Star Wars Episode VII doesn’t open until next month, but the Force is already awake inside the Star Tours ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unlike Disneyland, Walt Disney World won’t debut the Seasons of the Force special event (which replaces the long-running Star Wars Weekends) until January 5 (Launch Bay with displays and character greetings opens December 1), but one element of the event is already having its “soft opening” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As of November 16, new Force Awakens footage has been added to DHS’s Star Tours attraction, and we were there on the first day to experience the changes.
BEWARE: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!
The exterior and queue of Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are unchanged, aside from a couple of banners hinting at the new additions alongside the marquee. Once aboard, your Start Tours flight begins exactly as it has, with an encounter with either Darth Vader or Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. Once the introductory sequence is over, you blast through hyperspace to the desert junkyard Jakku, a featured planet from the new film. The Millennium Falcon soars into view, with some black First Order TIE Fighters in hot pursuit.
The Falcon’s pilot Finn (John Boyega) warns you to stay low and turn your shields on, as you swoop around the hull of a wrecked Star Destroyer. Finn blasts the final TIE with the Falcon’s belly cannon as your star-speeder crashes into the belly of the Destroyer, coming to rest at an awkward angle. Scavengers are alerted to your presence; one shines a headlamp into your cockpit, while another pries the Star Tours logo from your hood.
Before they can do any more damage, you fly back into deep space, where BB-8 appears via hologram to recruit you for a dangerous mission. C-3PO objects but R2-D2 agrees, and you are off on one of the ride’s three original final destinations. Even then, the new surprises aren’t over, as you may randomly experience a tweaked coda. At the end of the Naboo segment, instead of a droid smashing through your windshield, you may get splattered in paint. Or at the end of the Coruscant scene, instead of seeing random droids scurrying about, you may see the Millennium Falcon again, with a famous Wookie in the cockpit.
As much fun as the new sequences are, it must be said that they destroy whatever temporal continuity the ride once had. Previously your adventure took place in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, roughly the same time period as the Rebels TV show. Now, it is possible to see the Millennium Falcon three times in the same ride — twice with the classic round deflector dish and once with the new rectangular one — not to mention characters like Finn and BB-8 who shouldn’t even exist in the same timeframe as Darth Vader. However, the time paradox didn’t seem to bother the fans that I rode with an opening day, who cheered at the appearances of the new elements.