by Thomas Wheeler on August 27, 2009
One surprise on another popular Disneyland attraction that came out of the arrival of Star Tours in Tomorrowland was the PeopleMover Stormtrooper. And no, this wasn’t a Stormtrooper responsible for crowd control in the park (although they probably could’ve used a few from time to time).
The PeopleMover was one of Disneyland’s more leisuirely rides, a fairly slow-paced, above-ground tour of Tomorrowland that went both outdoors, and along select paths within some of the Tomorrowland attractions, including the CircleVision 360 Theater, Space Mountain, and Adventure Through Inner Space, which later became Star Tours.
Once Inner Space DID become Star Tours, some additional features were added around the area. One of these was a life-size Stormtrooper mannequin.
While the PeopleMover was too slow-paced of a ride for it to be fairly stated that this character was a real “surprise” along the way, he did sort of pop up just as you rounded a fairly tight curve in the ride, and seeing him standing there, brandishing his blaster rifle, was something — unexpected, anyway.
And at that point along the ride, the PeopleMover was moving just fast enough so that you initially weren’t sure if you’d seen a mannequin, somebody in a costume, or precisely what you had seen.
If you DID get a decent look at him, this Stormtrooper was indeed a nicely detailed and precise rendition of the Imperial Stormtroopers from the Classic Star Wars Trilogy — apparently standing duty over the Star Tours attraction. He was also just about impossible to get a decent photo of unless you knew he was there, got enough of a feel for the ride to plan for it, and were willing to shoot a flash photo in what was otherwise a pretty dark corridor.
It took a few tries, but after a few go-rounds on the PeopleMover, I finally managed to get a decent shot of the Stormtrooper, and it accompanies this article. (above).
Other people do have been fortunate enough to get a picture of the Stormtrooper in action.
Unfortunately, the Stormtrooper was retired when the PeopleMover was transformed into the Rocket Rods. Those of you who don’t know the history of that situation deserve to know a bit about it. Somebody decided to replace the easy-going PeopleMover with a high-speed ride — on the same track system as the PeopleMover — called the Rocket Rods. Same track, differently designed vehicle.
I was fortunate enough to ride the Rocket Rods several times. It was a blast, both in the daytime and at night. Not quite a roller coaster, since it didn’t have any hills, dips, or loops, it was nevertheless a very cool ride, made somewhat more impressive by the fact that it was such an extensive ride, taking the same lengthy tour all over Tomorrowland — just at a much higher rate of speed. But there was no Stormtrooper. He’d been removed. Poor guy was probably worried about getting blown over by the new high-speed vehicles.
Unfortunately, the ride was plagued with problems from the start. Apart from the fact that I was told by a Disney representative that the cars used on the track burned through their tires at a rather preposterous rate, I always had this feeling — and I am neither an architect nor an engineer — that placing a brand-new ride on a track system that was decades old and NEVER intended to be used for a high-speed ride, just wasn’t a good idea. Turned out it wasn’t, and pretty much for that reason. The ride was notorious for lengthy breakdowns, and after a relatively short lifespan, was shut down permanently. Nothing since has taken its place.
As for the fate of the PeopleMover Stormtrooper? Probably standing in a Disney warehouse somewhere, possibly wearing a pair of dusty Mouse Ears, waiting to be called back to duty someday. If the Star Tours ride is at some point overhauled as has been reported, perhaps they can incorporate him into it. I’d like to think so. He was a cool treat on the PeopleMover, and deserves to return to active duty once again.