ANAHEIM, California — Even without the glowing, breathtaking sight of a life-size Millennium Falcon as a backdrop, Wednesday night's official opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge would have given even the most cursory of "Star Wars" fans chills.
Standing on a platform in front of the iconic space ship, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger first welcomed to the stage "Star Wars" creator and director George Lucas, followed by actor Billy Dee Williams, who played the Falcon's first owner, Lando Calrissian, in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." Then came Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, and finally, with a burst of triumphant music, Harrison Ford, that old smuggler Han Solo.
"I'll first say, you did a great job," Lucas told Iger, who responded, "Coming from you, that means a lot."
After a bout of laughter from the crowd of media and invited guests, Lucas told Iger, "It could have gone very bad — but it didn't. It's Star Tours on steroids, on a level you can't possibly believe. … This thing is amazing," he said. "We couldn't even dream about it 20 years ago. It was a great experience for me, and I think it will change your life."
For the four men onstage who were part of "Star Wars'" beginnings, the universe Lucas dreamed up did change their lives, and this official opening was one more special moment in what has become a fantasy and a franchise that, years after it started, shows no sign of slowing down.
"I have to tell you, the last time I was at a Disney park with George Lucas was at the opening, many moons ago, of Star Tours," Hamill said, referencing the original Disneyland "Star Wars" ride that opened in 1987. "And I thought to myself, 'This is inconceivable that I can be part of a movie that would get its own ride in a Disney theme park. I'd better savor the moment, because it will never be surpassed.' And yet, look at where we are today."
Indeed, where we are today is on the cusp of the public opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland Park on Friday, May 31, Disney's largest single-themed land addition — 14 acres — in its history. Wednesday night marked the land's official opening.
When Iger asked Ford to "help us out with this thing," gesturing to the Millennium Falcon for the moment of the official opening, Ford turned to his old ship once more, easily slipping into his character's easy nonchalance.
"Well," he said, "I can give it a try, Bob."
"Peter" — a reference to Ford's friend and Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, who passed away in April of this year — must have done it, because at that moment, John Williams' iconic score blasted over the loudspeakers, fireworks burst overhead and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was opened.