After Friday’s long day at Epcot for Pixar Weekend, the last thing I wanted to do this weekend was head back out to the parks. But then I started seeing Tweets like this yesterday afternoon:
What the what? The ride doesn’t officially open until May 20 as part of the annual Star Wars weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now if you’re not a big Disney
dork fan like us, here’s the deal: the ride has been closed since September in order to revamp it into a 3-D ride with a new queue and a brand-new ride experience. Now, the ride incorporates scenes from all six Star Wars movies, as well as more interaction with favorites like C3PO, R2D2 and Darth Vader.
I wish I had ridden the ride more before it closed just so I had a better frame of reference. But E. has always been too small and neither of us ever felt like waiting in a long line alone if we all couldn’t do it. I rode it years ago and remember not being all that impressed. I tend to get motion sick from virtual rides like Mission: Space, Soarin’, etc., so it never seemed worth the headache.
But in the months since the ride closed, DadJovi has turned E. into a Star Wars fan. It started with some Learn-to-Read Star Wars books about Wookies (DadJovi’s favorite), pod racing and Jabba the Hut. Then, she got a Star Wars A,B,Cs book and it’s currently her favorite. It’s funny watching her try to piece it all together. For example, the other day, I read to her, “B is for Boba Fett. Boba Fett is a bounty hunter.” After looking at him for a moment, E. looks at me and says, “He’s not a bounty hunter. He looks like a bee hunter.” The girl has a point. His mask does look like a beekeeper’s.
And recently, DadJovi started watching the movies with her. They started at Episode 1, since he figured she’d like kid Anakin the best, and he was right. She LOVES the movies. I thought we were years from this, so it’s been a lot of fun. Even though I don’t love the shooting, the great thing about Star Wars movies is that the violence is so, almost innocent. No gore. Nothing looks like real violence, so it’s something we feel comfortable with. There are some scenes we do fast-forward through but by and large, it’s all safe viewing for her, in our opinion. We will definitely be skipping Episode III for some time though and will probably just make the jump to Episode IV. She’s dying to see the Ewoks though (after all, E is for Ewoks — her favorite letter and they are cute), so we may get to VI sooner than we thought.
Well, that whole, long backstory is to say that we decided to take a risk this morning and headed out to Hollywood Studios at opening to see if we could luck out and get a preview ride, too.
At first, it wasn’t looking good. According to Twitter, I knew people were lined up at the ride with no promises of getting in. So we decided to ride Toy Story Mania, which is still so unbelievably popular. We were at the ride by 9:07 and already the line just for Fast Passes was probably a couple hundred deep. So we got in the standby line and despite how long it was, we were on the ride within 30 minutes. That’s not bad for that ride, which I think is probably the most popular ride at all four Disney World parks these days.
After Toy Story, we wandered over to Star Tours to check it out. Sure enough, people were lined up and the line stretched around Tatooine Traders, the gift shop at the Star Tours exit. I tried to pry some intelligence from the cast members but their lips were sealed. They told me that they were “trying to discourage people from waiting.” They made it seem as if the ride wasn’t going to open up any time soon. We were disappointed and since we had a 3-year-old in tow, we weren’t going to stand there on the off chance they opened the line up.
So we went into TT to look at some Star Wars merchandise and I kept stalking @startours2live on my phone. Then, I saw the news I’d been waiting for:
We rushed up to the line as they were letting people in, but first they had to measure E. because the ride has a 40 inch height requirement. Now, I didn’t think there was anyway she was that tall yet so we were hoping to use Disney’s child swap system where you wait in line but then switch the kid off to take turns.
But when they measured her, she was almost there. She may have stood on her tippy toes for a second and at first they thought she was good to go. I mean, it was so close. So they let us take her and said they’d measure her at the top and we could either ride with her or switch off. I knew she’d love the inside of the queue anyway.
It was time to go in!
That was the last picture I could take. They’re very strict about no pictures during these preview rides. Again, I wish I knew the ride better before to make comparisons, but we LOVED the inside. Along the way, we saw C3PO, R2D2 and aliens that look like Admiral Ackbar (you know, the lizard looking commander that yells “It’s a trap!” in “Return of the Jedi”). There was even a Droid singing Bill Murray’s version of “Star Wars” from SNL. Hilarious. Plus, there’s a big screen showing a sort of travel video for Naboo. There may be more but we didn’t have to wait in line (yay!) so that’s what we saw during our fast walk to the top.
Once we got to the top, we grabbed our 3D glasses (way better than Disney’s normal 3D glasses. These are more like sunglasses or even goggles — they’re closer to your eyes) and they measured E. again. This time, I don’t know if it’s because she was standing on carpet, had puffy hair from the humidity or stretched her neck just far enough (God love her for sensing that she needed that extra oomph) but this time, it didn’t look as close and she was cleared to ride!!
That’s when the excitement really set in for us. As we lined up, E and her Daddy started talking about all the characters they might see. “Daddy, maybe we’ll see a Wookie or Ewoks or Darth Vader or YODA!” She was prattling off characters. The guy in line next to us — who was also just as excited — asked us how old she was. When I told him 3, he looked stunned. He said she knew more than most 10-year-olds and that Star Wars fan was clearly impressed with our mini-Jedi.
Finally, it was time to board our Starspeeder 3000. As we started to buckle up our seatbelts I had a moment of nervousness. The ride can get pretty bumpy and E seemed unsure about sitting by herself. She wanted to sit on my lap but I said she had to sit alone like a big girl or we’d have to get off. She wanted to stay, so we buckled her up and she grabbed hold to each of our hands. I actually wish I had a picture of the three of us sitting there — hand in hands with stupid grins on all three faces.
As the divider to the screen lowered, we had a life-sized C3PO robot right in front of us setting up the storyline. They snap a picture of someone in the ride with you (you’re seated in sort of a min-theater with about 40 people) and that person’s face is flashed up on screen and identified as a “rebel spy.”
I won’t bore you with the full plotline but the Internet tells me there are 6 possible scenes you can travel through, for a combination of 54 different experiences. In other words, every time you ride it, it’s going to be different!
It was … awesome! We soared through hyperspace and sailed onto the Wookie planet. E. started yelling “WOOKIES!” at the top of her lungs! I think DadJovi almost cried with joy. After outracing Stormtroopers, Princess Leia appeared through a hologram and then we traveled through space again and ended up in the Galactic Capital — Coruscant (I think!).
I usually get really sick on these motion rides but I don’t know if I was just having too much fun or what but my head was only slightly woozy at the end.
All three of us loved it. Since there was still no line, DadJovi decided to ride again while I took E to the Muppet Show 3D movie.
On his second ride, he traveled through the ice planet of Hoth (from “Empire Strikes Back”) and headed underwater on Naboo, past the Gungan city (Jar Jar Binks’ hometown) and to the planet’s Core (the same place Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon visit in “Phantom Menace”).
While DadJovi was riding, E. and I also caught a Jedi Training Academy Show. She can’t wait to be 4 so that she can do this too.
She also got to pretend she was racing away from Stormtroopers herself.
Since I was feeling pretty good, I got to take another turn, too. I think I had the ride of the day — podracing on Tatooine, a Yoda hologram and the same underwater trip that DadJovi took. Awesome.
I can’t tell you how happy I am we got to ride this today. Considering there’s no way we’d get it on it during the next three weekends (Star Wars weekends) and then we enter our blackout period in June, we probably wouldn’t have ridden it until the fall. If you can, get yourself out there this week for a “soft opening” ride. Look how much fun we had.