My very Star Warsy Disney Vacation

by Bill Cable
on 2011-07-14, 13:49:01

So last week (wow... was it really only last week??) my family and I went to Disney World. It was awesome... an almost letter-perfect vacation. If not for a spot of poison ivy on my leg I'd find it hard to raise a complaint. And it was notably Star Wars-centric, which made me very happy.

The Star Wars started at the airport, where I was greeted by this sign:

The Fan: The Last Straw

There were also numerous billboards of the same image around. Disney's going all-out promoting the new ride.

We stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, which was very nice. Spent a couple days at the pools... rented a boat... it was fun. And it was unexpectedly Star Warsy! As I was riding around on the shuttle, I noticed a familiar tune in the ambiance music. They played Caribbean music most of the time... but this was different... it was... The Cantina Song! But it wasn't any regular Cantina song - it was an all-steel drum rendition of the Cantina song, so it sounded a lot more Caribbean. It was awesome. I'd love to get that MP3 somewhere. So that got me into a Star Wars mood from very early on.

We went to Disney's Hollywood Studios on July 4th, mostly because the park offered "Magic Hours" for resort guests where we could ride the rides from 10pm-1am while everyone else had to leave the park. Hello 10-minute wait times! After getting situated we went to the reason we were there (or rather, the reason I forced my family to go there instead of Epcot)... Star Tours! It looked good.

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

My daughters were actually pretty excited, which was cool. It must have been radiating from me and contagious. Here's a pic I snapped of them near the AT-AT foot. It used to be you could climb under there (and I have a photo of myself "lifting" the foot from my honeymoon), but they changed the line and roped it off.

The Fan: The Last Straw

Inside, it looked pretty much the same. 3PO was in the same spot. Same shuttle. Same Mon Cals in the booth (which aren't here because the photo was blurry).

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

The first big surprise (which I absolutely loved) was a new location for the old Starspeeder captain:

The Fan: The Last Straw

Note the sticker. Brilliant! He was joined by a few Astromechs headed for the dumpster... which is where all Astromechs rightly belong...

The Fan: The Last Straw

The 3D glasses were top-notch. And my daughters were stoked!

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

We rode the ride twice. Brilliant both times. The 3D was actually not too bad for me, where it usually is just a big blur. So I was happy I could mostly enjoy it.

After that we did other things, and walking around I found another unexpected Star Wars delight! At DHS there's an area where a little more than a dozen bronze busts are on display. I have no idea why they chose who they chose... it seems pretty random. Barbara Walters and Bill Cosby and Oprah... no rhyme or reason. Among them was a legendary Star Wars actor!

The Fan: The Last Straw

That's right... Harvey Korman! You know... the star of the Star Wars Holiday Special??!! The bust looked nothing at all like Krellman or Chef Gormaanda (or much like Harvey Korman, honestly), but it was yet another Star Wars gem that made my trip all that much better.

The Fan: The Last Straw

We had lunch, and then went back to the hotel to avoid the mid-day heat. We returned for dinner, fireworks, and another round of Star Tours. And as always, 3PO was a pain to photograph...

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

I rode Star Tours 5 or 6 more times. After the park emptied out for Magic Hours, we were basically walking right up to the shuttle doors. It was awesome. And both my daughters enjoyed it. Jasmine and Lynda rode three more times, and Julia stayed with me for the full six.

The Fan: The Last Straw

The Fan: The Last Straw

The ride itself, I give top marks. I ended up seeing every video through my series of run-throughs. There's two beginnings, three first locales, three hologram messages, and three end locales.

Spoilers commence!

First of all... they made 3PO the star of the experience - JUST AS HE SHOULD BE! And it allowed for another brilliant vocal performance from Mr. Daniels. Really - just a perfect decision that made the ride far more enjoyable and memorable.

Among the two beginnings, the one with Vader stands FAR above the one with the probe droid. Being whipped around by the Force - AMAZING effect, perfectly executed. That was probably the best moment of the whole ride.

For the first locale, every time I visited Kashyyyk except once was Hoth and once was Tatooine. They were all pretty even, honestly. Nothing too amazing. Solid. I got a lot of blurriness from Kashyyyk because you zoom past some very large groups of Wookiees at a very fast clip. It was worst from the front row. After I figured that out I started asking to be seated in the back. The Wookiee on the windshield was great, though. I liked Hoth a lot until they got to us sledding down the snow toboggan-style. That was cheesy. The pod race was a pod race...

For the greeting videos, every time I saw Yoda except twice. I got Leia once and Ackbar once. Yoda was pulled straight out of Attack of the Clones and looked great. And that'd be expected. Leia, I don't know how they pulled her off. She looked fantastic, right out of the A New Hope message to Obi-Wan. I don't know if it was created entirely digitally or if they got a look-alike or what. The voice was spot-on, too. The Ackbar... left a lot to be desired. After obviously spending big bucks on the other two, for Ackbar they threw some wobbly rubber mask on a guy. It looked FAKE. It looked like a vinyl Halloween mask. And as the actor "talked" the lips just kind of jiggled.

For the second locale I got a good mix of each of them. Coruscant I liked a lot. The stuff in space wasn't that great, but there was a section where you fell to the planet that was completely engrossing. The Death Star/Jango Fett piece (unless it was Boba... couldn't really tell from the brief glimpse on the video screen since I missed it both times) was just sort of confusing. You're in an asteroid field getting chased by Jango like AOTC then you fly through Death Star II, then you face Slave 1 again. I mean it looked good, but it was all mixed up.

And finally, there was Naboo. Naboo was GLORIOUS! It was the highlight of the ride. As much as I'd love an Original Trilogy segment to have been the best part, there's no disputing that honor belongs to the Gungan homeworld. When the fish monster attacks in the planet core - awesome! And then the end is the best effect of the whole ride... literally breaking through the fourth wall!

Star Tours is now an experience not to be missed by any true Star Wars fan. It took me seven rides to see each piece (I saw the Pod Race section on my next-to-last ride). They're all fun. But make sure you keep riding until you make it to Naboo!

And that's pretty much that. Now I'm back at the grindstone. It was a great, needed, deserved and invigorating vacation.





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