Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

by Alex Newborn on August 27, 2009

Twenty years ago today, Star Tours was officially opened to the public by Michael Eisner, George Lucas, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a cast of thirty Star Wars characters including Anthony Daniels as See-Threepio, and some very special guests from the fields of aviation and space exploration!

THE RIBBON-CUTTING

Friday, January 9, 1987

Right in front of the T-shaped junction where the departing PeopleMover tracks split from the returning tracks, a temporary stage was erected for the Star Tours ribbon-cutting. The stage was first used for the nighttime skit of C-3PO’s arrival and first meeting with Mickey Mouse, and was then redressed for the following daytime ceremonies. The stage had multiple levels, with an elevated walkway upstage which ended in a handrail-less spiral staircase at either end.

Upstage center were two wall pieces which could be moved by stagehands into different configurations. Vertical strips of mylar were hung at the back of the stage to hide the backstage area and the stage crew, though the slightest wind would reveal whatever was going on behind the scenes.

Above all this and extending outward in several directions was a temporary gridwork to support the rock concert-style lighting system, something which was unnecessary for the daytime ribbon-cutting, but gave the entire area an added draw after dark. Affixed to a horizontal section of the lighting grid above center stage was a triangular plaque reading “STAR TOURS Disneyland”.

The Star Wars Ballet?

The ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 9, 1987 began with the brash John Williams fanfare, an actual soundtrack recording as opposed to the synthesizer versions heard during the nighttime skit. At one particular crescendo, pyrotechnics were set off at either side of the stage, and the triangular wall began to lower into its horizontal configuration with an outpouring of smoke at either hinge and an accompanying ‘liftoff’ sound effect.

Symbolically, this was the science fiction-themed equivalent of the original lowering of the drawbridge at Sleeping Beauty Castle, which signified the opening of Fantasyland when Disneyland opened in July of 1955. As the wall lowered into position, the NASA-influenced spire and spinning arms of the Tomorrowland attraction called the Rocket Jets could be seen in the distance, past the loading terminal for the PeopleMover.

Before the wall had completed its move, actors playing Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca appeared from behind the stage left side of the upstage central wall pieces. The three humans were dressed in outfits approximating their iconic A New Hope outfits: Luke’s Tatooine togs (albeit with white pants, making it resemble a cross between pajamas and a karate gi), Leia’s senatorial robe and Star Puffs hairdo, Han in his familiar white shirt and black vest. Chewbacca, needless to say, wore the same clothes that he wore throughout the classic Trilogy– nothing but a bandolier– but he seemed to have gotten a little shorter since we’d last seen him.

Curiously, despite the Heroes’ 1977 clothes, they were immediately greeted by a small tribe of Ewoks, an image from 1983′s Return of the Jedi. Some of the furry little carnivores appeared at stage right, were greeted by Luke and Leia, and then ran down the thrust triangular catwalk, quickly followed by two more from stage left, and joining yet more Ewoks who were already in position between the edge of the stage and the front row of the audience.

In total, there were seven Ewoks. Not eight, as collectors of the vintage Kenner action figure line might have expected. Just seven. Part of me expected them to break into a chorus of ‘Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho’.

[None of the Ewok costumes were recognizable to me as specific characters from Jedi, though I'm reasonably certain that the one with the triangular hat is Kaink, the Ewok priestess from 1984's Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage. Kaink can also be seen as one of the Ewoks in the Star Tours pre-boarding safety video, specifically the one carrying aboard a Hidden Mickey stuffed doll.]

Apparently the four central Heroes could also hear Johnny Williams’ thrilling score, because just as the leitmotif shifted into the ominous sounds of Darth Vader’s entrance, they broke and ran for what limited cover could be had behind the mountings for the hinges of the triangular catwalk.

Luke and Leia crossed down to stage left, while Han and Chewie counter-crossed down to stage right. The upstage central wall sections split apart, and two red-robed Imperial Guards (another 1983 image) stepped out and immediately split to either side to clear for the entrance of Lord Darth Vader. The Ewoks cowered around the edges of the catwalk. Han reached for his holster and drew out his trusty… Lazer Tag pistol? Oh well, if his 80′s haircut didn’t destroy your willing suspension of disbelief, the use of an off-the-shelf toy raygun wasn’t going to hurt matters any.

