New Star Tours Review and the new hidden Mighty Microscope!

Here is my spoiler filled review of Star Tours at Disneyland California. Many people have asked me to review the brand new attraction so I decided to put it all down on web paper and share my experience.

You and I both know that Star Tours is not really a part of Adventure Thru Inner Space besides being the one attraction that took it over but, I do want to touch on that Disney/Imagineers really went that extra mile and I can see that they still has a fondness of the attraction. This is proven when I see that within one of the destinations that there is yet another hidden item of another brand new Mighty Microscope tucked away but can easily be seen if you are looking for it. More on that later. Now onto my review...

Just to let everyone know who asks me, yes, I really love this new version of Star Tours. I will always look back with fond memories to the old Star Tours ride (and ATIS) for nostalgic reasons and I thank the internet gods I have youtube and my ATIS Virtual Ride-thru to go back and relive them. But this ride was really overdue for an update and facelift. I am happy to say that this new revamped Star Tours ride does not disappoint that even the most hardened Star War fan will have something to love here.

Since I have lived in California all my life, I know that when a new ride opens at Disneyland I need to get there early and hit it first when the park opens at 9:00AM. Early is the key if I stand a chance to get on the ride with the least amount of line wait times. My daughter and I got in the park as it opened and only had to wait about 7 minutes to get onto the new Star Tours which was completely worth getting up early for.

Once inside, it was great to see that the imaginers didn't change the main line queue area too much but there were many improvements to be found. I even noticed a "new ride smell" upon entering the main building. I always love that? They made improvements to preview screen which is even larger now with the grid lines and scrolling text of departures removed. The preview screen is now presented in clear HD rear projection which looks colorful and vibrant. The new destinations and weather updates are a nice touch as well.

Look ma! No waiting!

The once blue Starspeeder 3000 space ship in the room is painted orange and is now named the Starspeeder 1000. Battle damage to the ship has been removed and other small geeky details have been changed but overall it is pretty much the same main queue area, minus the overhead moving baskets of droid parts in the droid factory. The new engine doesn't have any animation lights or anything to make it look special. In fact it more looks like small droid than an engine. Below I added New vs Old photos of the Starspeeder engine.

This is the new engine that does light speed?

As you enter the second section of the ride queue, to your right is Rex, the former pilot droid from the actual old Star Tours ride. He has a sticker on his side that reads "Defective" which I found amusing. If you wait long enough he sputters and sparks and he comes back to life for a moment to spout out his actual old dialog from the former attraction. He will say things like "Welcome aboard" or "I'm still getting used to my programming!" before he shuts down again. I liked that they still found a way to fit old Rex back into the attraction somewhere and he wasn't sent to the Disney droid dump.

Speaking of droids, the old droid factory has now been transformed into a baggage and passenger security station. The former (feathers removed) repair "goose" robot from now defunct America Sings or (Splash Mountain character) has gone through another slight modification to now become a luggage scan droid. His mouth now lights up as he talks and he wears a shiny metal vest outfit that makes him look less "junky" than he did before. His HD display control panel is covered in detailed animation readings as he uses his luggage scan machine to find contraband or illegal alien pets inside the luggage. This is the real star of the show here. I thought this is one of the cooler changes to the queue line update. Luggage bags scroll on a treadmill by a scanner and a laser scans the bag. Using a "Peppers Ghost" reflection effect similar to the ballroom scene in the haunted mansion, you can see the contents in the bag. If you wait long enough you will see item contents such as Wall-E, Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch), Storm Trooper gear and even the crystal ball Madame Leota from Haunted Mansion. It's great to see what weird things can be seen through this machine. Imaginers did an awesome job on this effect. I wonder how many different items they came up with for this scene.

The last "goose" droid is still in the upper level just before you obtain your 3D glasses. He definitely sounds like he is voiced by actor Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement) but has a slightly higher pitch to his voice which is funny since he normally speaks very low and deep. As you walk by he scans you with an infra-red camera and makes funny quips about how you look and that you need to keep moving much like the old droid did. A large view screen wall is to the side of him where you can see yourself in infra-red as well.

The last area before you board all looks pretty much the same except you can now pick up your 3D glasses before going through the turnstiles. As you wait to board, overhead you are now shown a brand new boarding instruction and rules video on an HD display that now shows C3PO board your ship to make some adjustments and then get locked inside. A new CGI female instructional droid robot now replaces the former actress who would give boarding instructions to the guests, but she is still found in the video (and looking a bit older). She is dressed in purple as one of the passengers boarding with a young boy and she sits near the front of the cabin. (see pic) The droid also instructs you not to put on your 3D glasses until you are instructed to do so.

