Star Tours: A new galaxy of adventures

Star Tours has reopened at Disneyland Paris as Star Tours: L’aventure continue. With it, a new experience of over 70 different combinations of ride meaning that there are so many reasons to do this favourite over and over again.

This new attraction takes the Star Tours experience that you know and love and expands upon it allowing for a more immersive tour across the galaxy. Whilst Disneyland Paris is the last to this arrive to this party, it certainly makes up for it in style as a Star Wars mini-land has seemingly opened up with a Darth Vader meet and greet location; a new look Star Traders and the newly opened Hyperspace Mountain experience. All these experiences, along with Season of the Force prove that Disneyland Paris is focused on being the Star Wars hub of Europe.

A slice of a Galaxy far, far away in Marne-la-Vallée

The whole rear of Discoveryland has been reimagined to create a veritable Star Wars vibe to it, this also serves a double meaning as for guests familiar with Star Tours at Disneyland Paris, it also indicates that this experience is different to what has come before.

The most striking element of the new land, aside from its openness, is that the X-Wing has moved from its plinth next to the entrance of the attraction to the top of the old Star Traders boutique (now Starport) . Certainly, this provides better visibility for the X-Wing as a ‘weenie’ and should draw more people into the area (as it it were needed) however when in the area the X-Wing is barely visible and impossible to take photos of. The previously active X-Wing is taken into a more dormant look providing an impressive approach but for no pay-off in the slightest.

It is at night where this area is most alive, the beautiful blue colours are exceptional vibrant and really does bring this outer-galaxy idea to life. It is an absolute joy to spend time in the area as it is but it can’t help but feeling like a few bits of Star Wars streetmosphere (such as the Stormtrooper patrol currently in the Walt Disney Studios park) would really help this area become much more believable as part of the Star Wars galaxy.

The queue area

The old starport aesthetic has been maintained and improved upon during the year long refurbishment. The colour is much more polished now and the darker look compliments the reworked land colouring. The new LED screens are crystal clear, the darker interior really helps bring out the colouring of these screens and thus the advertised planets. The advertisements for the destinations offered by Star Tours and the information videos on the Starspeeder 1000 are in plentiful supply and will allow for no repetition even on a slower moving queue.

The downside to the early part of the queue is C-3PO and his over-the-top safety railings. This ruins a perfect photo opportunity of the droid that is so famous from his appearances in all the films of the Star Wars franchise that people are very eager to take a photo of (or with) him. It hardly seems appropriate to have so many safety fencings around an animatronic.

The final room in the queue is a delight. From seeing RX-24 sadly boxed up, but still saying phrases from the classic Star Tours attraction, something that will bring delight to all Disneyland Paris fans, to the luggage control droid who checks each piece of baggage and talks to guests. The luggage control itself is ingenious, it is the perfect place to sneak in Star Wars and Disney references that delight fans. Only here is it possible to see Mickey’s Fantasia hat in the Star Wars universe or Buzz Lightyear’s wings.

Another not-so-hidden gem in this room is the walk way, here we see various Star Wars characters go past from each and every film. It is a small element but entertaining nonetheless and is a suitable replacement to the baggage carts overhead from the previous iteration. The final surprise is the ‘heat detector’, this is the ultimate gimmick but guests love seeing their heat pattern appear on screen and will start waving and having fun in front of the screens. It doesn’t feel like much, but it’s clearly very appreciated by guests.

The ride

The ride itself is phenominal. Whilst the clear selling point is the sheer number of scenes that can be enjoyed, the real sticking point after having ridden the ride is simply how fun it is. It is proper immersion into the Star Wars universe and a lot of fun as well. Personally, I came off each of my rides grinning from ear to ear with the amount of fun that I enjoyed. Perhaps what Star Tours: L’aventure continue does better than the original Star Tours is incorporating familiar scenes at a high intensity. Yes, the original had the Death Star trench scene which is as iconic as Star Wars comes, but this new version allows Darth Vader, Yoda, Leia etc to show up as well as the possibility to follow the Millennium Falcon.

Each planet follows a clearly different series of movements with the clear highlight being Jakku and the pausing on an angle for a few seconds. Fans of Hoth will be thrilled with the possibility to visit this planet and then zoom into hyperspace and go back to the Death Star (yes, the dream of fighting against the Death Star can still be lived in this new version). What makes this ride doubly exciting is that new scenes will be able to be slotted in with ease allowing for us to be surprised with some eventual The Last Jedi footage.

The 3D element was very well done and was utterly believable which was a nice addition as often 3D feels very gimmicky and not an enhancement to the story; here in Star Tours though, it slots right into the Star Wars universe and allows additional elements of the story to come to life.

