A long time in a galaxy not so far, far away, Star Wars and Disney existed separately. Lucasfilm put out its Star Wars movies, Disney put out its own movies, and the world was at peace. But the 2012 merger of the two companies wasn’t the first time the two mega-studios joined forces. Way, way, way before that, the two actually came together to create a little ride called Star Tours at the Disney Parks.
Now, we’re not here to talk about the history of Star Tours. It’s a fascinating story, yes. And it’s one that was recently explored in an episode of the Disney+ docuseries called Behind the Attraction. If you want the full story, you’ll definitely want to check out the Star Tours episode. But while watching that this week, the episode brought to my attention something that definitely should not be lost to history: the 1987 opening ceremony for Star Tours at Disneyland.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony you won’t forget
Oh, was it an event. The Imagineers and creators behind the ride affectionately called it the “Star Wars Ballet” because yes, ballet was involved.
Picture this: the literal stage is set for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And as the Star Wars soundtrack blasts, out walks Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and a group of Ewoks onto the stage. What do they do? Well, they reenact a generic Star Wars scene, they defeat Darth Vader and then… they dance.
Yes, Leia then channels her inner Black Swan by gracefully dancing across the stage, accompanied by her partners Han and Luke — who are both equally as poised in their dancing. It’s at this moment that I should note Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill did not reprise their roles for this bit. But that certainly would have been a sight. Then, Vader appears again, leaves. And it’s done, as if that wasn’t the second weirdest affair Star Wars fans have ever witnessed.
Immediately after that, the Mos Eisley Cantina band breaks out and begins playing their signature tune. A few cantina regulars hit the stage, and R2-D2 and C-3PO walk out to introduce “Master George” and “Master Michael” — or, rather, George Lucas and then-CEO Michael Eisner, that is.
Sprinkle all that on top of Mickey and Minnie’s inevitable appearance and Eisner calling C-3PO “3..CP3–” and, well, it’s just a moment to remember. Thankfully, there’s a video of the full event online. And sure, as awkward as this all is, you can’t deny that it would have been awesome to see that in person — just to witness the pure spectacle of it all.
Star Tours 2011: The cringe doesn’t continue
The good thing is, when Star Tours was updated to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, the opening events weren’t half as bad. In Disneyland, a skit played out that included Darth Vader fighting a Jedi at Star Tours. And Disney World pulled out all the stops, bringing CEO Bob Iger, as well as George Lucas, Anthony Daniels, Dave Filoni, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor and Daniel Logan to the event.
As we know, Disney kept up its track record of bringing celebrities to its opening ceremonies after that. Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Billy Dee Williams were all brought to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. And they even had a big opening for Avengers Campus earlier this year, with the likes of Jon Favreau, Paul Rudd and Anthony Mackie showing up to kick off the land’s debut.
Still, if there’s no ballet involved, these opening ceremonies have nothing on the 1987 opening of Star Tours. And that truly does lend itself to being the second-most cringe-worthy moment in Star Wars history.
If you made it this far, then you might be asking, “What’s the first most cringe-worthy moment in Star Wars history?” Well, that title still and shall forever remain with the Star Wars Holiday Special.