Vader turns and faces upstage, his back to the audience, and gestures with his arms.

At first, the only thing that appears to happen is that the walls he *just* entered between are re-opening so he can exit, which seems fairly pointless, but then we see a squad of six white-armored Stormtroopers arriving on the elevated walkway above the stage. They split to either side and come down the rail-less spiral staircases (which couldn’t have been any fun in those vision-restricting helmets) and attack the Heroes. But then, Vader *does* exit, along with his elite Red Guards. Yeah, that makes perfect strategic sense. Shrug.

Leia and Chewie cower downstage while Han and Luke take up positions below either spiral staircase to ambush the Stormies, and the Ewoks finally creep out of the audience and back up the thrust catwalk, perhaps to offer their spears to the Heroes’ war effort.

A fight breaks out, with cheesy blaster sound effects (obviously not Ben Burtt’s work) and pyrotechnics. Luke is unarmed, so he has to go Karate Kid all over the Stormtroopers. Well, at least he’s wearing the right clothes for that.

Han finally leads the Ewoks into the fight and the Stormtroopers seem to be defeated. Han, Leia, and Chewie make their way stage left while Luke backs under the stage right starcase, yet somehow he’s the only one who sees a lone Stormtrooper directly above him who is aiming a blaster at his friends across the set. He waves his arms, trying to tell them to find cover, but they don’t hear him. Oh no! Could this be the end of three of the Rebellion’s Heroes?

Thankfully, the Stormtrooper’s aim is as bad as ever, and the resulting pyro only goes off NEAR Han, Leia, and Chewie. That’s a relief.

Luke does a few more karate somersaults, there’s more cheesy blaster sounds, more pyros, and finally they manage to get all the Stormtroopers offstage through the silver mylar curtains. Johnny Williams’ score swells, and then… And then…

And then Leia decides it’s time to dance a ballet. Yeah. Made perfect sense to me too.

Hey, watch those hands, Luke, that’s your sister, y’know!

She does a few graceful extensions with Luke and Han assisting, her long white dress slipping up to reveal equally long white leggings underneath.

The four Heroes stand center stage and exult their somewhat mystifying ‘triumph’ while the seven dwarves… err… Ewoks dance in a ring around them. Leia hugs Chewie.

Leia hugs Luke.

Leia hugs Han.

Luke saunters over to stage right. Han and Chewie meander over to stage left. Leia hugs several of the Ewoks and then they toddle off through the mylar beside the central walls. Oh, good thinking, guys. Leave the damsel all alone.

Suddenly, Darth Vader reappears, trying to menace Leia!

Maybe his sense of strategy isn’t so bad after all. His mechanical breathing sounds too fast, more evidence that Ben Burtt’s official sounds are not being used. Or maybe he’s just hyperventilating from all that exertion in the California sun.

Something about the helmet doesn’t look quite right, as if the actor’s head is too big for it, though that doesn’t show up as well in still frames as it does in the moving video.

Vader grabs Leia by one arm, spins her over to the side stage and… Hey, where did Luke go? I thought he was over in that area? She runs back toward the center, and the Sith Lord follows menacingly… and then Darth Vader is frightened off because Chewbacca flexes his muscles at him, and half a dozen smokepots go off along the edge of the stage, under some red lighting we haven’t seen yet. He turns and scampes away in an almost effeminate manner.

Um, Darth… you were winning! Oh well. Too bad the Heroes didn’t try using theatrical pyro against Vader a long time ago.

This particular piece of music builds to a finale. Leia full-body hugs Luke, who has apparently reappeared from behind the mylar– so heroic– and then she full-body hugs Han. Chewie gets no full-body hug for his contributions, not even from a woman willing to hug Ewoks… and he’s the one who scared off Vader!

But, just as in the 1977 movie, he does get the final line of dialogue… well, come to think of it, the only line of dialogue we’ve heard yet, unless you count Vader’s breathing. Just as the four Heroes exit through the mylar on the stage right side of the central wall sections, Chewie turns back and barks something at us in Wookiee. Except it sounds more like an unprocessed bear or walrus recording. Oh, Ben Burtt, where are you when we need you?

