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Disney's Star Wars land review: Galaxy's Edge from every angle

Ever wanted to visit a Star Wars planet or sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon? This new Star Wars-themed land comes close to making those dreams a reality.

Disney

Disney wants to make all your Star Wars dreams come true at the new Galaxy's Edge park inside Disneyland -- from riding shotgun in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon to having your drink at Oga's Cantina or getting interrogated by a Stormtrooper on your way to the bathroom.

Most Star Wars fans have only fantasized about what it would be like to travel to that galaxy far, far away, and on Wednesday, my dream became a reality. Or as close to that reality as I will get in my lifetime, unless light speed comes sooner than expected.

In space terms, I was basically on the maiden voyage to Batuu at Galaxy's Edge, a fantasy planet you won't recognize from any of the main films, tucked away in the outer rim between that far off galaxy and Disneyland.

My journey began at one of the secret back entrances of the Disneyland theme park, a place I had only visited once as a little girl. We walked up to a giant rock formation with a metal gate at the mouth of a cave reminiscent of the Resistance compound at the end of The Last Jedi. I half expected our guide to open the gates with a swing of his arms, or at least press a giant red button. Instead we just wrapped around the side of the gate where there was a side opening.

Not quite the space landing I had pictured when I would embark on my imaginary Star Wars adventures as a kid, but pretty darn baller nonetheless. Especially because waiting for us on the other side of those gates was the Millennium Falcon!

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Wednesday was media day at Galaxy's Edge, which meant we were among the first commoners to see this new land up close. The rest of the world would have to wait two more days until the official grand opening May 31, that is if you were lucky enough to get a reservation. On Wednesday night, though, you can watch the opening ceremony of the newest park live.

For the first month, Disney required guests to make a special reservation to visit the new part of the theme park and reservations sold out within the first few days of going on sale. After June 23, it will be open to everyone with a regular admission ticket to Disneyland. 

Galaxy's Edge

A true-to-life replica of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon is what Star Wars dreams are made of.

Disney

In all my years of watching Star Wars films, not even the 3D Imax versions could've prepared me for what it felt to walk into this place. Otherworldly would be cliche, but pretty accurate. Everything from the marketplace storefronts to the multiple starships looked like they belonged somewhere in the Star Wars universe, or at least some movie set version of it.

Except you wont find Batuu in any movie (it looks most like Jakku onscreen) because it's unique to Disney and combines elements of a bunch of different planets, including Tatooine and Jedha.

But back to the Falcon. After a brief moment of paralysis I walked toward it half expecting it to become smaller as I drew nearer, like somehow my eyes were deceiving me about the true scale of this thing. But it only became bigger. This thing truly is life-size and spans roughly the length of a basketball court measuring in at about 100 feet.

Smuggler's run: flying the Millenium Falcon

Instead of hunky Harrison Ford meeting us at the entrance, we were welcomed by Hondo Ohnaka, a lesser known character from the animated Star Wars series that kind of looks like Jack Sparrow from Pirate's of the Caribbean. And as wrapped up in the whole fantasy as I was, I still wasn't sold on this guy looking fully human (or alien in this case). His body movements were impressively fluid, but something about his jaw being a bit out of synch with the voice made him seem mechanical. Not full Country Bear Jamboree mechanical, but somewhere in between.

Don't ask how he got his hands on the Millennium Falcon, but apparently the dude needs help moving some cargo, and isn't keen on too many questions. I just want in, so that's good with me. That's where the assignment began. Six of us were assigned three different roles: pilot, gunner and flight engineer and handed matching tickets. I got pilot!

We enter the ship via the main hold, and walk into the lounge with the legendary Dejarik (holochess) table that we've seen in so many of the movies. I'm able to wonder around the room attempting to press buttons and pull cables. Only a few actually do anything so luckily I didn't break anything. It's all part of the experience anyways.

And then just when I thought I'd reached the pinnacle of Star Wars fandom, we made our way inside the cockpit! Not sure why you'd want to be anything but the pilot if you're able to nab a the coveted ticket, because you're able to experience it from the front row. The gunners are in the second row, and the engineers are in the back. Either way it's not up to you to choose. On Wednesday I got to ride shotgun at the front with my colleague Gabriel Sama from CNET en español. (You can read about his experiences here!)

We buckled up. I was instructed to man the controls to rise up and down, all of which I saw on a screen in front of me. I got to pull the lever to thrust into light speed. I've always wanted to do that and it was almost as satisfying as I had imagined.