As the doors open you and you enter, you can see slight changes to the cabin have been made such as the side tube television view screen has been replaced by a HD display rotated on its side. There is a new Star Tours logo on the front port and other small cosmetic details have been added to the interior of the ship.

As I sat there waiting for the ride to start, I was really anxious to see how it all looked in 3D and how well the simulation felt to the ride movie. I saw an interview years ago with George Lucas where he talked about the old Star Tours was supposed to get updated every five years or so and get a brand new destination programmed in to keep the ride fresh, but due to different people running Disney and their financial issues made this difficult at the time. Around 2008 when Lucas and the Disney Imagineering team finally got the green light to start production on Star Tours, they decided to opt for doing all the desired destinations all at once and to have a random destination "slot machine" type of set up built in, so you never know what random destinations will be chosen. I asked a Disney Cast member if the ride changed every hour or so but to my surprise they told me that the ride changes every single time you ride it. It is totally random and they don't even know what destinations will come up. This can be a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. More on that later…

*Ride destination spoilers

So the ride is set up to play four different sets of scenes and the Star Wars timelines are non-existent here but still doesn't distract from the fun. I have read that there are supposed to be 54 different versions of these 11 scenes if you mix them up at random. Let's do random math. 3x3x3x2=54 Is that right? Anyway, in reality once you have seen all 11 scenes you have ridden all of the destinations that are available. You just won't know which ones you will get every time you ride the attraction.

When the ride starts you will get one of these two different openings:

1. Robot Security Droid with Storm Troopers

2. Darth Vader with Storm Troopers and Jet Troopers

Light Speed!

Then after you enter light speed you get one of these three different destinations:

1. Hoth - AT-AT battle with Snowspeeders

2. Tatooine - Pod Racing

3. Kashyyyk - Speeder forest bikes with Chewbacca

After you enter space at the end of those scenarios you will get one of three different Star Wars hologram help messages:

1. Yoda

2. Princes Leia

3. General Ackbar

Jump to Light Speed!

Then you hit Light speed again and end up in one of these three different locations to end your trip:

1. Coruscant - Battle over city and fly through traffic

2. Geonosis - which is kind of deceptive since it really is just "over" the planet in an asteroid field and Boba Fett tries to shoot you down while C3PO drives you into the new Death Star to avoid him. This is the destination you want if you are looking for the hidden Mighty Microscope.

3. Naboo - Air and Sea adventure with Jar Jar and giant sea creature that attacks your ship.

As the ride starts we are instructed to put on our glasses as the cast member does seatbelt checks and leaves to start the ride. The lens curved glasses have a silver reflective tint and were comfortable to wear. As the viewport opens we see C3PO sitting in the pilot seat to the left, and he can rotate in the chair to look at the audience as Rex could. His animations are almost perfect and I hate to admit that he is a lot more interesting to watch than the old Rex droid, but he is. I also noticed that the 3D depth in the main viewport looks pretty amazing with the 3D glasses. This isn't a poke you in the face kind of 3D, as it is a more of a "depth of field" visual that makes the ride even more engaging to the viewer than the old ride. The ride simulation movement felt smoother and seemed to coordinate with the on screen action even more accurately than before. I loved this new Star Tours experience.

*More ride spoilers ahead...

On my first ride through we got: Robot Security Droid, Hoth, General Ackbar, and Naboo. The security robot along with a group of stormtroopers, try to detain our ship and then scans all the guests to look for the rebel spy. A wide red beam shoots from the droid and scans the audience (a nice 3D effect) and then shows us a picture of the spy that they are looking for. Everyone laughed as the Rebel spy photo revealed to us on our ship looked like a clueless six year old little girl. R2 puts the ship into high gear as we escape the security droid and blast past the Stormtroopers and follow the Millennium Falcon out of the hangar as we past a bunch of Imperial Star Cruisers. R2 shoots a few Tie Fighters down and blasts a few rounds into the face of a giant Star Cruiser before hitting light speed. The whole crowd cheered and was really into the whole experience as I was. Every time we jump to light speed everyone yells "Whaaaaooooohhhh" while C3PO leans back in his flight chair which is very effective to give the illusion of the light speed gravity pull (if there is such a thing). Next we enter the snow planet of Hoth.

An example of a rebel spy shown on the view screen. It can be you!

Hoth was as amazing as any Star Wars fan boy (or girl) would love to experience. You fly with Snowspeeders while you dip over and between mountains, zip under and through AT-AT walkers, and have a near miss with one falling from being tangled in tow-wire. The scene ends with a quick bobsled ride in the snow. It was great.

Then we fly off into space and R2 gets a distress signal. General Ackbar lights up from a hologram projector light just above the main view screen window. The 3D effect of the blue Hologram looked like it was shooting out front right there in the cabin and is a very nice 3D effect. Ackbar says that we need to get the rebel spy to them and he is sending coordinates to deliver her to safety. Then we hit light speed once again. Yay! Everyone is pumped and cheering!