The music selection ends, the audience applauds. The Star Wars Ballet is over. There’s 5 minutes and twenty seconds of your life you’ll never get back.

The Cantina Skit

A new music cue starts, and for the first time we hear the sepulchral voice of an announcer intone: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, incredible adventures took place.” This is a far more serious-sounding voice than the announcer voice heard in the nighttime skit, who seemed a bit tongue-in-cheek, though it may very well be the same actor.

Stagehands (dressed in Imperial Officer shirts but occasionally sporting long 80′s haircuts) begin to reconfigure the movable stage pieces, moving the central wall sections forward while the announcer’s speech continues: “Today is the beginning of a new tomorrow here at Disneyland, where the adventures will live on. Let the celebration begin!”

The upbeat strains of the Cantina Band song starts, as the central wall sections slide apart to reveal a makeshift cantina set, complete with a four-Bith version of the iconic Mos Eisley musicians Fiery Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. Once more we get a confusing mash of 1977 imagery with 1983 imagery, because all of the official alien costumes milling around in *this* cantina come from Return of the Jedi, not A New Hope. Apparently 1980′s The Empire Strikes Back just gets no love.

(Notice that I said ‘official’ costumes. The 1977 likenesses of the Modal Nodes are accomplished here by the use of off-the-shelf Don Post masks rather than actual filming masks. Also missing are their familiar giant-knuckled gloves, which leads to the ‘genetic variant’ Biths seen here, who possess long skinny fingers and only three fingers per hand in true Disney animation style!)

Some of the other aliens came from Jabba’s Palace, with names familiar to any collector of Kenner’s Return of the Jedi action figures: Weequay, Ree-Yees, Klaatu (Skiff Guard), Squid Head, even a pair of Nikto in slightly different costumes. Perhaps the four Cantina Band members and the six Jabba’s Palace denizens didn’t make for an impressive enough crowd scene, because their numbers were padded by members of the Rebellion who appear a bit later in Return of the Jedi: two Mon Calamari officers, and at least half a dozen orange-flight-suited X-Wing Pilots.

The poor Rebel Pilots also had to double as members of the stage crew, bringing their own chairs onto stage with them. They also bring on their own drinks– lousy service here– and their helmets, which none of them wear (perhaps indicating they are off-duty and therefore allowed to imbibe.) There were two more people on the stage when the walls first opened… a pair of mysterious figures over at stage right, sitting at a bar section with their backs to the audience… I wonder who they could be?

More non-Burtt sound effects can be heard, some attempt at an alien walla-walla. Bubble machines built into the rear of the stage add a festive atmosphere to the number. Everyone holds giant drinks in overly-complicated containers, but no one seems to be brave enough to actually take a drink from anything that so closely resembles dry ice dropped into blue toilet cleanser.

Actually, Klaatu comes closest to taking a drink from his funky space-martini glass, but we know he was just being sociable, he wasn’t actually drinking.

The previous cast members of the Star Wars Ballet segment can sometimes be glimpsed backstage behind the silver mylar; Chewbacca in particular is visible while Ree-Yees creeps about the stage, a large squarish gold-chromed drink container cradled in his goalie-pad forearms.

The Pilots take seats at downstage left and right, but all of the aliens mill about as the song plays. Well, most of them mill about. Squid Head and Nikto #1 and Weequay, who is oh so fashionable in his giant hoop earring, never move from positions that help obscure the two mystery men seated at the rear.

Even the Cantina Band musicians move about, unlike their stationary performance style as seen in the original movie. Their new instruments reflect this need for mobility, and include a sci-fi version of a guitar, a modified saxophone, a parade-drummer’s harness with added greeblies, and a bizarre hybrid of a stringed instrument and three brass horns. The Band attempts some choreography for part of the song, but it looks like they could use a little more rehearsal.

The Mon Cals apparently know how to dance Chubby Checker’s Twist, and Ree-Yees sways side-to-side like an alien Ray Charles, perhaps a bit tipsy already.

And then, center stage, who should appear but C-3PO and R2-D2! Maybe this is one of those forward-thinking cantinas that actually allows droids?

