Star Tours was an opening day attraction for Disneyland Paris, welcoming people on the 12th April for the very first time, to its slice of intergalactic excitement in Discoveryland. On Wednesday March 16th 2016 Star Tours will take it’s very last trip to Endor, before closing its doors shortly after 10.45pm. While they’ve not been explicitly named Star Tours – The Adventures Continue as taking its place, we can be pretty sure ever since the Reinvent The Magic announcements and they said just that a “re-imagined” “new thrilling experience” is coming, that this will happen. For the next 8 days, Disneyland Paris is the only Disney Park in the whole world where you can enjoy the original incarnation of this classic attraction, which saw its origins here in the UK, as you can hear all about on episode 240 of the Season Pass Podcast where Tony Baxter is interviewed. There’s also a great article about the history of Star Tours over on the official Disneyland Paris Blog.
I remember when I first rode Star Tours back in 2002, on my inaugural visit to Disneyland Paris, and how nervous I was. Being a thrill avoider I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d read reports of this simulator being quite jerky and of a few people feeling sick. But how bad could it be – you just sit in a seat and look at a screen, right? Plus it’s Star Wars, and I absolutely have to try it out – it’s in my DNA. Approaching the attraction and seeing an X-Wing and Jabba’s Sail Barge was enough to get my emotions flowing, and once inside the queuing area, with the music, animatronic droids and effects, it’s like I was where I’d wanted to be my whole life. Ever since I’d seen The Empire Strikes Back as a 5 year old in the cinema, Star Wars had been my thing, and the nostalgic attachment I have to that film franchise is gigantic. Being in what was as close to the real thing as I was ever going to get was very moving, but soon it was time to board my Starspeeder 3000.
The little pre-show film that you watch whilst waiting to board always makes me smile. I love how it’s made in a serious manner, mimicking an aeroplane saftey film, but with the added bonus of Star Wars characters, like Chewbacca being irritated by some flash photography, just as that particular warning comes up on the screen. It builds the anticipation perfectly, whilst at the same time taking the mind of this anxious first time rider away from thoughts of breakneck speed and nausea inducing motion.
Once inside the cabin, you strap yourself in, the screen comes down and off we go. Whilst I may have gripped the hand rests tightly on that first ride, very tightly in fact, I found myself grinning from ear to ear the whole way through, and for quite some time afterwards. As a child I’d dreamed of flying off to planets far away and battling the evil Empire. Here I was doing just that, well almost. Yes the movement can be a little jarring at times, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable, and I still get that fluttery feeling in my stomach when the cabin lurches back and we lunge into hyperspace. I also to this day still press imaginary buttons on the aforementioned hand rests, as I imagine it is I firing at the Tie Fighters and being a Rebellion hero. Come on, admit it, I’m not the only one.
Years later I took my son on Star Tours, he being as big a Star Wars fan as I the excitement was doubled. It did take us two trips to do this though, as he was just a few centimetres too short to ride when we first tried, but it was the first ride of our trip when we were successful in 2013. I can only imagine that as a child it must be even more magical, as the lines between reality and fantasy are that much more blurred. We rode it several times during that stay, and it’s one of the attractions along with Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor and it’s a small world, that he talks of whenever the topic of Disneyland Paris comes up.
It is with sadness that I will say goodbye to Star Tours, both as one of my favourites attractions during my first trip to Disneyland Paris and thereafter, and as the experience that made my Star Wars loving dreams become close to reality. I do look forward to seeing what takes it place and I’m sure I’ll love it, but just as I miss my first Sony Walkman and BMX bike, the original Star Tours will always have a place in my heart. I’m lucky enough to be attending an event on the evening of March 16th where we will celebrate this wonderful attraction, and bid farewell at the closing ceremony. Billed as The Ultimate Adveture, it certainly lived up to that, and it’s legacy will continue, both in the new version and in my heart.