There are several fun Star Wars-themed attractions to enjoy at Walt Disney World in Hollywood Studios, especially with the new Galaxy’s Edge land nearing one year of operation. And while Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance are immersive and exciting, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is still one of our favorite ways to voyage to a galaxy far, far away.
From its first incarnation that opened in Hollywood Studios (then called MGM Studios) in 1989 to the present, Star Tours remains a wild and exciting romp through the Star Wars universe.
But I’ll bet you didn’t know these 11 fun bits of trivia about Hollywood Studios’ Star Tours!
1. The Original Idea Wasn’t About Star Wars at All!
Interestingly, the idea for the starship simulator didn’t originate with Star Wars but rather with a much less well-known (and less successful) film by Disney. The 1979 live action film The Black Hole involved astronauts investigating a mysterious spaceship inside a black hole, but it was a commercial flop. This, combined with the high costs for the planned ride, led to the plan being scrapped. But after starting a fruitful partnership with George Lucas and Lucasfilm in 1986, Disney revisited the simulator idea, deciding instead to match it with Star Wars.
However, the original Black Hole attraction plan did have one intriguing idea that would have been fun to explore. Not only would there have been multiple possible routes for the flight (kind of like the modern Star Tours), but it would have also been audience-interactive. Riders could have helped determine which course the ship went during the adventure, giving you a sense of control over the experience. If Star Tours ever goes through another revamp, this might be an approach worth considering.
2. Star Tours References a Defunct Disney Ride
At Disneyland Anaheim, the first Star Tours ride, which opened in 1986, was built into the preexisting Adventures Thru Inner Space attraction. Inner Space was the first ride to use omnimover technology to rotate ride cars, and it also had an extensive indoor wait queue. In this area, you could view a giant microscope that ride cars would travel through as they “shrunk” to the size of atoms. The spacious wait queue led to the design of Star Tours’ complex internal “spaceport” areas, which are found at Hollywood Studios and other parks across the globe.
Due to Adventures Through Inner Space influencing the wait queue for the original Star Tours, Imagineers decided to include a callback to Inner Space when designing the new Star Tours for Hollywood Studios and other locations. While riding Star Wars: The Adventures Continue, you can spot a visual cameo for Inner Space. During the Geonosis scenario that culminates with a joyride inside the Death Star, you may notice a giant-sized microscope on the left just before you escape. That’s the microscope that shrank riders for Adventures Thru Inner Space. Was the Empire working on a secret shrinking project inside the Death Star? Who knows!
3. G2 “Goose” Droids have a Fascinating History
One of the funniest parts of the wait queue in Star Tours versions has been in the droid labor pool/loading area. There, chatty and witty G2 droids amiably talk with guests, all the while neglecting their actual work. With all sorts of dialogue to listen to, they’re sure to bring tons of laughs. You might even feel like dawdling just a little longer rather than moving forward to board. However, the original G2 droids had a role at a past attraction, which is why they’re also known as “goose” droids.
Around the same time that Star Tours was replacing Adventures Thru Inner Space in Anaheim, another Disneyland attraction was also closing. America Sings celebrated the vibrant history of American music over the years, but by the time of its closing in 1988, it was becoming outdated. And as Disney shut down the attraction, one question remained: what to do with all the animatronic animal musicians? Most of the critters found new homes in Splash Mountain, but a few goose singers got a different role. Trimmed down to just their wiry skeleton, they were repurposed into droids for Star Tours.
Since then, the G2 goose droids have been reproduced at Hollywood Studios and other Star Tours rides around the world, and they even have a place within Star Wars lore. The New Essential Guide to Droids book gave more details on the droids’ manufacturing by the Sullustan company SoroSuub. The guide also adds that after Star Tours shut down for good after the Battle of Endor, the G2 droids from the ride queue found new jobs working for the infamous smuggler Talon Karrde. They’ve also appeared in books like Join the Resistance and Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens. And this all started from a couple leftover animatronics.