With the arrival of See-Threepio, we have now seen almost all of the original film costumes which were used in either the Star Tours pre-boarding video or the onboard cabin monitor. Chewbacca, Kaink, two other Ewoks, two Mon Calamari officers, X-wing Pilots, Ree-Yees, and C-3PO himself. The only costume missing from this live appearance is Teek (from the 1985 tv-movie The Battle for Endor) who can be seen in the luggage-stowing portion of the pre-flight video, but it seems he may have been filmed separately at a later time for his insert shots.

Threepio gets the first real line of dialogue in this live cantina skit, even though the cameraman is obsessed with Squid Head at the time…

And, yes it’s Anthony Daniels wearing the costume and pantomiming to his own pre-recorded voice tracks. Artoo, by contrast, is the three-legged remote control version, so Kenny Baker is not on hand today. But, as consolation, we finally get REAL Ben Burtt sound effects for Artoo-Detoo, so it’s thankfully not some amateurish attempt at droidspeak.

“Well, I never expected to find myself here at Disneyland,” begins See-Threepio. “Oh, this is so exciting!”

Artoo trills an observation.

“So I can see,” replies Threepio. “They’ve gone all-out to make us feel quite at home.”

In the background behind him, two of the Rebel Pilots wave goodbye to the other cantina patrons and exit through the mylar. So much for tolerating droids in their drinking establishments!

Threepio doesn’t notice, as his attention is occupied by Ree-Yees lurching past. “Oh!” quips the gleaming golden droid. “Maybe they’ve gone a little *too* far.” Ree-Yees continues past, sloshing his drink onto one of the remaining Rebel Pilots (the one with a mustache, so I call him Faux Biggs) sitting downstage left.

The Pilot wipes at the sleeve of his uniform and looks with distress to his comrades while Artoo pipes another comment.

“You’re right, Artoo, it is a special day,” C-3PO responds. “Today is the Grand Opening of Star Tours!”

R2-D2 gushes another electronic outburst.

“Artoo, contain yourself!” Threepio admonishes. “We’ll ride it very soon. In fact, just as soon as we find Master George Lucas! Now, where do you suppose he is?”

Threepio begins to look about, as a few more of the cantina patrons begin to slip away. Ree-Yees departs, and then the Band departs, but in true Milli Vanilli fashion, the song doesn’t fade away.

Artoo gives a boop-boop-whistle answer to Threepio’s last question, which Threepio repeats back. “He’s with Michael Eisner, chairman of the Walt Disney Company?”

Apparently saying Eisner’s name is the equivalent of shouting ‘Last Call’ at closing time, because the remaining cantina inhabitants all begin a mass exodus for the mylar door. Even the stationary-until-now Weequay throws a ‘let’s scram’ gesture to his buddy Nikto #1 and they file out, revealing only the two mystery men left seated on barstools… two mystery men dressed in executive attire.

Threepio continues, “Oh! Those two gentleman are so clever to have created such an absolutely excit– Ooh! There they are!” He interrupts himself as he spots the newly revealed Eisner and Lucas, who stand from their barstools and walk center stage. The audience applauds. The Disney CEO– who always makes me think of Will Ferrell for some reason– holds a wireless microphone at his right side and adjusts his tie as they walk.

The Celebrity Guests

George Lucas makes some joking comment to Anthony Daniels and pats him on the shoulder. Daniels appears to bend forward with laughter, but since neither of them is actually miked, this friendly exchange remains inaudible. The pre-recorded voice of C-3PO then says, “Hello, Master George. Master Michael, how do you do?” and gives a half-bow to Eisner, who interestingly makes a series of three half-bows in return.

The golden protocol droid begins his standard self-introduction, “I am See-Threepio, human-cyborg relatio–” but is interrupted by a blatt from Artoo, who is no doubt sick of hearing that same spiel over and over.

Eisner raises his hand-held microphone and responds; only now does the Cantina Band music fade out. “Hi there, See-Threepio, it’s nice to see you. And Artoo-Detoo. And thank you for coming here to Disneyland. And I’d like to thank you, George, for bringing your Star Wars family and for creating what we think is the single greatest, most creative, innovative attraction that we’ve ever had here at Disneyland.” He then holds the microphone out for Lucas.

