David Yeh
Tom Fitzgerald on the Latest Star Tours Adventure
The new Star Tours Adventure is here and we chat with Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald about Purrgils and more!

The original Star Wars theme park adventure, Star Tours, has been an integral part of Disneyland for 37 years. For Tom Fitzgerald, who has worked for Walt Disney Imagineering for 45 years, Star Tours has been a key component of 40 years of his career. The motion simulator that opened in 1987 with just one adventure has since been updated in 2011 to accommodate more adventures and then even more after that, with key moments added from the most recent film releases. Imagineers are “plussers”… a word that Walt coined to make something better… and Imagineering and Lucasfilm have now appropriately taken the ride into the Disney+ era of Star Wars. The latest addition now gives Star Tours: The Adventures Continue a total of 250 combinations.

We had a chance to speak to Tom on a recent trip to Disneyland to chat Star Tours and its new scene.

David Yeh

EndorExpress: So… 40 years of Star Tours…

Tom Fitzgerald: Yeah! It’s not all I do by the way! (laughing) My gosh can’t they give me anything else?? No, no, I love it!

EE: It’s been a few years since the last addition to Star Tours, so I wanted to ask, who makes the first pitch to update the ride? Is it Lucasfilm or Imagineering?

Tom: It goes back and forth. Usually it starts with us… because we know they’re doing new things and we go “hey, what can we do for Star Tours?” That is the goal, I think, for Star Tours… to keep it relevant, keep it fresh, keep it the greatest hits of all your favorite places and characters to have fun with.

So, Scott Trowbridge, our Imagineer and connection with Lucasfilm called one day and said “hey, I think there’s something that’s going to be really cool in “Ahsoka”, go have a look.” So I go over to the studio and they lock me up in the room, I sit there and get to read through and when I get to, I think episode 3 and saw the Purrgil, I went “oh, this seems really interesting… for Star Tours!” Because Star Tours is an action flying sequence… in the shows its scenes and places… this is not Star Tours. Star Tours is action and the purrgil seem like such a cool new creature for the Star Wars world that I think is really intriguing. And I think we can do something different with these than the other sequences… we can have a moment where you’re in the clouds at first and it’s all dark and scary and Oooh! What is that thing moving? …and then come above the clouds and just go “oh, these are beautiful!” and have a moment of wonder, almost like a Soarin’ moment before you get pulled into the adventure. So all of those things factor into saying “yeah, this seems like a good thing, let’s explore it.” And then with our partners at Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm, we develop it, and develop it, and then it comes to life!

Disney / Lucasfilm

EE: For the new holo-transmissions, are there characters that almost made the cut? How do you determine which ones you do?

Tom: It’s what rises up from the fans. You know, obviously Grogu and Mando.. and Andor and Ahsoka. They all have different tones. Andor being a little more mysterious. Ahsoka being an old friend. Mando and Grogu… Mando is trying to be serious and Grogu just keeps playing with the frog. It’s that variety that keeps things interesting because you don’t know what you’re going to get! We want to make sure they’re all different enough that you love getting all of them. That tonal shift I think makes it repeatable and more interesting than having everything all the same.

Disney / Lucasfilm

EE: This new adventure is not launching in Tokyo Disneyland… is there a particular reason?

Tom: Right now these are the sites that will have them and we’ll see what happens in the future. We’re just excited that we can launch in Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disneyland on the same day. It’s really cool.

EE: Just one last question before we let you go.. any possibility of getting the old adventure to Endor implemented into the ride?

Tom: Well, nothing is impossible, but right now we were just focusing on getting this done! We haven’t looked to the future yet but you never know. You never know where you’re going to go in Star Tours!

David Yeh

Thanks to Tom Fitzgerald and the Disneyland team for making this interview possible!

David Yeh
A long time fan of both Disney and Star Wars, he has a hard time resisting the temptations of Disney’s merchandising force. If you see pictures of the toys and pins, you can bet they are from Dave, our resident collecting guru.