Lightspeed to Endor
With the announcement coming out that the Walt Disney Company would be joining forces with James Cameron to bring Avatar to the Disney Parks, I couldn’t help but write this blog about Star Tours and Disney’s hookup with another director almost 25 years ago, George Lucas. There is no doubt that the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises have done well in the Disney Parks, which is why it comes withu no surprise that Disney is hooking up with another big time director to bring his stories in, but the relationship with Lucas and Disney was not something that Disney Execs, at the time, thought they needed.
In fact, the idea of using a story other than Disney created tale was Imagineer, now Senior Vice President in Creative Development, Tony Baxter. Baxter had approached, then head of Imagineering, Marty Sklar who then advised him to talk to Ron Miller, the head of the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney’s son-in-law. Baxter brought up the idea of talking to George Lucas about using his Star Wars characters for the Parks. Miller, who had brought up using Tron or The Black Hole as ideas, was persuaded as Miller and Lucas had known each other through their love of wine. So Miller and Baxter met with George Lucas at the Miller-Disney family Silverado Vineyard in Napa and had agreed that if Lucas couldn’t build a park of his own, he would work with Disney to bring a Star Wars experience to Disneyland.
However, delay comes when Ron Miller is ousted as CEO and President of the company in favor of Frank Wells and Michael Eisner, but Baxter is able to convert them into lovers of his Star Wars idea too, especially since Eisner and Lucas had a relationship from Eisner’s previous employer, Paramount. So, the plans got underway for the Star Wars ride in late 1984. Previous to his meeting with Eisner, Imagineers, with Tony Baxter leading of course, had come up with a roller coaster plan for Star Tours, but the challenge came in space issues. Star Tours would eventually take up the space of one of Tomorrowlands older rides, Adventures Through Inner Space, so the roller coaster plan was dropped. Randy Bright, an Imagineer who had been working on Epcot Center, brought up the idea to make Star Tours a motion simulator ride.
Disney Imagineering had toyed with the idea of having a simulator ride before. In the mid-1970s, a new “land” was in the works for Disneyland called Discovery Bay. The area of the park would have a Jules Verne theme with a motion simulator attraction that would take guests underwater with Captain Nemo. However, due to expenses and lack of technology to create Discovery Bay and its proposed motion simulator ride, the idea was dropped until EuroDisney was built in the early 1990s and the Jules Verne themed Discoveryland was favored of the use of Tomorrowland.
Star Tours would go on to be built in the former Adventures Through Inner Space area, cramming in four simulators, a pre-show area, a queue, and an exit area. George Lucas came up with the initial story of a crazy/new driver for the Starspeeder 3000 which gave liberty for as much motion and movement as possible.
After just more than a year of construction, Star Tours opened on January 9th, 1987 to a large crowd of costumed Star Wars fans. As part of the opening, Disneyland stayed open for a continuous sixty hours to celebrate. The attraction became so popular, a version was immediately in the works for Tokyo Disney, (opening July 15th, 1989) Disney World, (opening December 15th, 1989) and the eventual addition at the opening of Euro Disney (April 12, 1992)
Star Tours got a long awaited updating in 2011, adding in elements from the prequel trilogy of Star Wars as well as creating a different experience every time you ride, with a rotating mix of film and motion elements. The rumors of Star Tours 2 started in 2005 when George Lucas himself talked about working on it at a convention, but Disney refused to talk about it until the first D23 convention in Anaheim in 2009. Star Tours, at all the parks, closed in the summer of 2010 to make way for the new ride, but on May 20th, 2011, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened the new version “Star Tours: The Adventure Continues”.
I made my way to Disney World this past summer to check out the new ride. Slightly smoother, graphically impressive, and fun for anyone, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues still makes a fan out of me and I’m sure we will be seeing plenty of the Star Wars universe at Disney Parks for years to come.
So long Everyone
Posted on September 21, 2011, in Articles and tagged Disney World, Disneyland, Euro Disney, George Lucas, History, Marty Sklar, Michael Eisner, Parks, Radio Shows, Ron Miller, Star Tours, Star Wars, Tokyo Disney, Tony Baxter, Walt. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.