4. Star Tours has a Place in Star Wars Lore
The New Essential Guide to Droids wasn’t the only way that Star Tours influenced the “Expanded Universe” of Star Wars – lore about the Star Wars galaxy beyond the films. On August 22, 2013, James McFadden published the article “Convenient Daily Departures: The History of Star Tours” on the official Star Wars website. Combining both the original Star Tours ride and the recently opened Adventures Continue ride (which first opened in May 2011), the article gave more details on the tour company’s misadventures and their connection to the larger Star Wars universe.
According to the article, the Star Tours agency dates back to the Clone Wars, but they reopened under new management just a year before the Battle of Yavin. Though the company offered space flights to over 30 locations across the galaxy, things did not go as smoothly as planned. In addition to the mishaps that guests encountered during The Adventures Continue, other flights had their own catastrophes. For instance, a droid captain, offering to show riders “something neat”, crashed the luxury yacht Tzarina on the witch planet of Dathomir. Star Tours tried to improve things with a new “Endor Express” service after the Battle of Endor, but as we all know, that led to its own problems. Ultimately, Star Tours went bankrupt and sold off its assets.
How much of this fascinating backstory is still canonical remains to be seen. In April 2014, Disney, now owning the rights to Star Wars, declared much of the previous Expanded Universe material to be in the non-canonical “Legends” category, no longer tied to the new canon created for the Disney films. Even so, Star Tours has still shown up in the new canon as well. In various Clone Wars episodes, attentive viewers might notice ads for Star Tours. Also, the Rebels episode “Droids in Distress” features the droid pilot Captain Rex [RX-24] from the first Star Tours ride. What ultimately happened to Star Tours in the new timeline? Maybe one day, Disney will let us know.
5. Captain Rex’s Story Continues
If you rode the original Star Tours ride, you’ll certainly remember your “helpful” tour guide and pilot, Captain RX-24 “Rex”. He took you on the supposedly peaceful ride to Endor and had a little too much fun jumping head-on into the battle against the Death Star. Sure, he was still getting used to his programming, but he was a lot of fun. So what happened to him after the end of the original Star Tours? Well, he’s actually appeared in a couple of different places.
First, in the new version of the ride, you can see him in the droid maintenance section as a malfunctioning droid. But while it looks like he’s on the way to the scrap heap, remember that this version of the ride actually comes before the original ride chronologically. According to “Convenient Daily Departures”, the RX pilot droids were meant to be recalled to the manufacturer, but Star Tours kept them to save costs.
After Captain Rex lost his job with Star Tours, he drifted between a couple of jobs. As mentioned before, he reappeared in a Rebels episode, piloting a commercial shuttle. But by the time of the sequels, he’d found a new role and name as R-3X in Galaxy’s Edge. At Oga’s Cantina, Rex handles the music as the bar’s resident DJ, orchestrating the jaunty tunes throughout the day and night. Sometimes, he’ll also pause to chat with visitors, adding to the lively cantina experience. Even now, he still insists that “I’m still getting used to my programming.”
6. Star Wars Fans Make Cameo Appearances
Star Wars has had an incredibly passionate fanbase, most notably the 501st Legion. Named after the infamous 501st clone and stormtrooper brigade that served as “Vader’s Fist”, the 501st Legion is an international Star Wars fan club specializing in cosplay as Star Wars villains. Over the years, the 501st has maintained positive relations with Lucasfilm and Disney, often making appearances at promotional events – including Star Wars celebrations at Hollywood Studios. The 501st’s strong reputation had an unexpected result in 2010, as Imagineers worked on the new layout for Star Wars: The Adventures Continue.
