A lifetime ago in LA, Tom Fitzgerald sat the other side of his desk and played out the whole story and drama of Star Tours. The office melted away. His story-telling rivalled that of 3PO and I listened like an Ewok. I was hooked. No storyboards. No visuals: just the power of Tom’s talent and enthusiasm.
Of course I wanted to be involved! My role was to act out the – role of– Maintenance Engineer; quite a novel addition to his normal repertoire of Good Manners.
A long flight to Flower Street and I was standing in a studio, pretending there was a control desk and a Star Speeder, in shirt and jeans with my feet sandbagged to the floor, to remind me not to move (the animatronic cables go up inside 3PO’s legs). I performed the script with all the movements that seemed right and Tom and crew got it all on film as a guide for the crew that would recreate Goldenrod in the flesh. So to speak. I begged the animatronics engineers to be faithful to the way 3PO moved in the movies. “Not too human. Not too mechanical. Please. Then I went home”.
Then I came back and re-recorded the lines in a peaceful sound studio. I also wrote and voiced some of the more ridiculous Ewokese service announcement that would echo across the check-in area. Kuchana. Kuchana… etc.
I went home. Then I came back for the opening. Well! I was impressed. Very! So were you!
I saw Tom in Australia on EP III. He’d come to see George about…
Tom’s now sitting in my sitting room in London which melts away as he spins his new tale. More than fifty story options, from all six movies. Hi Def. Digital. 3D. Real audience interaction. Rebel spies. A masterpiece! I was impressed. Very! But, as a supreme story-teller, Tom waited till the end before adding his surprise. 3PO was to be the new pilot! (R. I. P.) (Rest In Pieces).
For the security of such a massively costly production, the project had its own thrilling codeword. “Loadstar.”
Rapid dieting. Due to recent over indulgences, whilst touring with the outstanding Star Wars-In Concert, I knew that the usual snug fit of 3PO’s metal coverings would be rather too snug this time. (It had been some years since Ep III and self-discipline can get tedious). But it’s amazing how soon you can slim down and hone up with the right incentive.
Endless script discussions around confusing multi scene options… DETOUR KASHYYYK… LAUNCH – STORMTROOPER… TRANSMISSION YODA… ENDING CORUSCANT… REVERSE TAKEOFF.They assured me it would all make sense in the end.
Back to LA. Rehearsals and improv sessions in conference rooms. Filming on the Docking-Bay set. A restyled Star Speeder (built in large scale so 3PO’ shoulders could fit through the doorway). ILM working out the spaces that would be filled later with digital fun. Shooting in the tiny Cockpit set. (Crew members squished out of sight, to swivel my pilot seat). Don Bies crammed in nearby, as ever, to make sure I didn’t die). A hot long airless tiring day.
Deep discussions with the international animatronics team who wanted to know 3PO from the inside. Made me think. They were going to rebuild the droid rugged enough to fly round the galaxy for 4,360 hours a year. For eternity. Approximately.
Flying back to the UK. Flying back to LA. To Beautiful Burbank.
Two days of intense script touching-up and high anxiety, high octane sound recording. I blew several takes, due to being totally immersed in the staggeringly brilliant visuals beamed onto a giant screen in front of me. Was that my cue? Ooops! Howard Roffman from Lucas and Tom were there, with brilliant advice on how to patch it all together with my voice. Both amazed that I could match my 20-odd-years-ago-voice in the pre-show with the new lines I was slotting into the original words they were keeping.
Next day in bed. All day. Next day flying. Again.
Months later I was back in Orlando to see the terrible destruction of Star Tours through the power of the Darkside. I felt my hair singe through the power of the pyros blasting from the top of the spaceport.
Then… Back to the UK.
Then… Keeping the secrets of Loadstar. I so wanted to share the story with friends, on the web, on Twitter. But I couldn’t. Didn’t. The news of 3PO’s promotion to pilot was only released when he was inserted into each of the cabins. Someone was bound to notice and spread the word, so Disney spread it first, with style.
Back to Orlando for THE GRAND OPENING. And it was. Even George came, battling his way on stage with his official Lucasfilm authorised lightsaber (well, I assume it was anyway). Films and fireworks from the Disney team were beyond spectacular. But nothing could match the power of the ride itself.
I am so proud to be a continuing part of Star Tours. It is truly the best of all the many spin-off activities in which I have been lucky to participate over the years. A close runner-up is Star Wars-In Concert. (I was happy to be in The Holiday Special but that doesn’t mean I had to watch it). I’ll watch and ride Star Tours as often as I can, especially since thus far I’ve flown only four of the many adventures available. We were all proud of the original ride but The Adventures Continue takes it to new heights, in every sense.
The odd thing about being an actor (one of many) is that it can bring a sort of immortality. I know that long after I’ve flown away from this planet for ever, that sensitive golden droid will still be nervously piloting passengers around the galaxy. I hope some of them may even remember the name of the man inside C-3PO.
We at EndorExpress.net would like to thank Anthony Daniels for taking the time to share his experience working on Star Tours and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue with us.
Images © Disney/Lucasfilm