Former Walt Disney Imagineer Mark Eades (pictured here) was the media producer for the original Star Tours attraction, which first officially opened at Disneyland in California in 1987 and later at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios) in Florida in 1989.
With Disney’s announcement that they will be revamping the attraction into Star Tours II, we asked Eades to tell us a funny story or two about the creation of Star Tours:
Casting Captain Rex
The toughest thing was finding the voice of Rex [the robot pilot seen in the attraction]. We kept trying different people and couldn’t hone in on it. We knew it had to be the right voice. We tried male and female voices. Frank Welker [“Transformers,” “Aladdin,” “Inspector Gadget”] came in a couple times. Billy Barty [Mickey Mouse shorts, Figment at Epcot] recorded.
I happened to go see “Flight of the Navigator” while we were still trying to settle on a voice, and we were really getting to the point we had to have it. Well the voice of the flying ship sounded like the right kind of voice that could be on the edge of out of control, yet be able to find itself. I watched the credits and it was Paul Reubens, also known as Pee-wee Herman. This was before “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” had hit the air, and who knew.
Anyway, the next day I came into the office and was waiting for [Imagineer] Tom Fitzgerald to get in. His office was next to mine. I told him I thought I had found the voice and told Tom to drop whatever he was doing and go out and see the film. Tom did – I think he went out at lunch time. He was back later that day as I recall and came in with that smile on his face and said, “You’re right. Book him, Mark.” I managed to get ahold of Paul on the set of his new show and he agreed in principle to do the voice. It was a protracted negotiation, but he ended up being the voice of Rex.
A Different Name
Even though we had come up with the “Star Tours” name, [then-Disney CEO] Michael Eisner wanted the name to have the word ride in it. He was insistent for the longest time, and we had to call it “Star Rides” for the longest time. But Tom kept bringing it up again and again, as we on the team really thought it was the right name. He finally agreed a few months out.
George Lucas in Disguise
We opened the attraction for a couple hours a few months out from opening. We wanted to see what people think, and also check on what we called the “barf factor.” Motion sickness was a real concern, and Tom Fitzgerald, the show producer, was our best guinea pig as he has a real problem with motion sickness. Anyway, George [Lucas] flew down so we could walk him through the attraction too. He had shaved off his beard at the time and no one really recognized him.
Amusing Guest Reactions
We rode it, then opened it up to guests and stood in the exit area to listen to reaction. One person said, upon exiting the attraction, “Can you imagine how many miles of track Disney had to build underneath the park to handle this ride?”
Another person came up to me and asked if I had worked on the attraction. I told him I had. He sidled up to me and asked, “Tell me something, you don’t really go anywhere do you?”
You can read more of our interview with former Imagineer Mark Eades in the Winter 2010 issue of Orlando Attractions Magazine. Also included in the issue are details surrounding the upcoming Star Tours enhancements.
Mark Eades currently writes for the Orange County Register in California, often covering theme park news for their Around Disney section. You can read his recent articles here.