Chewbacca climbed into the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon as fireworks exploded above Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Wednesday.
Chewbacca is an imaginary creature born in the first of the Star Wars series of movies. He was in Disneyland for a ceremony to open the new Star Wars area at the theme park.
“Chewie, let’s fire up the Falcon,” said Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker. He also attended the event to open the more than five-and-one-half hectare area called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It opened to the public Friday.
The furry Chewbacca had trouble starting the huge spaceship, which led actor Harrison Ford to surprise the crowd and offer an assist. Ford played the Star Wars character Han Solo. He hit the side of the ship and said “Peter, this one’s for you,” in honor of Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in five films and died in April.
Ford stood on stage with Hamill, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, Star Wars creator George Lucas, and Billy Dee Williams, who performed the part of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars.
Lucas created the Star Wars movie series in 1977 and sold it to Disney in 2012. He gave high praise to Galaxy’s Edge, which is set in Black Spire Outpost, a settlement on a planet called Batuu that appeared in “Star Wars” books but never in film.
“You did a great job,” Lucas said to Iger. “It could have gone very bad but it didn’t.”
Lucas described the Star Wars area as “something you couldn’t even have dreamed about 20 years ago."
“It will change your life,” he added.
The place offers visitors the chance to step into the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit and control a simulated flight.
Guests also can drink blue milk, eat space meat cooked by a pod-racing engine and have a drink at an outer-space restaurant.
Expectations run high from generations of fans. Many of the movie series lovers have waited 40 years since the first film to visit a real-world version of the galaxy far, far away.
“The goal was to be ambitious, really ambitious,” Iger told a reporter earlier on Wednesday. “To be bold, but not only bold in terms of scale, but in terms of detail, artistry, technology, and to make sure first and foremost that we are pleasing the most ardent Star Wars fan.”
Disney also aims to appeal to a broad group of Star Wars lovers as well as people without any attachment to the futuristic series.
I’m Caty Weaver.