Stormtroopers interact with a guest at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion at Disneyland Park.     The New York Times
Stormtroopers interact with a guest at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion at Disneyland Park. The New York Times
In the summer of 2015, when the Walt Disney Co unveiled plans to build monumental Star Wars lands at its California and Florida theme parks in the US, a wave of euphoria washed over the planet.

Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, made the announcement at a fan convention, revealing that one ride would allow people to pilot the Millennium Falcon. Two men sitting near me started to weep with joy.

I felt emotional too. For a different reason.

The Star Wars extensions, each 5.6 hectares in size, sounded thrilling. They would cost a combined $2billion-plus (R30bn) to build and resemble trading ports on the edge of wild space. But I am one of those purists who want Disney parks to remain unchanged.

Correction: I want Disneyland, the original Happiest Place on Earth, the little park that Walt Disney personally opened in 1955, to remain unchanged. Update the sprawling Walt Disney World in Florida as you like. Disneyland belongs to me - the wide-eyed 9-year-old who first visited in 1983 and made memories, with my dad in particular, that the cynical 44-year-old still holds close to his heart.

I know Disneyland needs to evolve to stay relevant to new generations of children. I don’t care.

So it was with some unease that I visited Disneyland in Anaheim on May 20, the first day that preview crowds were allowed inside what Disney is calling Galaxy’s Edge.

The new area is the biggest expansion in the park’s history. Engineers had to reroute the Disneyland Railroad and shorten the meandering Rivers of America, where an original Frontierland attraction, the Mark Twain Riverboat, sails in a quaint loop.

Galaxy’s Edge will include two marquee rides - one of which, Rise of the Resistance, Disney describes as a “harrowing” visit to a Star Destroyer that includes a face-off with the ruthless Kylo Ren. There are workshops where you can build your own lightsabres ($199) and functioning droids ($99 and up).

In a first for strait-laced Disneyland, alcohol will be sold in Oga’s Cantina, where a tequila-based Dabogah Slug Slinger goes for $15 and the space chardonnay is bright blue. Multiple restaurants serve Star Wars-themed food, including something called a Ronto Wrap that combines a sausage and a pork gyro into one slaw-topped snack. (Rontos are lumbering pack animals found on Tatooine, the desert planet where Luke Skywalker grew up.)

To get inside Galaxy’s Edge between its grand opening dates this month until June 23, visitors need a reservation in addition to park entry tickets - a first for Disney, which is anticipating beyond-capacity crowds.