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[personal profile] mmcirvin
 Disney's Hollywood Studios is about half a theme park right now, because the whole back section of the park (formerly home to the "backlot tour", among other things) is shut down for construction of both Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. What's left feels cramped and crowded, though the theming is still nice.

Anyway, pending Star Wars Land, which I think doesn't open until around 2019, they're determined to squeeze as much value as they can out of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, and make the remainder of Hollywood Studios as Star Warsy as is humanly possible. There's a walk-through attraction with a few exhibits and character meet-and-greets called "Star Wars Launch Bay" (we met Kylo Ren). Imperial Stormtroopers occasionally stroll through the place being threatening. There are a couple of alternating stage shows that happen in the park's central plaza every half hour or so, featuring most of the good guys and bad guys in the Star Wars movies who can be played by a person in a face-obscuring costume (which is a lot of them), and another show at the south end of the park called "Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple" in which little kids in Jedi hoods can participate in defeating spectral villains with a collective Force push. Just in case you don't understand what any of this is about, there's a movie attraction called "Star Wars: Path of the Jedi" that is apparently a ten-minute condensation of the entire Star Wars saga. I didn't watch that.

But Hollywood Studios' involvement with Star Wars actually goes all the way back to 1989, with their copy of Star Tours, a motion-simulator ride that originally opened two years earlier at Disneyland. The premise is that you're on a wild, mishap-filled ride through the Star Wars galaxy in a sort of flying tour bus. The queue is themed as a passenger spaceport, much like Space Mountain, but with more droids (in fact, a lot of the decor looks similar).

The current incarnation is actually a major upgrade dating from 2011 (actually still slightly before the Lucasfilm acquisition), with 3-D video and randomized adventures assembled out of sequences of alternative scenes. In this version, C-3PO himself is the pilot, accidentally thrust into the role at the last minute. Some newer material was added to the mix after The Force Awakens came out.

Even so, compared to, say, Universal Florida's many simulator rides or Epcot's Soarin', it still feels a little behind the times. You're sitting in the interior of the "Starspeeder 1000", looking out the front window wearing your 3-D glasses. C-3PO is an animatronic figure, standing to the left of the screen reacting to things. The theater tilts and shakes around with good and convincing motion effects, but the screen isn't anything like the overwhelming Omnimax experience of some of those other rides. On the other hand, that may make it more palatable for some people with motion-sickness issues (Google reviews imply that a lot of people do have problems, though).

This is a jokey take on the Star Wars universe; before the acquisition, Lucasfilm tied itself into knots trying to explain how the ride's storylines fit into Star Wars canon, but with the addition of the Episode VII material all pretense of that has been mercifully dropped. This ride jumps back and forth through decades of in-universe time and we really don't care. In the sequence I got, we encountered Darth Vader, Finn and Jar Jar Binks.

All in all, it's not the most spectacular ride experience, but it's still fun and the randomized storylines probably invite re-riding if you've got the time. I think the Episode VII scene is currently locked into the sequence so you get it every time, though.

I'm sure Star Wars Land is going to feature much more amazing simulator experiences, and they may well shut this thing down then. But it's diverting enough for now.

In this video from "Theme Park Worldwide", you can hear part of the "Jedi Training" kid show going on outside the ride building at the beginning:

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