crap added to Cloud City and the weak attempts to connect the movies to the prequels and DAMMIT GREEDO DID NOT SHOOT FIRST!
Deep breath. Letting go of my anger.
So I knew that the new ride featured a 4k digital projection upgrade and 3-D images. Enhanced audio-animatronics with C3PO now serving as our pilot. And most impressive of all, a series of randomly generated sequences which leads to 54 radically different ride experiences. We’re not talking about minor variations in audio or effects either. The planets you visit, the characters you see, and even your final destination are all based on random algorithms.
So I sat in the seat, glasses on, prepared to be impressed by the technology but essentially “over” my Star Wars obsession. I smiled, somewhat patronizingly, at the enthusiasm among the young children as they awaited their first ride to the galaxy far, far away.
Then Darth Vader came on screen, used his dark powers of the force to make our vehicle shake, and I damn near lost my mind.
A quick burst into lightspeed and now we’re flying across the surface of Hoth and narrowly avoiding At-At’s. The Empire Strikes Back remains one of my top 5 movies of all time. I’m smiling and giddy.
A hologram of Princess Leia appears. She says “Help me Star Tours, you’re my only hope.” I think I peed a little.
And in those 4 minutes, all was forgiven and all irony forgotten.
The official opening of the ride, in both Orlando and Anaheim, happened this morning so I’m sure the interwebs is full of blogs and articles offering much more detailed descriptions, analysis, and spoilers from the experience. As per usual, Inside The Magic has a jaw-dropping amount of material for you to absorb (it’s the source for the images and video embedded on this bog btw)