The ride, which was already unmissable, is now even more unmissable as you will want to be riding it several times each trip in an attempt to see each of your favourite scenes. I cannot wait to return to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Traders

But the ride is not the end of the Star Tours experience. The reimagined Star Traders boutique makes a fitting ending to the experience and is Europe’s largest Star Wars shop. The selection of merchandise is sufficient for what it seeks to achieve however lacks exclusive items to Disneyland Paris. A lot of what is on offer is generic Star Wars ranges that can be found almost anywhere. Of the exclusive merchandise, there is a really nice Star Tours: L’aventure continue t-shirt, pin and keyring which each look fantastic. There is also a station where you can create your own droid which is inventive and really quite cool. A few more exclusive to Disneyland Paris ranges will make this store unique and one of the best in Disneyland Paris.

The decor is very well designed with Starspeeders in their port. Essentially the theme of this store is to look up as it is all above your head. But it exists and looks exceptional.

Starport: Meet Darth Vader

The final element of this new Star Wars mini-land is the Starport meet and greet space. There is not much to the queue area as it all takes place outside and is a simple out and back system around the edge of the old Star Traders store. Inside, however, has been themed to the Star Wars universe in a rather generic way but allows for great photos with the characters.

Darth Vader himself is a fun meet and greet from the outset. From the moment he comes to grab you from the queue to the end, it is a chilling experience. The addition of Darth Vader actually being able to talk to you is very well executed and has a wide range of phrases that allow for a fully-interactive meet and greet.

An exceptional addition to Disneyland Paris!

Star Tours: L’aventure continue is a wonderful addition to Disneyland Paris that places the resort at the centre of the European Star Wars universe. This alongside the newly launched Soirée Star Wars and Season of the Force provides guests with reasons to visit and revisit the park frequently. Even for the most casual guest, this area of the park is a welcome addition and completes the Discoveryland experience. Just like Frontierland feels strange without Big Thunder Mountain or Phantom Manor, Discoveryland really felt lacking without Star Tours – it is now back and better than ever and will allow for adventures for many years to come!

How Disneyland Paris have missed the Star Wars buzz

Bob Iger and George Lucas

In spring 2017, Disneyland Paris will open Star Tours 2. The simulator-based ride will get a total redesign and a brand new story offering guests an exciting different experience on each ride. The updated Star Wars attraction opened five years ago in the two Disney resorts in the United States and three years ago in Tokyo. Much in the way that Disneyland Paris has the final untouched, original Pirates of the Caribbean, it also has the original Star Tours. This changes very soon, on March 16th the last flight to Endor will depart Disneyland Paris’s Discoveryland and the European resort will be space port-less for a period of around one year. Meanwhile, across the world the amount of Star Wars is only increasing! How did Disneyland Paris get itself in this position? Let’s trace this together.

Bob Iger and George Lucas
George Lucas and Bob Iger signing the deal that brought Star Wars to Disney

I was stood on Main Street USA when I heard the news, the Walt Disney Company had bought Lucasfilm. Naturally, I thought that the decision made sense – afterall, Disney Parks across the world were already invested in Lucasfilm properties such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Disney was the only option for Lucas if he wanted to sell his company.
Upon the purchase, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, conducted a conference call. According to The Verge, Iger was quoted as saying:

‘Disney also confirmed some other plans for the franchise, including placement in its gaming and television business as well as its parks and resorts business. It sounds like we can look forward to more Star Tours, new Star Wars video games, and even more non-film tie-in products.’

I draw particular attention to the plans for the franchise in the parks. It was evident immediately that this would likely involve some form of Star Wars Land. Disneyland Paris fans were very quick to draw up plans for the land within the european resort citing potential space in both the Walt Disney Studios park and behind the current Star Tours building – this plan involved transforming Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet into a La Cantina style outlet. The idea seemed plausible, but were rumours and nothing more. At the least, Disneyland Paris could look forward to Star Tours 2, one hoped. Nothing official had come through – and no official press release has still come through at the time of writing on the 21st January 2016. Disneyland Paris management have confirmed in video interviews, although I cannot currently recuperate the link. If I am able following publication, I will update this article with a link. Star Tours 2 is all but confirmed by name. In a recent video about the ‘Reinvent the Magic’ project currently being undertaken at Disneyland Paris, Star Tours is described to become an ‘innovative and exciting experience.’