George replies simply, “It’s great to be here,” and the audience breaks into applause. George turns to Anthony Daniels, away from the mike, and says something that looks like ‘How’d I do?’ with a huge grin on his face.

Eisner then says, “I just want to take one moment before we begin to introduce a few people who have really been in the sky and really been in space, and who are here to celebrate the opening of the Star Tours attraction with us. Real pioneers in this country, and great American adventurers. I’d like to introduce some of our Mercury astronauts, uh, and Apollo astronauts as well.”

This is extremely canny Public Relations, if you’ll remember that the country is still reeling from the loss of the space shuttle Challenger crew, a tragedy which occurred less than one year earlier (January 28, 1986).

Eisner continues, “If you’ll stand when I mention your name. Gordon Cooper is here with us today.” A grey-suited man with close-trimmed hair stands and waves to the crowd on either side, eating up their applause.

A Mercury and Gemini astronaut, ‘Gordo’ also had a prior association with Disney, having appeared in the 70′s pre-flight film for Space Mountain, warning guests in his Oklahoma drawl to hang onto their “eyeglasses, hearing aids, hats, and even wigs.”

Next Eisner introduces another astronaut: “Deke Slayton is here with us today.” Mercury/Apollo astronaut Slayton stands, his longer hair and sideburns a contrast to Cooper, and gives a smart salute to Eisner and Lucas on the stage before sitting back down.

“And the wife of the late Gus Grissom, Mrs. Betty Grissom is here with us today,” Eisner continues. Gus Grissom was a Mercury/Gemini astronaut who went on to command Apollo I, which caught fire on the launchpad in *another* January NASA tragedy, 1-27-1967, which resulted in the first three deaths of the American space program. His widow Betty Moore Grissom stands only briefly, but her presence serves as a symbol of endurance for anyone still saddened at the loss of the Challenger crew: we’ve lost astronauts before, the message says, but the program will survive.

(Sorry, that’s the best frame I could get of her.)

 

Yet Eisner mentioned people who had really been in the sky, too. Should even the presence of the astronauts fail to dispel the Challenger’s shadow, he’s saved the most recent inspirational story for last. “In addition, we have with us here today our newest American heroes, who accomplished the impossible, traveling around the world in the Voyager. They’ve come to celebrate the opening of Star Tours as well. I’d like to introduce each of them. Mr. Dick Rutan is here with us today. Dick?” Former Air Force lieutenant-turned-private-aviator Rutan stands amid applause.

It’s been just over two weeks since Rutan and co-pilot Jeana Yeager circled the globe non-stop in the independently built Voyager airplane (December 14-23, 1986). Yeager is such a pop celebrity that Eisner doesn’t even have to explain to the crowd what her connection to Voyager was: “Jeana Yeager is here today. Jeana?” Ms. Yeager (no relation to Chuck) stands and beams, iconic with her pixie-cut hairdo; she’d shorn her long hair prior to the takeoff, which increased the Voyager’s all-important fuel capacity by a precious four pounds.

Eisner concludes, “And the designer of the ship, Burt Rutan, is here with us today.” Dick’s brother Burt was the aircraft designer who in 1981 first doodled on a restaurant napkin the Voyager design which would go on to break the flight distance record. He stands, waves, and points to someone before sitting again.

The Disney/Lucas Marriage Ceremony

“Thank you all for joining us,” Eisner says to the six flight celebrities. “And we look forward to you being the first riders on the *official* opening of our Star Tours ride. And with that, I would like to ask George if we’re ready to cut the ribbon. Are we ready, George?”

“Yes, we are,” says George.

[Now, I have to stop here and let you in on a little secret. If you've seen this ribbon-cutting ceremony on video, it becomes obvious after multiple viewings that Michael Eisner keeps glancing down before he says important names. It can originally be seen right before he says C-3PO's name the first time, but it becomes more pronounced as he introduces the astronauts and aviators.

Eisner is speaking in this shot...

...and looking at something on the ground in this one.

