Before Galaxy’s Edge, before the Prequels, before Greedo shot Han, there was Star Tours.
A Star Wars themed short motion simulated ride released in 1987, Star Tours featured C-3P0 and R2-D2’s post-rebellion job as cross-galaxy tour guides alongside Captain Rex (voiced by Paul Reubens). It opened first in Disneyland, with a ceremony that’s equal parts spectacle and puzzler. For every “OMG Star Wars is happening in front of me” moment there’s a head-scratcher, like when Han and Leia have a salty routine that seems plucked from Dirty Dancing. A bewildering delight, right in line with other Disney opening ceremonies from the ’80s.
Also, Vader’s breathing is way off of its normal rhythm, and George seems to be looking around for the bag with a dollar sign on it.
The original ride launched with just one tour, a trip to Endor that gets waylaid by calamity and takes guest into Imperial danger and a Rebellious rescue. The concept of the ride, though, was that this was one tour of many. The in-line video backs this up, advertising several different destinations with color commentary by C-3P0.
Anthony’s Channel over on YouTube has a great video showcasing the elements of the entire ride including the commercials, some amazing safety videos featuring aliens from the Star Wars universe, and even the original ride footage itself.
The ride opened at Tokyo Disneyland and Florida’s Hollywood Studios in 1989. The Hollywood Studios environment featured a cool AT-AT and an Endor forest setting on the way into the ride. Disney eventually made good on the promise of multiple tours with a revamp in 2011 and another massive revamp in 2019. We’ll take a look at the opening ceremony for 2011 in the near future – there’s some weird stuff happening there.