Star Tours’ New ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Scenes Actually Improve the Film
Star Wars fans who also love theme parks are currently obsessing over Rise of the Resistance, the brand new Star Wars attraction at Walt Disney World. (It opens in Disneyland next month as well.) By all accounts, it’s the most inventive and technologically sophisticated amusement park ride in the history of the world. But all the excitement around it threatens to overshadow another new addition to the Star Wars theme park galaxy — which, in its own way, might be even cooler.
That would be the latest update to the very first Star Wars ride at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Star Tours. This motion simulator was first introduced back in 1987; the basic premise involved space tourists on a pleasure cruise of the galaxy who get sucked into their own Star Wars adventure. Here’s what Star Tours looked like back in the day:
In 2010, the ride film was updated and modernized with new special effects. The cool part about the renamed Star Tours: The Adventure Continues is that its ride film can be changed and updated. Originally, the revised Star Tours tour took guests to three random planets out of many options; as a result, every ride was different. (Supposedly there are something like 400 possible combinations.)
When the Star Wars movie franchise relaunched in 2015, Disney’s Imagineers added new planets for each new film. After the release of The Force Awakens, the Star Tours Speeder could fly through Jakku with the Millennium Falcon and Finn; following The Last Jedi, it could zoom around Crait with Poe Dameron. These additions were amusing and well animated. The brand new addition for The Rise of Skywalker is something more, because it not only puts guests into the actual movie itself, the material in the ride makes the film better in retrospect.
(I’m going to get into some SPOILERS for the film and the ride, so fair warning.)
The first of the two new scenes is set on a moon of Endor, amidst the ruins of the second Death Star from Return of the Jedi. Your ship gets trapped in the water, meets an unfriendly alien, zooms around, and departs. So far, typical Star Tour stuff. But then you receive a holographic message from Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams. Lando tells you the “First Order is rallying its forces” and that the Resistance “needs your help.” He provides coordinates and you jump into to hyperspace and arrive right into the big final battle from The Rise of Skywalker — where hundreds of ships face down the Emperor’s new fleet of turbo-charged Star Destroyers. (You’re even given instructions how to target and destroy them that work with what occurs in the movie.)
The structure here isn’t revolutionary for the ride; the older version had you receiving a message from various Star Wars characters like Yoda or Admiral Ackbar. In the past though, story of the ride could never really be squared with the continuity of the movies. In this case, Lando’s message sends you into the final battle of the movie — where, in fact, there are actually hundreds of ships. I’ve only seen The Rise of Skywalker once, so I can’t say for certain the Star Tours Speeder is in there — but I’m going to assume that it is, which would make this connection even cooler.
Most importantly, this moment explains something that isn’t explained in The Rise of Skywalker itself. In the film, Lando and Chewbacca take the Millennium Falcon and disappear when all the Rebels head to face off with the Final Order. When all hope appears lost, they finally show up, flanked by hundreds of reinforcements. Exactly how did one guy and a Wookie convince all these people to show up? Star Tours tells you — Lando sent them all messages and directions for where to go. That makes sense. Everybody loves Lando. Who’s gonna say no to that suave old space devil?
This is a small detail, but it’s a pretty cool one — a ride and a movie working in harmony to tell a huge story. Here’s a video of the new Star Tours ride:
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now. The new Star Tours is open at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
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