In many ways the ride is like Star Tours on steroids. You go on what feels like a three-minute journey through space, you run into rocks and asteroids, you're taken in by the First Order and attacked by fighters. The experience is a bit more intimate and interactive, but it does still feel like a ride. The controls responded regardless of whether I pressed them or not, and even though the graphics were great, it still looked like a screen in front of me, and not a window into space.

It was going to be hard to compete with the Millennium *bleeping* Falcon, but I kept an open mind when we walked past a giant X-Wing fighter which happened to be parked next to a smaller A-Wing. We'd clearly entered Resistance territory at this point.

Piecing together a miniature R2-D2 at the Droid Depot 

Next up: the Droid Depot where I was about to build my very own R2-D2. I walked into what looks like a massive toolshed with a conveyor belt of droid parts parading in front of and above me. I was asked to pick and choose the pieces that would make up my new buddy.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Droid Depot

Guests can build their own personal droids at Batuu at Galaxy's Edge.

Joshua Sudock

Keep in mind I only had about five minutes to experience this, so I wasn't really going to be putting together a droid from scratch as most tourists would. They even have a power tool at each station so you can drill the legs into your own droid. Mine came preassembled already: an adorable R2 replica, about the size of a teddy bear. You press a button to "activate" your droid and you can even buy a personality chip to put inside of it for an extra $15. They also come with a remote control so you can drive him out of there on foot. (Sadly I was not able to take my little droid home, but I can see kids having a lot of fun with this.) 

Building a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop

The other paid experience at Galaxy's Edge is building your own lightsaber. Tucked away behind what looks like a junkyard storefront, you go through a door and into a cave-like dwelling with a large round counter at the center. The table has about 12 different stations where the elements of a lightsaber await. I was asked to choose which elements I identified most with: I can't remember all of them, because I was immediately drawn to the Power and Control combo. Next I was asked to pick a kyber crystal from a canister: red, blue, green or purple. You can guess which one I chose. As soon as you touch your crystal it starts to glow because the crystal also has to pick you. Then I put it into the lightsaber and assembled the rest of the parts. 

Once assembled I was surprised at how heavy this thing is. Not your average Disney Store lightsaber, this one is made of metal, not plastic, and feels like a 2lb dumbbell in my hands. I put it into a slot to activate it and immediately it started glowing red. The holder opened to reveal my red lightsaber. The laser part is actually an LED rod that looks like one of those long fluorescent light bulbs used in most office buildings. 

Everyone in that room will have that same aha moment of pulling out a lightsaber, so I can imagine getting the urge to start jousting with my neighbor if I were doing this as a tourist. I think I liked this experience even better than the droid making, but I will warn you of two things: the saber doesn't collapse, so good luck taking this home (it does unscrew though), and the experience costs $200! So if you have multiple kids you might want to reconsider that plastic one you saw at the Disney Store.

Space food tastes surprisingly familiar

And then for the main course: the food and the drinks. For that we were taken to Docking Bay 7, a high-end diner for these parts of the galaxy with a wide selection of drinks and grub. I got to try a Mediterranean-style dish and a chocolate soufflé ball shaped like a BB-8. They both tasted great, but I think I was expecting more of a foreign flavor to these dishes. And that was just the sample platter. We were shown a bunch of other dishes you can get at different spots in Galaxy's Edge, but you can read all of that here.

So what does blue milk actually taste like? I got a taste of that too: sugary, fruity and nothing like the creamy lukewarm milk I was expecting. You can also get green milk which I'm assuming has a similar taste. And a lot of these drinks come with a kick. This is the first of Disneyland's parks (at least for the general public) that serves alcoholic beverages to guests at Oga's Cantina. Cheers to that! I only got to test out the Yub Nub on media day, which reminded me of a sweet, yet surprisingly strong Mai Tai, which I'm not really a fan of, but it had passion fruit seeds inside which gave it an interesting texture. 

Character cameos and interaction

But the tour wouldn't be complete without getting into some trouble. We made our way to a TIE Echelon spaceship, presumably belonging to Kylo Ren himself where a couple of Stormtroopers were waiting to interrogate me. Apparently these troopers can talk back, and I was encouraged to engage in conversation. I asked if I could join the First Order and they seemed receptive to my proposal. But when I asked them how they felt about Kylo Ren as a leader, they got a bit short with me and I could tell I might have been crossing the line as they stormed off. 

