Star Wars Galaxy's Edge photos: Inside the giant new attraction at Disneyland in California

The Force has come to Disneyland.

The world's largest Star Wars attraction opens at Disneyland on Friday, one of the biggest expansions in the theme park's 64-year history.

The 56,000 square-metre Galaxy's Edge reportedly cost $1 billion to build, involving 6700 construction works and artists over a five-year period.

The giant site creates a new world, named Batuu, as part of the Star Wars universe, aimed at making visitors feel like they've stepped straight into a galaxy far, far away.

Media from around the world were given a sneak preview of the park ahead of its public opening later this week. It's the first time the design and scale of the attraction has been seen beyond concept art that was released early in the development of the project. 

Take a look inside Galaxy's Edge in the photo gallery above.

The vast site is centred around a life-size Millennium Falcon, more than 30 metres long – according to Disney, it's the first time a full-size, complete version of the spaceship has ever been built.

The Falcon plays host to Galaxy's Edge's ride, Smugglers' Run, where visitors will take on a role in the cockpit, gunnery or engineering, each with a role to play during the experience. Using cutting-edge special effects, six guests squeeze into the cockpit as the ride simulates flying through a variety of spectacular environments.

Elsewhere, the park features a marketplace, cantina, emporium and more. Visitors will be able to create their own light sabers and design their own droids as part of the experience. A second ride called Rise of the Resistance, promising an even grander scale, is scheduled to open later this year.

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The attraction was officially opened on Wednesday evening by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who was joined by Star Wars creator George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams at the opening ceremony. 

In front of the Millennium Falcon, Ford paid tribute to his co-star Peter Mayhew, who played Han Solo's sidekick Chewbacca in five films and passed away in April this year. 

"Peter, this one's for you," said Ford in front of a malfunctioning Falcon, before hitting the famous "piece of junk" to get it running. 

Mark Hamill recalled joining George Lucas for Disneyland's first Star Wars ride, Star Tours, launched in 1987. 

"I thought to myself: 'This is inconceivable - that I could be part of a movie that could get its own ride in a Disney theme park'," he said. "I better savour the moment, because it will never be surpassed. And yet, look at where we are today - we get our own land!"

Given the fanatical nature of Star Wars fans, every aspect of the attraction has been designed in meticulous detail. Despite being brand new, the buildings and environments give the appearance of being old, with damage, rust and wear.

Doug Chiang, vice-president and executive creative director of Lucasfilm, says the park has to feel real and lived in.

"It had to have layers and layers of history and story," he said during a media preview on Wednesday. "We take the approach that we're designing Star Wars as if we're designing a period film."

Real life locations in Istanbul and Marrakech were used as inspiration for the designs, along with the natural landscape of Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park.

Visitors will be impressed with that attention to detail, with everything from the enormous buildings to the light fittings tying into the overall design. This included visiting the sets of the recent Star Wars films to make sure every aspect of the Millennium Falcon matched those seen in the movies, going back to the original 1977 release.

Even the food and drink is Star Wars themed, with alien cocktail concoctions served in the cantina and a bar serving the blue milk famously drunk by Luke Skywalker in the original 1977 film.

What visitors will not find at Galaxy's Edge are many signs of the classic characters from the original trilogy. The current setting for the attraction is after the events of Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, which means many of the icons of the series – Luke, Han Solo, Darth Vader and Yoda – are all gone.

"The biggest decision we had to make was whether we should do a new location, that's never been seen before in Star Wars, versus doing a sort of 'greatest hits' of Star Wars," says Matt Martin, creative executive from Lucasfilm. "I think that was a big risk, but I'm so glad that everybody was willing to take that risk."

"Even though this takes place during the sequels, there are still so many references or allusions to what you know from the original films or what you know from the prequels. There's something for every generation fan."

Galaxy's Edge won't be available to everyone just yet. Until June 23, visitors will require a reservation to enter the new Star Wars attraction. After that date the attraction becomes available to all visitors to Disneyland.

Last year Disney CEO Bob Iger indicated the company would slow down its planned slate of Star Wars films and TV shows in the wake of the underperformance of the Solo movie which, despite making more than $400 million at the box office, failed to turn a profit for the studio.

The Galaxy's Edge attraction is unlikely to suffer a similar fate, with reservations for the first three weeks of the attraction booking out in just over an hour. Reservations can still be made by guests staying at Disneyland's on-site hotels.

Despite owning the rights to blockbuster film brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, along with its own sizeable success in family films, Disney's theme parks and resorts generate the largest amount of revenue for the company .

Including the Galaxy's Edge development, Disney invested $US3.88 billion in its parks last year, a 22 per cent increase from the prior year, according to Bloomberg. Attendance rose four per cent, while guest spending was up six per cent, in part due to rising ticket prices and room rates. Single-day entry currently costs $US149 a person during peak periods, with cheaper tickets available during quieter times.

The writer travelled to Disneyland as a guest of Disney and Virgin Australia.

See also: The real-life home of Star Wars

See also: The spectacular island where Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins

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