The Star Wars galaxy got a little bit bigger on Friday when Disney — at both Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim — unveiled Batuu, the new location in the Star Tours: The Adventure Continues attraction. The new planet also happens to be the locale for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new land coming to both theme parks in 2019.
As if that’s not exciting enough for Star Wars fans, the updated Star Tours ride also features an entirely new adventure set in-continuity with next month’s Episode VII – The Last Jedi, complete with some easter eggs and tasty teases from the new movie and even Star Wars Rebels.
Luckily, you don’t need Force Vision to get the inside scoop on the new adventure, as I attended the Orlando unveiling yesterday.
Before I get into what I saw, let me begin by stating Star Tours has always been a source of joy for me. While the continuity has gotten a little discombobulated with the update – due to a combination of original, prequel, and sequel trilogies, as I’ll get into – it’s still a great Star Wars ride. Packed with adventure, it does make you feel like you’re in the midst of a flight, and a fight.
The Last Jedi chapter adds to that, in ways I’ll get into now.
A long time ago …
The ride originally opened in Orlando in 1989, as simply Star Tours, and featured an adventure in which C-3PO, R2-D2 and pilot droid RX-24 (or “Rex,” voiced by Paul Reubens) accidentally pilot a Starspeeder into battle against the Empire and Death Star III. The ride was refreshed in 2011 as “The Adventure Continues.”
The updated 3D motion simulator ride was set between the prequel and original trilogies, and featured randomized sequences that took passengers on the Starspeeder, which was now piloted by C-3PO.
Following an introductory sequence in a hangar with either Darth Vader or stormtroopers and a probe droid, the story would send the ship into battle with the Empire via two stops on various planets (first Tatooine, Hoth, or Kashyyk; then Coruscant, Naboo, or an uncompleted Death Star above Geonosis). You'd also encounter different characters along the way: Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar, Yoda, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, or Boba Fett.
The Force Awakens was added to the randomized series in 2015. It kept the two hangar intros, then shifted the action with a new middle sequence. The Starspeeder continued to Jakku, where it met up with Finn, piloting the Millennium Falcon, in a battle against the New Order. The ship also zipped through the debris of star destroyers, encountered some scavengers, and received a transmission from BB-8. From there, the mission returned to one of the existing finales.
Quite a lot!
The action begins as always in the hangar sequences, with Threepio still protesting the whole affair and Artoo still on astromech duty. But the stormtroopers we encounter aboard the Starspeeder are now from the First Order. While the ship is scanned for a spy by the probe droid, Rey and BB-8 can be seen next to the Falcon (with new radar dish).
And when the ship launches into space, instead of Imperial-era star destroyers, the threat will come in the form of sequel trilogy Resurgent class destroyers. And I am certain I saw the First Order Dreadnoughts, the beastly Mandator IV class warship from Episode VIII.
But the thing that made me freak out was the inclusion of Ghost, the Corellian freighter from Star Wars Rebels, right there in the hangar! Does this mean that the ship is still out there, fighting the good fight, 30-something years after we initially met her?
Not to speculate wildly, but considering how every detail has to be signed off on across each Star Wars property, does this mean there’s a chance that one of our beloved crew members from the Ghost might just show up in The Last Jedi? Maybe not, but I can hope (as well as hope for a Dave Filoni-directed live-action Ahsoka standalone movie).
The loot on Crait
After dodging First Order star destroyers, we kick into light speed and end up on Jakku in the same sequence with Finn introduced in 2015. I didn’t pick up anything new about the battle.
After emerging from the remnants of the Battle of Jakku, the Starspeeder will receive a hologram transmission from either Maz Kanata, Poe Dameron, or BB-8 encouraging us to join the fight for the Resistance.
Michael Roddy, show director for creative entertainment at Walt Disney Parks and Entertainment, did tell me passengers can also receive a message from General Hux. Hux also appears in a video message in the video displays on the side of the ship, as do Poe and Finn.
Of note here is that Maz is shown engaged in battle, firing off a blaster, and then flying away in a sweet jetpack, so hopefully she'll be kicking some trooper butt in the new movie. As for Poe, his transmission has him at his Poe-est: smirking, cracking jokes, and generally strutting that Dameron swagger (yeah, we all need more Poe in our life).
The action continues on the new Last Jedi planet Crait. Spotted in the trailers, the planet is coated what appears to be white salt over red soil. As the ship descends into the atmosphere, we catch a herd of the new animals from the movie, which we’re calling crystalline foxes.
Following Poe and his X-Wing squadron, the speeder dips over mountain, into canyons, and across Crait’s salt plains in a battle against TIE fighters, and First Order AT-M6s (All Terrain MegaCaliber Six), the new AT-AT update. Reminiscent of the battle on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, the speeder flies around the new simian-like legs of the beasts.
I also noticed a large First Order weapon resembling a massive plasma cannon of sorts. In all honesty, I don’t know what to call this thing outside of a BFG, Star Wars style.
Especially cool was following the low-altitude Resistance ski-speeders across the plains. We have caught these in the trailer, kicking up the red soil from Crait, but in Star Tours, the soil coated our display, making visibility impossible without a windshield wiper. This could provide a tactical advantage in a dogfight, and could be a hint as to how the Resistance takes down some First Order forces in the upcoming movie.
Anyone speculating that Kyber Crystals can be mined on Crait will have more to chew following Star Tours, because the Starspeeder also descends into the planet’s caverns, in a chase sequence surrounded by massive red crystalline stalactites and stalagmites. And when hit by laser cannons, they explode real good, which almost looked as if they were charged with energy.
Welcome to Batuu
The big finale through hyperspace, and landing on Batuu, elicited a cheer from the crowd of passengers on Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. The world of Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge looks bustling, and brimming with all kinds of alien life and activity.
As described by StarWars.com:
"This remote outpost on the galaxy’s edge was once a busy crossroads along the old sub-lightspeed trade routes, but its prominence was bypassed by the rise of hyperspace travel. Now home to those who prefer to stay out of the mainstream, it has become a thriving port for smugglers, rogue traders and adventurers traveling between the frontier and uncharted space. It’s also a convenient safe haven for those intent on avoiding the expanding reach of the First Order. While Batuu may be new to us, it is clearly already familiar to many characters from the Star Wars saga as a stepping off point for epic adventures."
Sure enough, the forested region looks inviting, but not exactly innocuous. It appears to be the kind of place you’d go to for a drink, and maybe to get into a little trouble. Mind your own business, and a lot of the travelers in the sequence appeared fine. But there are likewise droids, and creatures in this sequence that could pose a threat.
So, if you ride Star Tours over and over again, might you be able to pick up some easter eggs on what to expect from the upcoming Galaxy’s Edge?
While he didn’t want to give away too much, simply put, Roddy told me, definitively: “Yes.”
Now you have until 2019 to dissect every element from Batuu. But, with as much fun as you can have on this ride, it won’t be a chore to do so.