January 15, 2017   Vol 3


This Week's Updates and Announcements

Birthdays for the week of  January 15 - January 21

Happy birthday this week to the following Alumni:

Larry Trujillo (1/15); Eric Siefel (1/16); James Hall (1/18); Mike Niedringhaus (1/18); and  Brandon Lippincott (1/19).
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Light Speed to Endor!
By Mark Eades

Has it really been 30 years since the public first heard that line from RX-24 “Rex,” as voiced by Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman.

The Star Tours attraction at Disneyland park will be renovated. The ride appeared in Tomorrowland, opening at the Anaheim park in 1987. The attraction has guests touring of the Moon of Endor. A plucky and inexperienced pilot accidentally plots a course for disaster, taking riders on a harrowing encounter with the Dark Side. Starting July 27, Star Tours will be closed for reimodeling. It is scheduled to reopen in 2011.

Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register

It’s actually been longer than that for me. You see I was tasked with researching simulators at WED Enterprises a few years earlier by my boss, a Disney Legend – none other than C. Randy Bright.

It was late 1983 and my office phone rang. It was Sherrie Rains, Randy’s assistant. “He wants to see you,” was all she said. That was pretty common back then.

I went downstairs to go see what he wanted. I entered his large office, complete with a table at which he could hold meetings with about 10 people.

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Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register

“What are you working on these days?” That was an innocent question, we had just finished the Horizons Pavilion, and I was the show producer for “World Premiere Circlevision” of which there were two films.

The first was a new Circlevision 360 film directed by Rick Harper that was entitled “American Journeys.”

The second was a preshow film for the attraction’s sponsor PSA called, “All Because Man Wanted to Fly,” that was written by Scott Hennesy, and directed by Dave Michener.

Mark Eades in front of Star Tours at Disneyland. Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register.

But busy was what Randy seemed to like with me, so he asked me to sit down.

“What do you know about simulators?”

I told him what I knew; about how they were used to train pilots to fly airplanes, jets and helicopters – and probably more in the military. “Why?”

“I want you to go research them and see if we can use them in an attraction for the parks.”

My answer was simple, “Okay.” As he went out the door, he told me to get back with him later about my plans to research them. And that was my first introduction to working on what would become a groundbreaking new attraction eventually at Disneyland.


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Mark Eades inside Star Tours at Disneyland. Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register.

So, while working on the other projects, I spent about a day a week over the next few months researching simulators. I flew an F-16 without ever leaving the ground. Okay, all I did was “fly it” once the real pilot got it “off the ground.” I also rode Doron’s early attempt, which was a small two-seat thing at Pier 39 in San Francisco which took you on a ride on a roller coaster.

I also spent about an hour “flying” a helicopter at a Marine Base. It took me about eight tries to finally get that thing off the ground. I never did land it successfully. Man, do I have a lot of respect for helicopter pilots.

Anyway, I wrapped up this effort by writing a “memo” with my conclusions. Yes, I felt it could be used in an attraction in one of two methods:

A. Let people go on a simulated flight to learn about simulators in a more factual approach in Tomorrowland. Of course during the simulated flight something would go horribly wrong.

B. Take people on a journey in a sci-fi universe of some kind; and yes, Star Wars was very popular with us – so I imagined we could take people on a flight aboard the Millennium Falcon, and after landing, disgorge the passengers into the Mos Eisley Cantina.

I also solicited story ideas from other Imagineers and made them part of the package that I sent off to Randy and Marty Sklar.


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Mark Eades inside Star Tours at Disneyland. Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register.

Well, at the time, the corporation was going through the green mail struggles, but eventually Michael Eisner and Frank Wells were made the new bosses. They came over to WED one day to see what we were up to, and were shown the idea of a simulator-based attraction. One of the many ideas was to do something with the Star Wars universe. Michael loved it and made a deal with George Lucas and pretty soon we were in Hyperspace.

Okay, first we had to flesh out a storyline, and a whole bunch of other details. Tom Fitzgerald became the show producer. I served as media producer and was also the Casting Director for WED by then.

Over the next couple of years, countless meetings, and a one-year search to find the perfect voice for the pilot (RX-24) of the Starspeeder 3000 (the latest in a line of Starspeeders!) we eventually got the project finished.

We actually could have opened the attraction much earlier than in 1987, but Michael and Frank wanted to make sure they got a big bang in attendance out of the premiere of “Captain EO,” so we got finished and moved on to other projects. But the marketing plans took shape and in 1987, it opened with a 60-hour party at Disneyland.

It was a smash success, and the fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the work put in by everyone on the project team.



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"Light speed to Endor" was the cry heard when Star Tours first premiered in 1987. In 2010, the Tomorrowland attraction was updated as "Star Tours, The Adventure Continues," using new technology allowing a variety of trips across a galaxy long ago and far away. Prior to the opening of Star Tours, park visitors could be shrunk down to the size of an atom in the Monsanto sponsored "Adventure Thru Inner Space," which featured the first use of the "Omnimover" style ride system. Before that, the building housed both Monsanto's Hall of Chemistry and the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" exhibit. //// ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Generic photos of various Disneyland attractions, shops and restaurants as they appear in 2015.  Disneyland.timelines.xxxx - 2/17/15, - MARK EADES, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Photo courtesy: The Orange County Register

When they finally got around to updating it (Star Tours – The Adventure Continues) some asked me how I felt about it. My reply was bring it, now they could use digital projection systems not available in the 1980s to provide a different flight each time – something Randy and I envisioned way back in 1984; our thinking was a new simulator film every three years.

So now it’s 30 years later and Star Tours is still taking guests at Disneyland on tours of a galaxy far, far away – and it doesn’t seem so long, long ago that I first started playing with simulators.

May the Force be with you.

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We had a brainstorming session

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As a member of the Disneyland Alumni Club, whether long-time or recent, you no doubt think to yourself from time to time, “I really wish the Alumni Club did more of what I like to do (you fill in that blank).”

Well we spent several hours a week ago brainstorming ideas to take the club forward for this decade and beyond. Look for a report and more in the coming weeks.

We also will have an exciting speaker to announce soon too, we're just finalizing the arrangements.

We still want your stories too!

Please send your ideas, suggestions or requests or wanting to volunteer to: [email protected]
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