In July 2010, Disney asked the 501st’s Southern California chapter to appear in a silhouette photo shoot. As it turned out, they were actually asked to be filmed the new Star Tours ride. The video footage, displayed in the ride’s indoor line queue shows various people, from Imperial stormtroopers to Rebels, walking through the spaceport. Despite a couple setbacks with the initial Stormtrooper characters not showing up, the 501st pulled off the photo shoot without a hitch. In addition, the Boba Fett you see in the actual ride, as well as a snowspeeder for the Hoth section, are also played by 501st members. These fan cameos demonstrate the important role that fans play in the continuing Star Wars saga.
7. Star Tours Contains Lots of Fun References
Disney attractions are well-known for their attention to detail and inclusion of little “Easter egg” secrets people can discover, and Star Tours certainly much to see throughout the experience. The boarding call announcements on-screen and over intercom mention a landspeeder THX 1138 and a Flight 1138. THX 1138 was actually George Lucas’s first movie: a dystopian sci-fi with android police. In fact, Tokyo Disneyland calls Star Tours’ launch facility Spaceport THX1138. But this is just one of the many surprises you can find at Star Tours.
Other boarding call announcements in the first area of the indoor wait queue make additional references if you listen closely enough. Some of them give names that are actually anagrams for people like Star Wars creator George Lucas (“Egroeg Sacul” and Tom Morrow (“Mot Worrom”), who was a classic animatronic in Tomorrowland). Later, once you reach the baggage check area, you’ll find even crazier callbacks. Many different Disney attractions and franchises get cameos as G2-9T scans boarding IDs. Haunted Mansion, Toy Story, Aladdin, WALL-E, The Incredibles, and Captain EO are just a few of the things referenced with the baggage check. And these are just a couple of the places to find hidden references.
Even seemingly random numbers can have special meanings on Star Tours decorations. A sign labeled N1C7C01 is an anagram for NCC-1701, the number for the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Another number, TWB3000, refers to two different things: the Flight 3000 that guests rode in the original Star Tours, and Tony Wayne Baxter, a legendary WDI Imagineer who was instrumental in building the first Star Tours ride. Plus, the new flight number for your ride, 1401, stems from the address for WDI’s headquarters – 1401 Flower Street, Glendale, CA. All this and more shows just how much love Disney has put into Star Tours. Not only do these references keep visitors intrigued, but they tie Star Tours to Disney’s rich history and so much more.
8. Star Tours Also Features Sequel Destinations
Most of the places you go in Star Tours are based off the original and prequel trilogies, but Disney has also brought in new worlds from the recent sequel movies. Because of the sequels being farther forward in the timeline, the sequel worlds operate under a separate set of scenarios compared with the other scenarios that take place during the Rebellion. For instance, Kylo Ren and/or First Order troops will confront you at the start, and you’ll be harboring a Resistance spy rather than a Rebel spy.
For a while, there were only a couple of worlds in the sequel scenarios. First, during the first half, you’d fly to desert-like Jakku from Episode VII and crash through a wrecked Star Destroyer. Afterward, you’d go to Crait from Episode VIII and help the Resistance fight the First Order (while also taking a jaunt through the crystalline caves). After escaping Crait, you finally fly to Batuu (the setting for Galaxy’s Edge). When these attractions were first added, riders could only fly through the sequel scenarios for some time to promote the movies, though they were later mixed in with the other ride scenarios.
In 2019, coinciding with the release of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney added two more worlds to the sequel scenarios. Instead of Jakku, you can start out on Kef Bir in the Endor system, where you surf around the debris from the second Death Star and hear Threepio make callbacks to the original ride’s trip to Endor. Then, for the finale, you can become part of Episode 9’s final battle at Exegol, with your ship being critical for rallying support for the Resistance. The Exegol scenario climaxes with things coming full circle, as the ship returns at long last to Spaceport THX1138, and you see Captain Ace and other droids from the pre-show once more. So whatever part of Star Wars you like, Star Tours has something for you.
9. Star Tours Used to Have a Different Gift Shop
When Star Tours first opened at Hollywood Studios, its attached store tied in with the Endor forest landscape you see in the outdoor line queue. Endor Vendors resembled the shield bunker from Return of the Jedi, letting it fluidly mesh with the rest of the attraction’s Endor theming. There was even a speeder bike stuck into a fallen tree, calling back to the film’s speeder bike chase scene.
