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Star Tours jumps to lightspeed: Exclusive video of Disney's reboot of the classic Star Wars ride

Hang on, we’re making the jump to lightspeed.

Tomorrow the all-new Star Tours—The Adventures Continue, a reimagining of the classic Star Wars-themed ride, makes its highly anticipated debut at Walt Disney World (at Disneyland, June 3), and unless you have a T-14 hyperdrive, it’s about as close as you’re going to get to that Galaxy Far, Far Away.

The entire attraction has been upgraded—from the façade to the queue to the ride itself. Most importantly, the attraction received a 3D facelift courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic. But for this video first look hosted by The Clone Wars’ own Ashley Eckstein you won’t need to don your flight glasses (yes, that’s what Disney’s calling the requisite 3D eyewear). Check out the video after the break:

Fans of the old ride may remember that what could have been the least fun aspect of Star Tours—the queue—was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the experience. It was like you were stepping inside a Star Wars movie, or, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might put it, taking a “first step into a larger world.” With the new Star Tours, Disney’s upgraded the pre-ride shows with new destination commercials (“Work on your tan under Tatooine’s twin suns!”) technology ads, and even weather reports (something tells me to expect snow on Hoth). There’s also a spokesbot named Aly (voiced by Allison Janney) who promotes space tourism. As Tom Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering puts it, “It’s taking the experience of going to an airport and melding it with Star Wars.” Down to even “spaceport” security. Passengers walk through thermal scanners before boarding their StarSpeeder 3000—there is a war on, after all.

Oh, yeah, about that. Star Tours—The Adventures Continue is set between Episodes III and IV, the largely unexplored 19-year gap between the rise of the Empire and the destruction of the first Death Star. “We tried to set our storyline at a time that would allow us to take advantage of the most iconic characters and places in the Star Wars universe,” says Fitzgerald. Chronologically placing the ride between the two trilogies allows for elements from all six movies to come into play, allowing for not just trips to Hoth and the Death Star, but to Kashyyyk and Coruscant as well.

However, that actually makes The Adventures Continue a prequel to the original attraction, which was set after Return of the Jedi. That means lovable original pilot REX is nowhere to be found. Well, almost. A memory-wiped REX can be found stowed away in “Droid Customs” before the ride proper. This time, a cocky flight-jockey named ACE, full of Top Gun swagger, is supposed to take the helm. But when Darth Vader and his 501st legion stop the StarSpeeder to search for a suspected rebel spy on board,  neurotic C-3P0 is left as your pilot instead.

That begins the 3D simulation itself, which varies each time you ride. “During the original attraction one of the most unique things was that this motion simulator could be reprogrammed, so you could have new adventures as time went on,” Fitzgerald says. “25 years later, technology has progressed far enough to not only allow us to do a new show, but essentially 54 new shows.” Each time you ride, you can get a different launch experience, initial destination, incoming transmission, or final destination—perfect for riding over and over.

Along the way, you’ll encounter classic Star Wars characters like Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Admiral Ackbar, and Princess Leia. Best of all? James Earl Jones and Frank Oz recorded new dialogue. As did Carrie Fisher. ILM visual effects supervisor Bill George even went into the Lucasfilm vault and found deleted workprint footage and alternate angles of Princess Leia’s iconic “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” hologram and incorporated it into the ride. “For Princess Leia, there’s a transmission [in the ride] and at first we felt like, she’s so distinctive with the buns and outfit, it must be easy to find a good photo double in Hollywood, right? But it was impossible!” So they ended up incorporating footage of Fisher shot in 1976 into a film that’s distinctly 2011. “It’s a hologram, so it’s supposed to be a little grainy,” George adds.

The whole project is geared to both rabid Star Wars fans and Disney diehards, or as George labels the obsessive fan of both, “Lightsaber 12.” “We were always imagining what this uber-fan Lightsaber 12 would want,” George says. “If you’re going to put Darth Vader in this thing, which Darth Vader? The suit changed between A New Hope, Empire, Jedi, and Revenge of the Sith, but if I ever have a choice I go back to the original.” Come on, you’d have to be a Sith Lord not to geek out a little bit over that.

Originally posted May 19 2011 — 2:05 PM EDT

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