George Lucas figures he's working on his third generation of "Star Wars" fans, and plenty of them were standing in line with their parents Friday to get first crack at Walt Disney World's overhauled ride based on the iconic movie franchise.
The 67-year-old "Star Wars" creator came to the park to celebrate the reopening of the venerable Star Tours motion simulator ride. The ride's 25-year-old story and visuals have been updated with a new tale, digital projection system and 3-D effects. Lucas even armed himself with a light saber to share a stage with Disney CEO Robert Iger along with Darth Vader and other movie characters as park guests watched.
"Lord Vader, prepare to meet your maker," Iger cracked.
The reopening of the "Star Wars"-themed rides in both Disney Hollywood Studios park in Florida and at Disneyland in California brings a new wave of attention to the franchise, which will get another boost and likely gain new fans in 2012 when all six original movies are re-released in theaters as 3-D feature. Lucas said the movies have now been around so long that they've become "part of the social culture."
"In the end, you do the best you can telling a story, and you hope people will come and see it," Lucas told The Associated Press in an interview at the park. "Once in a while, you get something like this, where people love it, they can't get enough of it, they take it in as part of their lives."
He said the return of the movies to the big screen will give parents a chance to share with their children something they experienced when they were young.
"It's a chance not only for people to see it in 3-D, but more importantly it's chance for fathers to take their sons and they'll say, 'I saw this when I was your age. You've only seen it on television,'" Lucas said. "And if the father isn't doing that, the grandfather is doing that, because it's been that long. We're in our third generation now."
The Star Tours ride at Disney takes place somewhere between the third and fourth movies in the series, and features the droid C-3P0 as reluctant pilot of a star cruiser on a deep space adventure. To keep it fresh, Disney created more than 50 different versions of the five-minute ride, each featuring various "Star Wars" characters and locales, so that riders have a slightly different experience each time they go.
Lucas said he'd been pushing to get the ride updated for years.
"I was pretty much hands-on everything," said Lucas, who's ridden the revamped attraction a number of times. "When we did the first ride, which was 25 years ago, I have stayed working with Disney over the years. We started like three or four years ago saying now's the time to do a new re-do on the attraction. We've been wanting to do it for a long time."
The Star Tours ride reopens at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, on June 3.