"Chewie, we're home."
That line, from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is what walking into Disneyland's new Star Wars land, opening Friday, embodies.
Han Solo's three words carried with them a new hope for fans who had grown resigned that the franchise had faded away after the prequels ended in 2005.
And now, after resurrecting Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca and company in theaters, Disney has brought Star Wars back to us again, live and interactive. And with George Lucas' blessing as he stood on stage with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams to officially open the park Wednesday evening.
As with their movie magic, Disney plays to its strengths, this time by creating a Star Wars city that anyone can walk into, explore and interact with creatures, ships, lightsabers and droids.
This is your insider's guide on what to see, do and eat during your time on another planet. The now functional, detailed and movie-accurate 14-acre playground is where millions of guests will start visiting on May 31.
The brief guest logistics are these: In order to get a Disneyland ticket that includes the new Star Wars land, you must stay at a Disney hotel the night of or night before your visit. Day passes without a hotel reservation will be available after June 23.
For now, you will also be relegated to only four hours in the new expanded land, the rest of the day you're riding flying elephants and getting your picture taken with the sisters from "Frozen."
If Orlando is more convenient than Anaheim, Walt Disney World's nearly identical Star Wars land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios on August 29.
If you want to wait for Disneyland to open the second, bigger Star Wars ride, "Rise of the Resistance," so you can confront Kylo Ren while racing through a Star Destroyer hangar and its prison cells, you should wait until the end of the year.
And if you want to wait until the crowds die down, maybe think about visiting sometime after the next presidential election.
Welcome to Batuu
As for the experience itself, don't expect a reenactment of a planet, moon or battle you've seen in any of the films or TV shows.
"We know we are not part of those stories," said Scott Trowbridge, the Disney creative executive behind the new theme park land. So this isn't Tatooine, Coruscant or Endor but a new Earth-like planet called Batuu.
More specifically, it's Batuu's biggest town, Black Spire Outpost, a once-thriving trading post. But now it's a Mos Eisley-esque den of smugglers at the far end of the Outer Rim, or as Disney calls the land: the Galaxy's Edge.
The Resistance and the First Order are also here, which places it firmly in the current new testament of Star Wars' biblical timeline. And while Galaxy's Edge serves as a narrative device to bridge the gap between the current Skywalker trilogy and the stories that will come later -- by coming after the current 10 films, the chronology allows them to reference the original trilogy and prequels, too. The true fan will be rewarded for their long wait with so many Easter eggs; I'll only be able to tease a fraction of them.
Entering Galaxy's Edge from Fantasyland, Critter Country or Frontierland is designed to give you a wide, cinematic reveal of the familiar, battle-scarred architecture of Black Spire Outpost before you dive into the alleys of the medina-like town.
When I first set foot in Galaxy's Edge, I paused and took a deep breath at the sight of the familiar domes and spires that first grabbed my imagination more than 40 years ago.
"Chewie, we're home."
Since there's only one ride for now, "Smuggler's Run, aboard the Millennium Falcon," you may want to make the jump to hyperspace there -- unless the crowds are already insane. There is a singles line but no MaxPass for the ride yet.
But beyond that, the chief delight is simply exploring and marveling at all the detail, followed by shopping and food. Let's preview each.
Smuggler's Run (aka the Ride)
When Galaxy's Edge opens, the single greatest highlight will be the full-scale, 100-plus-foot-long, movie-perfect Falcon. I got choked up when I first saw it, and then grinned as steam exhaled in its underbelly.
The Falcon is located in the middle of Black Spire Outpost and can be viewed and selfie'd at all angles, even from above, which should sustain you during the queue to climb aboard.
The ride's objective is explained in line by animatronic Hohndo Ohnaka (from the animated "Clone Wars" and "Rebels" TV shows), a scoundrel pirate-turned-entrepreneur of the Lando Calrissian business school mold. As you make your way through his hanger, you'll pass parts of other ships, some rumbling to life.