Darth Vader on Hoth
Darth Vader finishing what he started – the queue for Star Tours 2

Fast-forward to August 2013, and the Save Disneyland Paris petition was launched. The petition, addressed and sent to Bob Iger, cited a number of quality-control issues that Disneyland Paris experiences. Following the petition, Disneyland Paris launched a fan event entitled What’s New, What’s Next aiming to ease the minds of a fan base that were becoming increasingly disgruntled with the state of the resort. It was a good start, but nothing from Bob Iger. Just a few weeks prior to the launch of this petition, Star Wars Episode 7 was given a release date of December 2015. Star Tours 2 takes just under a year to install, if Disneyland Paris was to get Star Tours 2, surely it would be best envisaged to install it in time for the new film? That would mean that the very latest you could close the current attraction would be January 2015.
Announcing a new attraction when Disneyland Paris were already building one would be tough – especially since during the summer 2013, Disneyland Paris were denying the fact that they were building an attraction in plain view of the park’s guests. January 1st 2014, Disneyland Paris finally releases the most unsurprising press release that they could release. They were in fact building a new ride. Whilst Ratatouille: L’Aventure totalement toquée de Rémy has very little to do with Star Tours 2, there is a key link. The opening weekend in June 2014 saw Bob Iger visit Disneyland Paris. If ever there was a time for Disneyland Paris to have their major Star Wars development green-lit, it was now. The release date for the film was known, the approximate release schedule for future Star Wars films was also known. Star Wars mania was set to kick off in December 2015.
A compromise was apparently reached, Disneyland Paris would receive the Jedi Training Academy in 2015. This was fantastic news for all Disneyland Paris and Star Wars fans, providing that they were between 7 and 12 years old. Whilst Star Wars does have that very rare quality – that it is trans-generational – a large majority of Star Wars fans do happen to find themselves outside of these age brackets. The show seems to be a way to quieten european based Star Wars fans who were to cry out that in 2016 there was to be ‘no Star Wars in the park.’ Star Tours will close on March 16th and will not re-open until Spring 2017 (likely to be March or April in order to tie-in with the 25th Anniversary celebrations). By this time: Star Wars Episode 7’s hype will have died, Star Wars: Rouge One will have been released, we will probably already have a trailer for Star Wars: Episode 8. Essentially, Disneyland Paris misses the biggest year in the history of the film franchise due to poor planning. Star Wars: Episode 8 will not fair as well at the Box Office, the effects of the Star Wars drought will have ended (I’m not saying it will have a bad opening, meerly that it cannot hope to surpass The Force Awakens). The rush planning of Star Wars Night, which took place last month in Disneyland Paris, seems to suggest that Disneyland Paris has completely underestimated the pulling power and success of the Star Wars franchise. A miss that is baffling – the Walt Disney Company launched one of their biggest, and most expensive, advertising campaigns ever; the film has been teased and trailed for over a year; the press release stating that the film would exist in 2015 was released four years ago. Somehow, somewhere, Disneyland Paris has managed to mess up what is a cash cow for them. Star Wars would have brought guests to Disneyland Paris in 2016, a year where a large portion of the park remains closed. It is rather inconceivable that these planning decisions will have been made in ignorance of the film’s release, it seems clear that they were made in spite of it.

The poster for Disneyland Paris's Star Wars Night
The poster for Disneyland Paris’s Star Wars Night

At the risk of this article being overly negative – which, let’s face it, it is – Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Imagineering now have potential to work with. Star Tours 2 at Disneyland Paris could very well be the best version of the attraction in the world. By the time it opens, The Force Awakens will have premiered in television and no longer protected by Spoiler Warnings, Rouge One will have been in cinemas. Disneyland Paris needs to capitalise on this and somehow get these films incorporated in the ride. Episode 8 will be a matter on months away, in theory the filming will be complete and the film will be in post-production upon opening, if Disneyland Paris can work with the film-makers and have the eight installment ready to go in the ride system for when the major marketing campaign ramps up, Disneyland Paris could very well find themselves being able to rake in a lot of cash.
I’m frustrated that Disneyland Paris has missed this vital opportunity. The park could have performed much better this year if Star Tours was opened in its new version already – and Disneyland Paris needs the money. The fact that Star Tours made it to the top 2016 highlight in the recent press release issued by the company means that the resort now knows that this attraction is big for them right now. It’s an easy fix, but I’m very confident that when the attraction returns in 2017, we will have the best version of it that exists. – Be hopeful!

Selected Links

Note: Due to a major technical error, I am currently unable to insert links. This will be fixed at the earliest opportunity. However, if you google the following exact terms, the correct page will show up.
The Verge – Disney buys Lucasfilm, plans to release ‘Star Wars: Episode 7’ in 2015 (Published: 30th October 2012)
Petition – Save Disneyland Paris (Now closed, but the letter to Bob Iger is still accessible)
Disneyland Paris News – Re-imagining the magic
Disneyland Paris – Jedi Training Academy
Disneyland Paris – Star Tours