What the audience could not see from their vantage point, the video and still photographers had a better view of... painted on the floor of the stage is a cheat sheet for Eisner!

In letters that appear to be a foot wide in some cases, there are hand-painted crib notes which say:

C3PO

GORDON COOPER

DEKE SLAYTON

Mrs. GUS GRISSOM

DICK RUTTAN (sic)

JEANNA (sic) YEAGER

BURT RUTAN

Apparently Michael Eisner was confident he could remember the name George Lucas, and he didn't need any assistance to say R2-D2, but the story goes that he just could never remember how to properly pronounce the name C-3PO (as much as I want to skewer the guy for it, I have to admit my wife has the same problem). So someone had to paint the names on the stage floor for him, including a couple of misspellings. I find it intriguing that Eisner knew Mrs. Gus Grissom's first name was Betty, with no aid. And I'm also scratching my head that whoever spelled Rutan incorrectly for Dick's name got it right just two names later for Burt.

Now back to our story in progress, and you'll see why I brought this up now...]

Eisner then turns to C-3PO, and gets a bit tongue-tied as he asks if the golden robot is ready for the ribbon-cutting. He almost calls him 3-CPO, but realizes his mistake, tries to blurt out a correction, and somehow gets it wrong a *second* time, as C-P3O! “How about you, Three-Sss… See-Pee-Three-Oh?” Oblivious to what he’s done, Eisner grins and nods as if he’s successfully averted embarrassment!

I’m invariably reminded of a scene which Brian Daley wrote for the Star Wars Radio Drama (episode 3, “Black Knight, White Princess, and Pawns”) in which the Tantive IV labor pool overseer repeatedly calls C-3PO “Three-Seepio”, and the golden droid, voiced as ever by Anthony Daniels, tries to correct the human, who doesn’t show a great deal of concern for trivial matters like getting robotic names right.

On the Disneyland stage, Threepio’s pre-recorded response almost obscures Eisner’s gaffe, but not quite. “Oh, yes, Master Michael. Thank you! Ahem! Alright, everyone, prepare for the ribbon-cutting!” the droid commands theatrically. Another brassy John Williams selection erupts from the speakers, as stagehands wheel away Michael and George’s barstool setpieces and close the central wall sections once more.

The cast of the Star Wars Ballet reappear. Leia crosses from stage left to stage right, while Chewbacca countercrosses, each of them leading a few Ewoks. Leia climbs partly up the stage right spiral staircase, and Chewie mirrors her on stage left. Luke and Han converge on center stage from stage right and stage left respectively. They take either end of a wide red ribbon which Luke brought with him, and unfurl it before Eisner, Lucas, and the droids. The ends of it fit into the hinges for the triangular catwalk, and the very center of it features a large, dull-grey square that almost resembles duct tape.

As the ribbon is stretched into place, Threepio turns to his astromech counterpart and inquires, “Artoo, might I have the scissors, please?”

R2-D2 boops that he doesn’t have them. The music fades.

“No, Artoo, you were meant to bring them.”

Artoo electronically protests.

“I remember distinctly! Oh! Whatever shall we do now? How on Earth are we ever going to cut the ribbon?”

It’s worth noting that Star Wars characters very seldom get to employ Terran phrases like “how on Earth” but it’s certainly fitting for C-3PO to use it this day.

And just when it seems that the ribbon-cutting cannot proceed, and the thronging crowds will have to go home disappointed (yeah, right, they’ll jump over that ribbon if they have to), the speakers blare out the stirring Medal Ceremony music from the end of A New Hope. Everyone on the stage turns to look at the upstage walkway, and from the direction of the Rocket Jets come… Mickey and Minnie Mouse!

Um, wait a second… isn’t that where the Stormtroopers first came from? Whose side are you on, Mr. Mouse? Hmmm…

The lovable mice duo are dressed in their 80′s Tomorrowland outfits, with lots of silver lame’ and rainbow piping.

Mickey and Minnie model their futuristic wear in a publicity shot.

They split at center stage, Mickey coming down the stage left spiral staircase, which has to be frightening for a costumed character. Luckily Han and Chewie and three Ewoks help him navigate his way down, since there are no handrails, just the occasional vertical pole to hang onto. Meanwhile Minnie spirals down on the stage right side, assisted by Leia and Luke, actually making better time than Mickey.