Then finally you board the Falcon (though not up the iconic ramp, sadly) and into the dirty-white, Chiclet-paneled airlock corridors. They lead you to the main hold, where you ... hold, waiting your turn to pilot the ship. You can sit, but not play, the holographic "Let the Wookiee win" Dejarik (aka chess) board. Sitting on a shelf above it is the flight helmet with blaster shield Luke wore when he first felt the Force, next to the training remote he was practicing with.
"Chewie, we're home."
Then you step into the most famous cockpit in history (real or imagined), where touching controls is not encouraged, it's required, including the star-blurring jump to hyperspace.
You are on a crew of six, flying a dangerous cargo mission, acting as pilots, gunners (including a new harpoon!) and engineers keeping the beloved bucket of bolts together. If the Falcon takes a hit, it affects how it flies. Hondo and Chewbacca (who lent the Falcon out) are patched in for assistance.
But you are actually piloting and shooting. The level of your collective success is determined by how well you do. I rode it twice, each time the pilot on the right (who gets to jump; and yes, I was dressed as Han Solo) and did much better the second time. Like a video game, each ride is unique. And when I walked out I noticed the damage I helped cause, made the lights flicker.
Build-a-droid or lightsaber (aka Shopping)
To maintain the in-universe feel of Galaxy's Edge, the vendor stalls don't look like a typical theme park gift shop. The marketplace souk stalls and shops have their own specialized wares.
The creature stall is where you can get your own talking, flapping porg or a Kowakian monkey-lizard (aka Jabba's laughing sidekick in "Jedi") you control, among other alien pets. A toy shop sells handcrafted knitted character dolls, cantina instruments, Sabacc cards -- none of which come in a plastic box.
The Droid Depot will let you custom-build a remote-controlled mini (about a foot tall, give or take a few inches) BB unit or R2 astromech droid of varying colored parts you choose off a conveyer belt. At Savi's Workshop you can build a lightsaber from various designs and kyber crystal colors (Disney's answer to the Harry Potter wand).
A den of rare and black market antiquities from around the galaxy, such as legacy lightsabers ($109 for Vader up to $199 for Ahsoka Tano's double lightsaber from "The Clone Wars"). Also on sale there: Princess Leia Organa's necklace worn at the end of "A New Hope," a Jedi temple guard mask, Leia's hair buns, and items that honor the old Sith and Jedi lineages. Its owner, Dok-Ondar, is an animatronic, hammer-headed Ithorian, but he's got human assistants who speak your language.
Star Wars-looking robes and tunics for sale encourage you get into character, even if it's for the Resistance or First Order. But you have to leave the Star Wars land for traditional merch. Why? Because people in "Star Wars" don't know what "Star Wars" is. Of course, you can wear whatever you want there, except toy blasters, per park rules.
The blue milk special (aka Eating)
The goal for Galaxy's Edge dining is to be out of this world. And since cuisine is not a major fixture of the Star Wars films -- except the blue milk enjoyed by young Luke in "A New Hope" and green milk enjoyed by old Luke in "The Last Jedi" -- so the Disney chefs were able to use their imagination. Don't expect to find hamburgers or potato chips sold on Batuu. Though you can get a Coke, with an Arabic-ish alphabet script (called Aurebesh) globe-shaped container.
The menu includes meaty wraps at Ronto Roasters where the grill fire burns from a podracing engine. And at Docking Bay 7 you can munch on fried Endorian tip-yip (chicken) and sticky ribs from a kaadu, the lumbering animal that Jar Jar Binks rode on planet Naboo in "The Phantom Menace" and that tastes a lot like pork.
Blue milk and green milk are on tap at the Milk Stand. Just as you can't go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando without the sickening sweet sip of butterbeer, when in Batuu you must try the $7.99 frozen, creamy and fruity concoction (made from a plant-based milk). Other nonalcoholic drinks include an Arnold Palmer-esque Tatooine Sunset, a refreshing sweet and sour Hyperdrive (Punch it!) and lemon lime Carbon Freeze.
