on star tours and growing up

So Molly Lewis wrote a blog about the closure/redesign of Star Tours and while I think it’s sweet and engaging and an example of all the things I love about blogs — memories! nostalgia! complainery! — it’s also the kind of thing that makes me sad.

I love Disneyland. I love it beyond the ability to put it into words. And I love Star Tours. I think Star Tours is one of the best rides Disneyland has ever or will ever see. I loved it before I had ever even seen a Star Wars movie. Like Molly Lewis, I know it by heart and I recite it when I ride it and I once had a joyful ride with a strange kid on it. (When Captain Rex said, “I’ve always wanted to do this,” this bright and happy kid yelled, “MEEEEEEEEE TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” My girlfriend and I have stolen his line ever since.)

But I’m not going to complain about the rehab or the changes or the podracing sequence or about George Lucas (even though I could, for days) or how Disney just can’t leave things alone because that’s not what Disneyland is about.

Watch out, I’m throwing down with a Walt Disney quote right here:

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Maybe you and I hate the Star Wars prequels and all the too-noisy, hyperactive, CG scenes (and if you do, blame Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park — no, really), but there is an entire generation of kids who loved them and a whole new generation who will ONLY know Star Wars in chronological order (this blows my mind, but as an entirely separate thing) and it’s their turn for the memories.

I hate that the Country Bear Jamboree is gone and it kills me that they took Mr. Toad’s out in Florida. I miss Circlevision sometimes, or more accurately, I miss getting dizzy staring upward for such long periods. I miss the Mary Blair murals in Tomorrowland and the PeopleMover. I miss the Fantasyland Autopia and how much fun it was to drive before I had to. Until VERY RECENTLY I missed the shit out of Captain EO. I miss Tom Sawyer Island when the settler’s cabin burned and there weren’t any pirates. I miss pre-Captain Jack Pirates of the Caribbean. Hell, I miss the Submarine Voyage and the parking lot. I even miss the Rocket Jets and the Skyway even though they both scared the living shit out of me.

But part of loving Disneyland is loving what used to be there, remembering, knowing for sure and certain and 100% that it was better when you were young, when this was there and that wasn’t, before everything changed.

What we didn’t realize then, as kids, was that things were changing all around us, all the time, at Disneyland, at home, and in the world at large. But we were young and change is often incremental and we were too busy having fun and playing on the teetering rock on Tom Sawyer and listening to our parents talk about A tickets and E tickets and how you used to be able to ride a real live pack mule where Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is now and how it used to be different, simpler, better.

Molly Lewis’s nostalgia is right, her love is perfect, her adoration commendable and so fucking right on the nose for me it isn’t even funny, but she’s still wrong.

“Disney tends to function in the way that Apple and Facebook do by which I mean that they will decide to change things that absolutely did not need changing, and you’re only left to assume that it’s for your own good.”

Star Tours is almost twenty-four years old. It’s had an incredible run, thrilling and delighting and creating memories for thousands and thousands (millions?) of visitors, but up until the last week and one random summer day last year, I never once in my dozens of visits saw the queue for the Endor longer than ten or fifteen minutes, even on peak days and times. And while that’s a great thing for visitors, it’s a death knell for Disney. And while I’d rather believe Disney was revitalizing a ride for the guests, it all comes down to the dollar.

Regardless of their motives, Star Tours 2.0 promises to create brand new memories for the next set of Disney fans. And, god forbid, I someday have a child, I’ll be there with him or her, talking about how when I was a kid there was this pilot droid named Rex and how he’d taken us on his first flight…