This changed in 1999 with the release of Phantom Menace. To better promote the new prequel, Disney replaced Endor Vendors with Tatooine Traders. The current store is modeled after the sand-like buildings seen in Mos Espa during that movie. Tatooine Traders is a fun shop in its own right, but admittedly it does contrast with the nearby Ewok village.
10. Hollywood Studios Gave a Spectacular Farewell to the Original
When Disney decided to upgrade Star Tours into a new ride incorporating the prequels, many fans were both sad and excited, so they prepared to enjoy the original ride one last time (or as many times as they could). As part of the annual Star Wars Celebration, which attracts fans from across the country each year, Hollywood Studios hosted the Last Tour to Endor event on August 14, 2010. After Hollywood Studios officially closed for the night, guests who paid for the special admission could attend a special set of events celebrating Star Tours and Star Wars as a whole. Even George Lucas, in addition to hosting Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, made sure to attend the nighttime Last Tour to Endor.
With activities spread out across the park, attendees got to have a lot of unique, Star Wars-themed fun at Last Tour to Endor. Activities ranged from dancing to character meet-ups to special merchandise. There were even some original, humorous shows featuring the Star Wars cast and more. For example, Star Wars characters competed in a dance-off for Hyperspace Hoopla. Raiders of the Lost Jedi Temple, taking place at the site of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, mixed the stunt show with Star Wars for a zany and hilarious crossover, as the two separate scripts collided. Through it all, fans crowded the park, many dressed up as different Star Wars characters.
Multiple rides were still open for Last Tour to Endor, but most guests naturally gravitated towards Star Tours, wishing to give the ride a nostalgic farewell. At the end of the night, fans gathered for the ride’s official shut-down, with numerous Star Wars characters performing a little show in the process. While R2-D2 wanted to just turn off the power, Boba Fett wasn’t satisfied and decided to throw a thermal detonator into the power supply. Like this, the celebration went out with a bang.
That said, this wasn’t actually the end of the original Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios. Park guests could still ride the simulator until September 7, 2010. That night, D23 club members got to check in at the front of the Park and pick up a commemorative boarding pass for the Final Flight to Endor. Next, they got a personal stormtrooper escort to Star Tours. As you walked through the wait queue to Flight 1401, you could see Stormtroopers gathering everywhere, even hitching a ride with you. Afterward, Stormtroopers patrolled the exit and guided the final riders back out of the Park (while also posing for pictures). While bittersweet, these events also celebrated the wonder and adventure of Star Tours and the Star Wars franchise.
11. Star Wars Actors Provided Voices
As the brave (and panicking) “captain” of the ride, C3PO is one of the biggest stars on Star Tours. And his voice comes straight from his original actor in the movies: Anthony Daniels. He returned to reprise his character role for the ride, using not only his old dialogue but new pieces as well. Anthony Daniels is a talented actor, and his spirited performance as Threepio helps make the Star Tours experience so memorable. Likewise, Carrie Fisher, the now-deceased actress of Princess Leia, recorded her own lines for her Star Tours scenes. Even for reused footage of her from the films, she re-recorded her lines so that they would fit with the ride’s plot.
With so many different things to discover at Star Tours, it’s no wonder that the ride remains incredibly popular with Star Wars fans and Disney World guests alike. The next time you’re in Hollywood Studios, be sure to stop by Star Tours – you’re sure to have lots of fun!
What’s your favorite part of Star Tours, and what would you like to see added in? You can share these things and more in the comments.
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- 11 Fun Facts About Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
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2 Replies to “11 Fun Facts About Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios”
The 501st Legion, Vader’s Fist, in SW Canon was actually named in honour of the 501st Legion costuming group. It was a nod by Lucasfilm to the relationship they had with the group, not the other way around.
Captain Rex who else?