On November 17, a group of select journalists were invited to experience the latest update to the popular Star Tours attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was an opportunity to visit one of the newest locations in the Star Wars universe, Crait, along with more locations and surprises. Not only did Star Tours deliver, but also so did Hollywood Studios, which showcases a bevy of Star Wars themed opportunities for fans and theme park goers alike. StarWars.com went along for the ride.
Early in the morning, we went through the front gates of the theme park (before it was open to the general public), and headed straight for Star Tours. As the ride started, and our StarSpeeder left the hangar, Rey could be seen in the distance as we made a quick exit through a barrage of First Order TIEs and Star Destroyers. Our first stop (Star Tours has randomized different locales in the Star Wars universe since May 2011) led to Jakku (which has been an option on the attraction since November 2015), followed by a holomessage featuring Maz Kanata.
The mysterious resident of Takodana gave us an urgent warning about the First Order, and showcased a few skills not seen in The Force Awakens, which was greeted by thunderous applause. It’s worth noting that a second turn on the updated Star Tours included an appearance by Poe Dameron, who managed to exhibit wit and a sense of urgency in the same breath.
We were then transported to Crait, and were greeted by some vulptices (a.k.a. crystal foxes), before crashing into a cavern complete with red crystal stalactites and stalagmites. Almost immediately after a harrowing escape, we emerged from the cave, right in the middle of a battle between Resistance ski speeders and some hulking AT-M6 walkers. If that’s not enough intensity for you, General Hux appeared, promising certain doom if we stuck around for much longer.
Fortunately, our pilots R2-D2 and C-3PO catapulted us to hyperspace, where the biggest surprise of the day greeted us. While we knew we would get to Crait, the official Disney Parks blog alluded to there being “another” destination on the new Star Tours; we did not know what to expect at the end of the attraction. As we landed, C-3PO calmly informed us that it seemed like we were on a safe planet. It was Batuu, the featured planet of the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! If the applause and celebration on our StarSpeeder is any indicator, we are in for a real thrill when Galaxy’s Edge opens in 2019.
But, that was just the beginning. There are a number of Star Wars opportunities at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and our group took got to sample the many experiences available. These included:
- The Star Wars Launch Bay, including a meet and greet with Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, and BB-8
- The films “Path of the Jedi” and “Dreaming on a Galactic Scale”
- The march of the First Order, led by Captain Phasma
- The stage show “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away”
Star Wars Launch Bay
The Star Wars Launch Bay opened on December 4, 2015, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and is an interactive walkthrough, featuring costumes, props and models from many of the films. Some of the items were screen used, including Anakin Skywalker’s podracer, some of Jyn Erso’s costumes from Rogue One, and a number of blasters and lightsaber hilts. Also included are many of vehicles from the saga, including the Millennium Falcon, X-wings, and much more.
We also got to meet Chewbacca (who gives the best hugs, according to many of the guests in attendance), the sinister Kylo Ren (who did not care for the Resistance logo on my T-shirt), and the charming BB-8, who awaited us on a small pedestal. Each of the characters interacted with us, and personalized every encounter. Plus, the backdrop for each character felt like you walked onto the set of The Force Awakens.
“Path of the Jedi” and “Dreaming on a Galactic Scale”
We also went to two separate movie theaters for private screenings of “Path of the Jedi” and “Dreaming on a Galactic Scale.” The first film, “Path of the Jedi,” is located between Echo Lake and Star Tours, and is a 10-minute retelling of the saga. The sound quality and visuals are the stuff of legend (after all, this is Star Wars), and beautifully capture so much of what we love about the saga. I must confess, there may have been a tear or two of joy shed, on my part.
“Dreaming on a Galactic Scale” is located inside the Launch Bay Theater, and is a 10-minute movie that chronicles the creative process involved in bringing these iconic stories to life. The film includes footage from Lucasfilm, an interview with creative executive Pablo Hidalgo, behind-the-scenes material from Rogue One, and much more. As with many things at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the heart and energy of Star Wars is fully present here.
The March of the First Order and Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away
We completed our tour by marching in the March of the First Order parade behind Captain Phasma and numerous First Order stormtroopers. As guest marveled at the impressive armor of the First Order’s enforcers, we journeyed down Hollywood Boulevard to the stage in front of the Chinese Theater. The stage show, Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, began, with Phasma and her battalion departing from the parade and walking onto the stage.
Many popular characters, such as Boba Fett, Darth Maul, C-3PO and R2-D2, and Darth Vader traversed across the stage (or rolled, in the case of Artoo), reenacting famous lines and scenes from the Star Wars saga. Music, fireworks, and incredible costumes were everywhere, and the finale featured every character in the show appearing together for a magnificent photo opp. To add to the excitement, Rey and BB-8 also joined in on the fun, brining the energy to a whole other level.
You don’t have to wait until 2019 to enjoy Star Wars at Hollywood Studios. The upcoming Star Wars Galactic Nights (returning on December 16) promises to feature all of the above excitement, as well as all new unique photo opportunities, exclusive merchandise, and galaxy-themed food, along with a nighttime fireworks display you’ll never forget. Be sure to book your flight on Star Tours, and keep your eyes open when you land on Batuu. You never know what you might find.