And because we're in an Outer Rim space port, there's a blaster-scorched cantina. Don't expect wanted men or lightsaber limb dissections. Oga's Cantina is an elaborate bar that's also family-friendly, serving blue milk and cookies for the kids and playing an '80s-meets-Bollywood playlist spun by DJ R3X -- a former pilot droid known to many fans from the older Star Tours ride.
But if you want to take advantage of the one exception to the otherwise nonalcoholic Disneyland, you can have a Fuzzy Tauntaun, an Outer Rim margarita, a blue Jedi Mind Trick and a cloudy, bubbling pink Bespin Fizz, among others, in the cantina.
"Chewie, drive me home."
Playing Star Wars, for real (aka The rest of it)
Star Wars is so iconic, so ingrained in the popular consciousness, that even for a brand new theme park land (or new trilogy for that matter), it's all still familiar.
The rough, earth-toned aesthetic that dates all the way back to Ralph McQuarrie's original concept drawings, is recreated in detail in Black Spire Outpost. The town's medina-esque layout is reminiscent of Mos Eisley from a "New Hope," Jabba the Hutt's lair on Tatooine from "Jedi," and Takodana from "The Force Awakens."
The architecture is rounded. The doors angle out. The buildings and droids are battle-scarred. Corridors and rooms are strewn with pipes, ducts, airshafts and wires. The Aurebesh from the films is translated to guide you to bathrooms and food. It smells like tires.
Smuggler's Run may be the only "ride" open now but Black Spire Outpost is an interactive experience itself. With its special effects, animatronic droids, creatures acting out, Disney cast members embodying local characters, and so many Easter eggs -- the entire Star Wars land is the ride.
And you can win this ride by paying attention. The keen-eyed fan will spot familiar vehicles (landspeeders! X-wing!), weapons, aliens and droids (look down to see their tracks embedded in the ground). I also reveled in others we've never seen before, like a new, full sized and badass looking First Order TIE echelon ship.
The real-life movie tie-ins are the most fun. A dianoga, the slimey one-eyed water serpent from the Death Star trash compactor scene in "A New Hope," appears above a drinking fountain. A K-2SO droid from "Rogue One" in the build-a-droid shop. The 8D-J8 turning the spit in the grill is from Jabba's lair in "Return of the Jedi" and the podracing engine is out of "The Phantom Menace." In a random crate sits rebel hats and macro binoculars from the Battle of Hoth in "Empire."
Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities has the most, including a taxidermic wampa from the ice planet Hoth in "The Empire Strikes Back" and a mural of an ancient Jedi battle seen in Chancellor Palpatine's executive suite in "Revenge of the Sith," a mounted tauntaun, and the helmet of bounty hunter Boushh, worn by Leia to rescue Han in "Jedi," Han's blaster, and a breathing baby Sarlacc in a glass case.
Fans of the animated Star Wars shows will find even more creatures and characters to discover.
As if walking and eating your way around the Outer Rim were not immersive enough, your phone's Disney Play app now has a Galaxy's Edge mode. Guests are encouraged to create a profile and use the app to translate alien languages, peak inside containers, interact with droids and open door panels. The app contains easy puzzles, transmissions you can "monitor," and multiplayer game that pits the Resistance versus First Order. The new features will hopefully engage any guest waiting in a long line, which is to say, all of them.
But well worth it for the long dreamed chance to pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
"Chewie, we're home."
- First look: Living, breathing, eating Star Wars in Disney's new theme park land
- Disney's new 'Star Wars' theme park coming to a galaxy near you
- Walt Disney raises ticket prices to theme parks
- Seals have been taught to sing the 'Star Wars' theme tune
- Disneyland raises prices ahead of new Star Wars land opening
- Entire Colorado theme park up for auction
- Inside Brazil's abandoned Santa theme park
- Disney CEO Bob Iger says there will be a 'Star Wars' slowdown
- Disneyland's Star Wars park to open Summer '19
- Walt Disney World workers land deal for $15 minimum wage