By Gordon Meyer
One of the big media events that took place at CES a couple of weeks ago was an appearance by Darth Vader alongside 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment President Mike Dunn to announce the release of the complete “Star Wars” saga on Blue-ray this September. This, of course, will be the first of several cycles of “Star Wars” products, including a theatrical release of all six titles converted to 3D beginning in 2012 with “Episode 1 The Phantom Menace”
It’s therefore no surprise that “Star Tours,” the Disney theme park attraction that’s been going like the Eveready Bunny since its debut in 1987 is not only going through a major upgrade, but that upgrade will be in 3D . (The attraction has been closed since July 2010 at Disneyland in Anaheim and since September 2010 at its Walt Disney World counterpart.) Although a May 20 date was announced for the Walt Disney World opening, fans here in SoCal may have to wait until later in the year as no Anaheim opening has been announced yet.
When it first opened in 1987, “Star Tours” was a state of the art attraction, combining traditional Disney showmanship with the then new technology of motion simulators. While variations of motion simulator technology have been around since the 1910 introduction of the Sanders Teacher, a flight training simulator, “Star Tours” was the first one made for the general public to experience. It was a revolutionary change in ride technology at the time.
I remember when I first experienced this attraction thinking how brilliant it was in that all Disney and Lucasfilm had to do to update the ride was shoot a new film and re-program the hydraulics. But they obviously decided to do a complete overhaul for “Star Tours 2.0” which is officially known as “Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.”
As before, the Lucasfilm people are handling the film itself, except this time, it’s completely digital and 3D, where the original was shown in 70mm. As hot as 3D may seem these days, it’s really nothing new for Disney or even Lucasfilm as far as theme park attractions go. Two years before “Star Tours” opened, Disney unveiled its first collaboration with Lucasfilm, the 3D film “Captain EO,” directed by Francis Coppola and starring Michael Jackson. Disney’s used 3D several of their parks, including attractions featuring the Muppets, the characters from “A Bugs Life” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” which was retired to bring back “Captain EO” last year.
So Disney’s Imagineers are once again turning to 3D technology as part of one of their attractions. But then, since the intention is to make the attraction an immersive experience, the Imagineers have been doing that since Disneyland first opened in 1955, just with analog “live action” technology.
As for me, I’m looking forward to checking out the newest version of “Star Tours.” It should be a real kick! Stay tuned!