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Star Wars purists can be forgiven if they balk at creator George Lucas' seemingly endless need to tinker with his creations (see: Greedo shoots first).
But for theme-park enthusiasts this summer, Lucas' unwillingness to leave well enough alone is a very good thing.
Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Walt Disney Imagineering have teamed up to remake the aging Star Tours attraction at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios theme park, giving it a new shine, eye-popping visuals and a completely overhauled story line.
Just a three-hour flight south to Central Florida ($97 to $99 Logan airport to Orlando International Airport each way this coming week on JetBlue), Walt Disney World is one of the most-visited vacation destinations on the planet. And Disney's Hollywood Studios, situated on 135 acres on South Studios Drive, is themed around show- business glamour. But with the relaunch of Star Tours, it's now become a magnet for would-be Wookies and Sith Lords alike.
Star Tours -- The Adventures Continue is an immersive, un- predictable ride through the "Star Wars" universe. This sun-blasted corner of the Central Florida theme park, once a quaint reminder of a much-loved movie franchise, has been reinvigorated in nearly every way. The attraction, reopening tomorrow, features crisp, digitally perfected visuals aboard a motion simulator that injects riders directly into a galaxy far, far away. Oh, and it's all presented in absolutely clear Dolby 3-D.
The upgrades are a plus for "Star Wars" and Disney enthusiasts, but it has to present a few problems for Walt Disney World's other 3- D attractions. Mickey's Philharmagic (Magic Kingdom), It's Tough to Be a Bug (Animal Kingdom) and Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D (Hollywood Studios) become visually and instantly obsolete. Gone are the days of refocusing your eyes to avoid double-vision and emerging from the theater or simulator with a slightly wobbly feeling. Star Tours has reset the bar for simulated 3-D attractions.
With any Disney attraction, however, it all starts with the story. The reimagining has jettisoned former host Rex (voiced by Paul Reubens) and replaced him with C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). Gone is the Star Tours Travel Agency setup, and its corny theme of traveling to different planets for vacation.
Now, guests can ex-peri-ence as many as 54 story combinations in at-random ride sequences. Set between "Star Wars" episodes 3 and 4, the attraction is all about combat, chase, escape and high speed stakes -- enough to please any "Star Wars" fan.
Quick tip: Get to the park early and score yourself a Fastpass -- a free way of arranging a return time and thus skipping the standby line. Crowds at any new attraction grow unwieldy rather quickly.
Outside the attraction -- which can't be missed thanks to the full-size AT-AT looming over the building -- guests walk through a re-creation of the forest planet of Endor (left over from the original "Star Tours" attraction that ran from 1987 through last July) and are ushered into a busy spaceport. C-3PO and R2-D2 help guests past a StarSpeeder 1000 being prepped for flight. Winding up through the queue, sharp-eyed visitors will see Admiral Ackbar, among other characters from the films, and shadowy figures moving past windows above.
Once inside the simulator itself -- which remains largely unchanged from its first incarnation -- visitors are strapped into their seats and then hurtled into one of Lucas' imagined worlds: the ice planet of Hoth, the jungles of the Wookie planet Kashyyk, the underwater world of Naboo or the scorched pod races on Tatooine.
The seven-minute experience can be alternately breathtaking and stomach-turning. The jump to hyperspace left me mildly queasy for few moments. Don't let motion-sickness fears keep "Star Wars" fans away. It's much milder than the "Mission: Space" attraction at Epcot. My advice: If you feel a bit out-of-sorts, close your eyes for a moment and let The Force guide your StarSpeeder. The feeling will pass.
Exit through the gift shop (this is Disney, after all) and you'll overhear conversations about who went to Hoth or Naboo, who saw Darth Vader or Princess Leia, or who spotted one of the many Easter eggs along the way.
Guests interested in staying as close as possible to the Star Tours action will want to consider Epcot-area lodging: Disney's BoardWalk Inn, Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's Yacht Club Resort are the higher-end choices, starting at $385 and more per night. These resorts are within walking distance of the Hollywood Studios theme park. Otherwise, bus or boat transportation will get you there.
A more affordable choice in the same general area would be the Caribbean Beach Resort (a moderate accommodation ranging from $175 to $230 a night) or the Pop Century Resort (an excellent and budget- minded $124 to $139 a night.)
Disney's Magical Express bus service transports anyone staying on Disney property from the airport to their resort for free, and the resort's internal bus service will drop you at any theme park you choose.
(c) 2011 Boston Herald. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved
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