Sunday, May 22, 2011

SEA THIS SPACE

The Happiest Place on Earth is preparing to open two landmark attractions - "Star Tours: The Adventures Continue" and "The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure". After sneak preview rides on both, it's clear that the Disneyland Resort is ready for a spectacular Summer.

While it's hard to believe that Spring is almost behind us, the anticipation for Summer just got kicked up a couple more notches. On June 3rd, Disney will be holding grand opening ceremonies for its next two great attractions. I had the privilege of attending special previews of both yesterday, and my expectations were MORE than exceeded.

At Disneyland proper, Star Tours emerges from a long slumber - with a massive technological/creative refresh - as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. No longer will we be teased with the promise of a visit to Endor, only to end up destroying the Death Star. 

The brand new experience still utilizes the motion simulator technology, but now boasts a most impressive upgrade to the 20+ year old system. There are also a variety of new "destinations" - now presented in pristine 3D - along with favorite characters from the Star Wars universe and more excitement than you can shake a Tusken Raider's stick at. 

But the best part? It's not the same ride over and over again. To be precise, there are 54 different variations of the ride for you to experience - the beginning, middle and end of your flight are picked at random by the computer - so you're almost always assured to have a different flight on Star Tours!

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Of course, sometimes there are some similarities. The first time we rode we were detained by Stormtroopers, went to Hoth (my favorite!), got a transmission from Yoda, and ended up on Naboo. The second time was almost identical, except the transmission came from Princess Leia ("Help me, Star Tours - you're my only hope"). 

But the third time around, we were attacked by Darth Vader (who uses the Force to throw your Starspeeder!), went to Tatooine for some pod-racing, got a transmission from Yoda and ended up fleeing from Boba Fett / destroying the under-construction Death Star. There are so many references and inside jokes in nearly every scene, it's a Star Wars and Disney enthusiast's dream come true. 

Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure, guests will board giant, brightly-colored clam shell vehicles at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure for an amazing journey through the classic story. Featuring the iconic songs like "Part of Your World", "Kiss the Girl" and of course "Under the Sea", this attraction is loaded with highly-detailed audio animatronic figures that have to be seen to be believed...Ursula the Sea Witch, especially! Creepy but amazing.

Since our "underwater" journey was during a special Cast Member preview, they were incredibly strict about no photography. But taking pictures was the last thing on my mind. There are details literally everywhere. The first time we rode, I was just letting the magic sink in. The second time my eyes were darting all around, trying to catch a glimpse of smaller touches I missed originally.

While the ride system may not be nearly as technologically sophisticated as Star Tours, TLM~AUA does represent the new era of Disney California Adventure. From the popcorn lighting on the show building to the sea shells embedded into the pavement surrounding the attraction and in the queue, the attention to detail is extraordinary. Once it opens, the re-theming of Paradise Pier will be nearly complete. This part of the park that was at one time the least aesthetically-pleasing will soon be the most opulent. 

So if singing mermaids or intergalactic space travel are your thing, you'll swear Christmas has come early this year at the Disneyland Resort. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure open officially on June 3rd, and will no doubt be entertaining guests both young and old for many years to come.

The Disneyland Resort

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