I know general Ackbar "It's a trap!"

Light speed but not Naboo

This is Naboo (last destination)

Having already seen a few blurry Star Tour locations on youtube I already knew what locations were available so I was hoping I would get anything but Naboo, but of course that is the one we get. Just my luck I guess. It starts with a battle close to the planet surface over Naboo and you quickly get shot down and hit the water. Star Tours now becomes a slow underwater submarine ride where you almost drive over Jar Jar (sadly not killing him) and pass by a Gungan underwater City. As in episode 1 you get attacked by a giant sea creature by which his mouth is clamped over the front hull and his gooey tongue swashes back and forth on the glass view screen. Some people even started screaming during this part which made me laugh. Does it feel that "real" that you have to scream? Guess it is.

Wish this was death race 2000

To escape the monster's grasp, R2 electrifies the ship and we quickly dash to the surface only to skim the water like a speed boat and glide into a ship hanger. Sliding uncontrollably we smash into a parked ship and the pointy rear of the ship breaks through the view screen and glass shoots into your face from the impact. This is one of the few, "poke you in the face" 3D type of moments in Star Tours and it is a bit of a shock when it happens if you are not expecting it.

The 3D effect is really effective here

Passengers unload and we drop off the (seven dollar a piece to manufacture) glasses into a bin to be reused for future flights and walk down the usual ramps and, as Banksy says: "Exit through the gift shop". I couldn't wait to ride it again to see and experience more scenes.

As soon as we left the Star Wars themed gift shop, we went for some fast passes to ride it again. A cast member told me that they sell out before 10:00AM so I had to act quickly. At the fast pass booths I see that there is a good size line to obtain one. "Oh great". I think to myself. "A line, for a line pass." After waiting a short five minutes I get my pass to return by 3:30PM. My daughter and I decide to get in line again before the park gets even more crowded since it was still only 9:30AM. We get into line and notice the wait time was now set to 45 minutes. I already knew that this day was going to be like this so I was ready for some long line waits. I set my iPhone to stopwatch mode to see how accurate the sign is.

42 minutes later we are boarding Star Tours again. So, what do you think I got for my "slot machine" random experience? I got the same EXACT destination locations again. Even the Hologram Ackbar was the exact same. What are the chances of that? I should go to Vegas with those odds. What is even more amazing is that I was actually the rebel spy this time. No joke. I have my daughter as a witness that I was the spy on our second time on Star Tours. Yes! I was so shocked that I was chosen and was wondering if the ride picks a certain seat or is there multiple cameras that can take a picture of any seat at random? I'll have to ask a cast member about that next time. Something Disney should consider is having your rebel spy picture available at the gift shop counter if you decided that you wanted to buy it to show proof of this to your friends and family. Maybe that will be added later because I would have bought one if it was available for purchase. After we left the attraction we decided to go on other attractions until 3:30PM rolled around to ride Star Tours again for our third time.

All the other rides had a short line wait so it was a good day to go to the park. Only the major rides like Splash and Space Mountain had 45 minute wait, but things like Pirates or Haunted Mansion had five minute wait times. I love going to Disneyland on days like these. I guess everyone was at the Star Tours attraction because the line wait was up to 95 minutes or more for the rest of the day.

When 3:30PM hit we arrived back at Star Tours and we were quickly back riding the Starspeeder 1000 again. This time we got the Darth Vader opening which was really cool. He uses his force powers to shake your ship around before R2D2 tries to shoot him to escape his force grasp and you fly out of a space station in reverse while shooting tie fighters.

Next we got Tatooine - Pod Racing which I enjoyed a lot and really gives the feeling of what it would be like to be in a Pod Race battling fellow racers. One of the cooler things I noticed on this scenario was that the smaller HD display viewer on the right shows a top down perspective of the race from outside your ship. You see other pod racers flying, racing around and slamming into your ship, all in real time with what is going on the main view screen. It was a really clever use of that small side screen and I almost wish it was always on so you see it like a rear view mirror at all times. As we fly past the other pod racers and win the race you fly over the crowd in the stands and shoot back into space. C3PO asks R2 about an incoming message.

