Walt Disney World Announces Reopening Date for Star Tours Attraction

In a not too distant past, Walt Disney World closed down the popular Star Tours ride for rehab.

A huge closing party was held in conjunction with the world-wide Star Wars Celebration V festival that took place here in Orlando during the weekend of August 12-15, 2010. The attraction itself closed a few weeks later, after Labor Day.

At a press event yesterday at the Magic Kingdom, President Meg Crofton (flanked by the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, and a few stormtroopers), announced that the re-imagined Star Tours attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be reopening on May 20, 2011. This will be just in time for the annual Star Wars Weekends that are held at DHS.

Not only has the storyline been reworked to include nods to the prequel trilogy (Eps I-III), but it will also feature more of C-3PO and it will be a 3D attraction. There are also rumors that it will have different destinations, as well.

Disney also released this concept art for the planet of Coruscant that may appear in the attraction.

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to see all the new changes to the ride!

[Image © 2010 Lucasfilm Ltd.TM and Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved}

Star Tours at Walt Disney World Closes For Refurbishment

The first time I visited Walt Disney World, the first ride I went on was Star Tours at (what was then) Disney-MGM Studios.

Fast forward fifteen years, and though things have changed around the park – heck, it’s even got a new name: Disney Hollywood Studios – the ride is still the same as it was when I first rode it.

That’s soon about to change. Due to constant outcry from both Star Wars and Disney park fans, Star Tours is finally getting an update.

Star Wars creator George Lucas has filmed an entirely new adventure for riders to take. This new one takes place between the two Star Wars movie trilogies and still starts out with people boarding a shuttle to tour the galaxy. Shortly after launch, everyone becomes part of a “detour” that includes becoming part of a pod race (similar to the one shown in Star Wars: Episode 1 Phantom Menace).  The adventure is also rumored to be a 3D attraction.

Though the park, in conjunction with the Star Wars convention Celebration V, threw a “Last Tour to Endor” party at the theme park, the ride is still open for a few more days.

But if you want to enjoy the original adventure, you only have until this Tuesday, September 7.  As of September 8, Star Tours will be shut down for the renovations and will not be available to ride again until next year. No exact date has been given but I’m guessing they’ll be shooting for May 2011, just in time for next year’s annual Star Wars Weekends.

Thanks to Disney, I can share with you this teaser video for the new film that will run when Star Tours reopens. This video first aired at Celebration V.

Traveling to a Galaxy Far, Far Away – Celebration V in Orlando

I was nine when I saw Star Wars on opening day in 1977. Ever since then, I’ve been a major fan of the Lucas-created universe. So when I heard that Celebration, the big Star Wars fan convention, was going to be held this year in Orlando, I knew I had to be there.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Darth Vader & StormtrooperThis year marks the 30th anniversary of the second film, The Empire Strikes Back, so of course, Celebration V was dedicated to everything ESB.

I was first excited at the opportunity to see Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), along with George Lucas, himself. The reality? After standing in line for over an hour to see Hamill, I was three people from the door when they declared the theater full. Fisher didn’t even do her scheduled panel, so I ended up staying in line to see the next guest Ray Park (who is a super nice and funny guy). And since people were lining up at 11pm the night before to see Lucas, I decided not to even try. Kudos to those diehard fans, but I won’t wait twelve hours in line for anyone.

Out of six actor panels I wanted to see, I only got into two. The lines were so big for each one, that with only a 30 min break between panels, it was just too hard to get out of one and go all the way to the end of the next line waiting to get in.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Robot Chicken PanelThe first panel I saw was on Friday, August 13. It was a panel with the creators of the animated TV comedy show Robot Chicken, which has two DVDs full of Star Wars skits – Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Robot Chicken: Star Wars – Episode II.

I’m not only a fan of the show, but of co-creator Seth Green, whom I first knew as “Oz” the werewolf on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Imagine my surprise when Joey Fatone joined them onstage! I first met Joey when NSync was first starting out here in Orlando. Of course since then, he’s branched out into acting and TV hosting.

During the panel, the guys talked about what it was like to get that phone call from Lucas about their show spoofing the Star Wars universe, and just being mega-fans of Star Wars themselves. They also showed some hilarious clips of past and future spoofs, then took questions from the audience. It was a great panel with lots of humor and info.

Star Wars Celebration V :: Ray Park & Jay Laga'aiaThe second panel I saw was the Ray Park panel on Sunday. Besides playing Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Park has appeared in films like Mortal Kombat, X2 – X-Men United and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as the last season of Heroes.

Park showed off some of his martial arts moves, talked about training for various roles, including Darth Maul (accompanied by video clips) and discussed how he’s still such a fanboy, despite his impressive resume. It was a lively panel, even though it was a bit rushed.

The rest of the weekend, I just wandered the convention center. The exhibit hall was full of vendors with lots of great Star Wars merchandise to buy.

Star Wars Celebration V :: WampaThere were also life-sized replicas of everything from Jabba the Hut to an AT-AT and a Wampa. Lots of places for great photo-ops. There was even a commitment chapel, for fans to renew their vows. A Lucasfilm employee took advantage of the opportunity to make an honest droid out of R2-D2, and I was witness to a renewal ceremony with Darth Vader officiating.

Probably the best part of the event, though, was meeting all the fans who dressed up as characters. Yes, there were plenty of Vaders, Stormtroopers, Leias and Jedi, but there were also some really creative costumes, too.  I saw bounty hunter Boba Fett in a 70s leisure suit, complete with gold chains. I saw a  guy with a backpack, and inside the bag was a little pug puppy dressed as Obi-Wan.

It was truly glorious to see all these people showing their devotion to Star Wars.

There’s no real set schedule to these Celebration conventions, but the 30th anniversary for Return of the Jedi is only three years off. Most likely, that’s when the Powers that Be will decide to reunite the Star Wars universe once again…and I will be there, too.

[Photos by Michelle Snow – see more at my Flickr acct.]

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