Disney announces closing date for Star Wars rides at Disneyland, Disney World

Disney Parks is overhauling the Star Wars-themed Star Tours rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World later this year, and now Star Wars fans know when they can get that last ride on the original.

Star Tours will close at Disneyland on July 27 and at Walt Disney World on Sept. 8.

The original Star Tours ride puts riders in the passenger seat of a StarSpeeder 3000 spacecraft, under the pilot of a droid named Rex. The ship is supposed to be headed to the Moon of Endor, but a few wrong turns lead it into the middle of a battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Death Star.

It’s a motion simulator ride that was on the cutting edge when it launched about 20 years ago. But now, it’s a 20-year-old ride in need of an overhaul — that’s a “re-imagining” in Disney-speak.

The “new” Star Tours will be a 3-D affair, with riders joining in a high-speed pod race on Tatooine. It is expected to re-open at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in May 2011.

Walt Disney World and the fan convention Star Wars Celebration V are holding a “Last Tour to Endor” party on Aug. 14 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A special event ticket is required; a regular park ticket won’t get you in. The party will include Star Wars shows, a “Death Star Disco” and Star Wars-themed fireworks.

Tickets are on sale now for $75.

No lines at Walt Disney World? Theme park tests new ‘queue-less’ wait system

Walt Disney World is testing a system that would ask guests to ditch the lines and wait in a holding area at some of its most popular attractions.

Tests inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Tuesday and Wednesday assigned group numbers to those wanting to ride the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

These tests appear similar to a concept for a revamped Dumbo ride in Walt Disney World’s upcoming Fantasyland expansion project. Disney has said that rather than waiting in line, guests will be invited to play carnival games and enjoy entertainment in the air-conditioned circus tent in the renderings below, while awaiting their turn to ride the flying elephants.

Studios Central says that the test at the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster worked like this: Guests were assigned the group number, then led to a tented standby area where there was a DJ and video games (such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero.) There was also merchandise on sale in the standby area, which is not surprising. This is Disney, after all.The waiting system that was tested this week isn’t a scheduled appointment to ride where you could leave the ride and come back later. You are expected to stay in the designated waiting area. Signs warned that if you weren’t there within 5 minutes of your group being called, you would lose your place in the queue.

The test also did not replace Disney’s “Fastpass” system, where you do obtain a ticket with a certain time assigned that allows you to come back and ride popular rides with less wait. Fastpass was still running at the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. But there is no Fastpass for the Dumbo ride’s current incarnation.

Keep in mind, this was a test. The ‘queue-less’ waiting system that is installed when the Fantasyland expansion is completed in 2012 or 2013 could be totally different.

I guess the advantage is the entertainment and freedom to sit down or move around a bit when you would otherwise be standing in a line. But I don’t think this system actually reduces wait times. I do think it will be a boon to parents. It’s hard to corral kids in a hour-long line. What do you think?