They sounded exactly like what they sound like in the movies, and I did engage in some back and forth, but I think most of their responses are prerecorded, or they've been trained only to say certain lines, because they didn't seem to deviate too much from the script. Either way, talking with a Stormtrooper was definitely another one of those fangirl moments for me. I also saw them randomly asking a lady for identification as she walked passed them, so I'm sure that's going to be a big part of the experience. 

I did have one brief encounter with Kylo Ren that night. They put on a performance at the stage in front of the TIE Echelon in which he was clearly upset  about finding the Resistance Spy. After the show he came down from the stage flanked by two storm troopers and marched towards the Resistance encampment. I stalked him like a weirdo to see if he would strike anyone down on his way, but was too starstruck (and honestly somewhat intimated) to go up to him and ask for a selfie. That said, you should absolutely try to interact with as many cast members as possible, because they do stay true to character. 

Kylo Ren at Galaxy's Edge

Kylo Ren makes an appearance at Galaxy's Edge.

Disney

Rey and Chewy on the other hand were slightly less intimidating, and I was able to snag a shot with both of them outside of Smuggler's Run. Some of the characters at Galaxy's Edge will be easy to recognize, but all the cast members, including the service staff are in amazing costumes and seem to be characters in an of themselves. 

Sorely missing from the cast list: Darth Vader. Because this experience takes place sometime within the most recent trilogy, my favorite character of the saga is absent from the storyline. 

You haven't experienced Galaxy's Edge until you see it at night 

We took a brief breather in the media center at around 4 p.m. to upload all our day's work and publish our stories, but went back in at around 7:30 for the opening ceremony. This time I entered through one of the three main entrances accessible through Frontierland. They had rolled out a black carpet sprinkled with stars for the media and special guests who were invited. 

The sun was already setting by the time I got in, and as soon as it was dark enough for all the lights to shine, Galaxy's Edge went through a transformation before my eyes. The colored spotlights and the harsh shadows made everything look more dramatic than in the daylight, and the small details that had given it a movie set feel earlier that day, seemed to vanish in the dark.

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The Millenium Falcon takes on new life at night.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Even the Millennium Falcon looked like a different ship at night. The highlight of the evening though was the opening ceremony. They had us gather under the Millennium Falcon in front of a small stage where I assumed we'd have your run of the mill ribbon cutting ceremony. But this is Disney we're talking about, and this was the first time Disneyland proper had built anything of this scale since Toontown in 1993, so I should've known better.

Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger took the stage and started off thanking George Lucas and Walt Disney for their incredible visions that made Galaxy's Edge possible. And then the rest of his speech gets somewhat blurry because it suddenly turned into a parade of all my Star Wars heroes (minus Carrie Fisher). And I nearly lost it.

First person he called to the stage: George Lucas himself! I've lived in San Francisco, Lucas' hometown, for about seven years now, I've even been to Lucas ranch, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be standing just a few feet away from him.

Then Billy Dee Williams walked up on stage escorted by his daughter. The original Lando Calrissian, standing in front of me. And then Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker! At that point I was almost on the floor.

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George Lucas, Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill, Bob Iger and Harrison Ford at the opening ceremony of Galaxy's Edge.

Vanessa Hand Orellana / CNET

Then a spark, a loud noise from the Falcon and all of a sudden the lights turned off for a moment. Bob Iger apologized and proceeded to ask if anyone knew how to fix this hunk of junk, to which my first thought was "you have the original owner standing right there", but decided to give him a pass as soon as Han Solo's voice echoed from the speakers. I though they may have had him record a message, but no. Harrison Ford walked up, gave the old Falcon a tap and I blacked out. Don't worry, I didn't really black out, but I was cursing and screaming like a crazy person along with everyone else in the crowd around me. Peak fandom unlocked at Galaxy's Edge.

The end credits to an epic day

After spending almost 12 hours at Galaxy's Edge, it felt like I still had more to discover. That's partly because it's the largest "land" in Disneyland. As a fan you could easily spend a day just seeking out all the hidden treasures and easter eggs and likely waiting in line, let's be honest. 

And I didn't even get to witness all of it. They're still building out Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, a roller-coaster-style ride that will put you in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance which I hear includes with a Kylo Ren encounter. This one is set to open before the end of the year.

Disney World in Orlando is also set to get its own Galaxy's Edge on Aug. 29 complete with a Star Wars-themed hotel. We got a sneak peek of it last year, and expect it to be a larger, more sprawling version of what we experienced at Disneyland.

Originally published May 29, 6 p.m. PT.
Update, May 30: Adds more impressions of the Smuggler's Run ride, Savi's Workshop, character interactions, Galaxy's Edge at night and the opening ceremony.