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Ground control to Captain Rex: Farewell, Star Tours

Writing up this GeekDad post about Disney’s going-away party for the original Star Tours has me on one of my typical Star Wars nostalgia trips.

When my friend Aaron and I were perfecting our storyboards and outline for “Episode VII” (oh yeah – and it kicked ass) as a couple teenagers in the mid-1980s, there was a magazine clipping from the Disneyland Star Tours opening hanging on the wall next to the shelves of our action figures. I remember it pictured Artoo and Threepio next to a spectacularly ridiculous Mickey wearing an “outer-space” outfit that somehow crossed 1970s Ace Frehley with the Care Bears look. Disneyland’s Star Tours opened in ’87, but remained irrelevant to me since it was all the way across the country.

My family (often with Aaron along, too) used to take spring break trips to Florida and spend a day over at one of the Disney parks, but the Disney-MGM Studios didn’t open until May 1989 – just barely after spring vacation my senior year in high school. The following spring, I was in college and didn’t get to make the trip with my family because we had different break schedules – and of course, they went to the Studios and I got to hear from my little brothers all about how awesome the Indiana Jones show and Star Tours were.

So the calendar flips, and that summer, Adam moves to Orlando and takes a Disney job, and then it’s spring 1991, and I’m road-tripping to Florida with another high school buddy. We spent the week at Adam’s, enjoyed five free days in the parks, and I finally got to ride Star Tours, and of course, even with its ubergoofy parts, I loved it. To this day, the StarSpeeder’s first out-of-control stomach-lurching drop is one of my favorite theme park experiences.

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Star Tours "travel" posters from the early years of the attraction. (click to enlarge)

A few years later, I was living in Orlando myself and worked part-time at Disney-MGM on the Backstage Studio Tour. (The “Catastrophe Canyon” ride: I still take a bit of pride in knowing that I once knew how to drive one of those trams and that I never hit anything with one of them. And seeing prop vehicles from Blade Runner and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Who Framed Roger Rabbit up close never got old, although witnessing their slow decay did make me wince a little.) A good chunk of my time at the Studios overlapped with the Dark Times referenced in Collect All 21, and consequently, I spent a fair amount of spare time taking advantage my free admission to the parks and riding Star Tours. I even filled in on staffing it once or twice, though I only worked the queue outside and never got to suit up in the orange flight outfits.

Naturally, it was a fine, fine day when Kelsey was tall enough to ride Star Tours with me, and even though she’s gone on to much bigger, badder thrill rides, the trip to Endor gone awry and a few minutes with our StarSpeeder’s misguided robot pilot have remained on the “must do” list whenever we get the chance.

Clear skies, Cap’n Rex. Clear skies.

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May 7, 2010 - Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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