Mickey reaches center stage and waves to the crowd. Minnie goes straight to the upstage wall/doors and someone hands her out a prop lightsaber… which trails a length of electrical cord. Maybe those Energizer batteries had run down or something.

Mickey pats Threepio on his left shoulder and says, “Don’t worry, See-Threepio. I’ve got it under control.” Then he gives his trademark laugh as Minnie hands the saber to Eisner and Lucas, who stand side-by-side, each with both hands on the hilt.

Mickey says “There you go, Michael… George.” (I don’t think Mickey was necessarily being a suckup to his boss, he just said Eisner’s name first so the audience didn’t think he was introducing singer George Michael. Yeah, that’s it.)

Mickey then– I am not making this up– licks his gloved fingers…

… and touches the lightsaber blade to see if it’s hot.

Minnie, who apparently does all the hard work while Mickey showboats (or is that steamboats?), makes some final adjustment to the cord and then the doors close all the way. She steps to stage right, and from left to right, we can see Minnie, Threepio, Eisner, Lucas, Mickey, and Artoo… notice the integration of the two families? Gee, I’m sure that wasn’t symbolic *or* intentional.

Mickey, ever media-savvy, explains “We’ll just hold this pose here for a bit, while you photographers get your pictures!” The music continues as they all smile and mug a bit.

Mickey puts his hand on George’s shoulder at one point during the photo op…

…then the Mouse turns and ‘breathes’ onto Artoo’s dome and buffs it with his sleeve.

Such a ham. Flanking them on either side, the Ewoks and the four Heroes all smile and wave, too.

Finally Mickey says “Okay, are you ready? Here we go, on the count of three…” Even though his voice, assumably Wayne Allwine’s considering the time period, is pre-recorded, it’s still a pretty powerful bit of timing the way they worked out the finale; just as the Medal Ceremony track builds to its crescendo, Mickey counts us down “One! … Two! … ”

And then “THREE!” *exactly* on the final ‘directed by George Lucas’ iris-out moment.

Eisner and Lucas touch the electric lightsaber to the duct-tape spot in the center of the ribbon, and a nice pyrotechnic effect cuts the ribbon in half. The audience goes nuts. I like watching Minnie Mouse grab her head just before it happens, as if to make sure she can see the pyro perfectly. Chewbacca growls some more (better than the earlier attempt), Artoo beeps, and from somewhere mylar confetti begins to drop, looking not unlike aluminum chaff.

The costumed characters wave and exit through various places. Leia and Chewbacca gesture for Lucas and Eisner to depart through the re-opening central wall sections. A stagehand takes the saber from Eisner. Threepio exits, followed by Mickey and Minnie, with Artoo bringing up the rear.

Remote control astromechs can be a little pokey, so the Imperial Officer-clad stagehands help him by pushing the central walls forward before closing them behind him.

Lastly, we hear the sepulchral announcer once more: “We invite you to enter and enjoy your StarSpeeder voyage on Star Tours. May the Force be with you.” The Star Wars End Title music has been cleverly edited to conclude right after this speech. The confetti continues to glitter down from the sky as the crowd gets to their feet in clumps and begin moving to the right to queue up for the first *official* ride. More Star Wars music begins to play, a reprise of the Cantina Band song, and we can assume that more soundtrack selections will continue for a while. Although the triangular catwalk would later be raised back up into its original position (perhaps to keep kids from running right up it onto the raised stage), it was left in the down position at the end of the ceremony, which means that some folks seated to its left now had to walk around it to get in the queue.

From start to finish, this ceremony (Ballet, Cantina Skit, Ribbon-Cutting) lasted only fourteen minutes. If you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, a low-quality copy was posted in two segments on YouTube in November 2006 under the title ‘Star Tours Unveiling.’

SPECIAL THANKS:

  • Brian Curran
  • Brian Daley
  • Peter Flessas
  • Garrett Gilchrist
  • David Oneal
  • Jim Peavy
  • Aaron Snyder
  • Dan Wallace
  • “dukeofcrydee”