A blue hologram Princess Leia appears and gives us a short speech about getting the spy or I should say "me" to safety. I gave a quick wave to my fellow crew as she said this and everyone laughed. It is interesting to note that that this young Carrie Fisher hologram looked exactly like the one R2 plays from the original 1977 Star Wars movie but from a "front" angle. I heard an interview from George Lucas where he said that the Leia footage is the actual footage from the original filming of Star Wars but it wasn't used in the film. He shot Carrie Fisher doing that hologram scene from a ton of different angles and just happened to have one that fit perfectly for what they needed for this hologram sequence of this attraction. Her mouth must have been computer corrected to mimic the slightly different dialog and her voice sounds exactly how Carrie sounded back in 1977. But as we all know, the smoker voiced Carrie Fisher of 2011 compared to the voice of 1977 Carrie Fisher sounds totally different. I think extensive computer editing was used to get this effect or they got a really good voice impressionist to do this job. Either way, it was a dead ringer to the Princess voice we all know and love. When Leia says her famous line, "Help me Star Tours, you're our only hope!" the crowd chuckled and cheered as we burst into light speed once again to get "me" to safety.

Next I got……Ugh……You guessed it, Naboo again. No, no, NO! Not again! How can this happen three times in a row? Argh! What am I? Charlie Brown? What crappy luck! So we go through the same scene again for the third time with no surprises to be expected.

After we left Star Tours the ride continued to have a seriously long wait time so my daughter and I headed over to the other California Adventure Park to see the new things that have been adding. We never made it back to ride Star Tours again, but there will always be next time for future flights and I now have something to look forward to on my next Disneyland visit.

I definitely love all the new enhancements and changes to the new Star Tours, inside and out. I am glad that the 3D adds to the feeling of immersion to what flying around in the Star Wars universe would be like. Getting random locations will always keep this ride fresh for many years of enjoyment and I can't wait to ride it again and again. I only wish there was still a scenario where we can be part of the Rouge Squadron to blow up the Death Star like the old one had. There is nothing like the feeling when you first dive into that trench over the Death Star. Oh well, maybe we will get that on our next Star Tours update? As for now we have six great locations to enjoy instead of the same old single ride experience we got from the old attraction so that is a good thing. Thumbs up and five stars goes to Lucas, Disney and the entire creative Imagineering team that worked so hard on making this a great new addition to Tomorrowland. Maybe it's time to renew my annual passport? Now how about a new 3D revamped version of ATIS in the tradition of the new Harry Potter ride? I think that could be cool!

End of my review but there is more...

A few more geeky observations I want to add.

How does the hologram know if the spy is a "Male" or "Female"? When I rode the same exact ride scenes twice, I noticed one slight difference. When I first rode it with the little girl being the spy, General Ackbar says, "Deliver HER safely to the rendezvous point". Then when I was the spy, he said "Deliver HIM." How do they set the hologram to know gender? Does the camera have gender recognition tech built into it? I doubt that. This makes me think that there is only one spot the camera always takes a picture and a cast member must press a "Male or Female gender" button so the ride will know what version to play. What if the spy looks like "Pat" (from old Saturday Night Live skit) and gender comes into question? I know this is kind of a dumb geeky thing I found, but I notice stupid stuff like this and want to know how it's done. Disney things that make me go, Hmmmm?

One thing I did find pretty funny by riding Naboo three times in a row was with every appearance of Jar Jar, most everyone in the ride would always groan. I also heard someone yell "Run him over!" and on the last ride through someone yelled. "Shoot him R2!" Hahaha. No love for Jar Jar will be found anytime soon I think.

I was also shocked to find out that the Imaginers found a way to put the Mighty Microscope in the New Star Tours ride. The Microscope was also seen in the actual original Star Tours ride. It was located in the first warehouse scene just before you exited the building, you could see it tucked in the corner on the right.

The Mighty Microscope lives again!

Sort of...

As I stated before. I was wondering if Disney imaginers would put the Mighty Microscope in the new ride just as they did years ago in the old Star Tours attraction and couldn't believe they actually did it. If you happen to get the Geonosis scene you can see it there. This is the scenario where you get chased by Boba Fett and you fly into the new "under construction" Death Star to escape. If you look carefully, the Mighty Microscope can been seen on the left side of the "cross" shaped tunnel as you zip by and right before you exit the Death Star through the ship hangar. (See pic) This is one of those little secret things that Disney likes to hide into all of its attractions. Of course I didn't get this scenario when I first rode Star Tours but after I heard about this I checked and verified it on good ole youtube and have also seen it in later ride throughs.

Behold! The Mighty Microscope lives once again in digital 3D form.

New fold out laser turrets?

The last and kind of stupid observation I have is where is this fold out laser turret coming from? You don't see any doors on the speeder 1000 in the line queue and there is already laser turrets that look completely different sitting on the front. If you look at the viewscreen the turrets that fold out would have to be located directly next to the sides of the windows of the speeder. Lame point I know but it is something that crossed my over-thinking mind.

Laser turrets look different from the outside

Look for The Mighty Microscope at 3:57 on youtube clip
This video will give you more of a sense of what the attraction is like if you never have been on it.