Today is a sad day, but also one for hope.
It marks the Last Flight to Endor – the final running of the original Star Tours ride at Disneyland Paris.
While we are not there to experience this special event in person, we have been fortunate to ride the classic space simulator many times. Yes, we are sad to see it go, but the reason it is closing is due to a refurbishment that will bring the attraction up to the standards of the more modern Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.
When Star Tours opened at the original Disneyland back in 1987, it marked the first attraction at a Disney park that was not an original attraction or based on a Disney property. At the time, Disney Parks management was looking to find a new audience, and make the parks appeal to a teenager age range.
With the recent success of Captain EO, the Michael Jackson 3D movie event that was created by George Lucas, and of course the record breaking cinema run of the Star Wars trilogy, it made clear sense for Disney to propose a new Star Wars ride at their parks to Lucas. And fortunately, he agreed.
Disney had also been working over the years on a new simulator technology, that was based on aerial motion simulators used by the air force. They had not yet been able to marry this technology with a ride design, however, with theming based on The Black Hole movie before those plans were shelved. But combining this simulator with Star Wars would be a perfect mix!
On release, Star Tours provided an adrenaline attraction the parks required to hit that target demographic. Billed as the ultimate Star Wars adventure, it provided an immersive experience, and thrills and spills!
It was such a popular ride that when Disneyland Paris opening in 1992, Star Tours was among one of the debut attractions.
As a teenager, JD’s first visit to Disney Paris included multiple rides on Star Tours. As a young Star Wars fan, it was a wonderful experience. Arriving in Discoveryland, you can see an almost life size X-Wing fighter beckoning you over to that corner of the park. But that isn’t just a model – its the entranceway to the queue line! Going along the queue, it really makes you feel like you are a space tourist, and that you are at an intergalactic space dock, waiting to board your transport.
Posters for other far flung tourist spots like Tatooine and Hoth decorate the walls, along with cameos from C-3PO and R2-D2. There’s even a life size version of the Starspeeder 3000, the transport we board as the simulator.
And then sitting in that ride, and seeing on-screen the familiar planets, and Death Star, and getting involved in a classic Star Wars space fight was like a dream come true! The added tilts and turns of the simulator just made it feel even more immersive.
A young JD just couldn’t help but queue, ride, and queue again!
Disneyland Paris is the only Disney park that still runs the classic version of this ride. Elsewhere around the world, the Star Tours ride has been updated to Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, which has been upgraded, and includes new scenes from the prequel Star Wars movies, and now even The Force Awakens.
Riding Disneyland Paris’ Star Tours nowadays, however, is perhaps not as exciting as it was back on its debut, or the early nineties. The last time we rode was back in 2014. Sure it is still a top ride, but it is unfortunately quite dated. It’s a shame the ride is closing, but this is more for nostalgia reasons.
We loved it, and still do, but having since been to Walt Disney World where we got to ride Star Tours II, we were blown away. The new ride is faster and smoother, and contains a mixture of movie scenes, meaning you don’t experience the same story twice.
We got to experience a pod race, a thrilling encounter with Darth Vader, witnessed the battle of Hoth, revisited the Death Star, and was chased through a meteorite field by a bounty hunter.
Going back to this older version really brings home how improved the new one is. It’s a classic great ride, but it is time to be updated.
Arriving in 2017, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues arrives in Paris. While we are sad we could not experience The Last Flight to Endor, we are looking forward to visiting the new version when it opens.