Officially, Star Wars Land at the Disney Parks is still a few years away, but anyone visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., will notice that Disney's latest franchise has invaded nearly every aspect of the resort.
Disneyland visitors will notice that Star Wars is, literally, everywhere, including in merchandising, food and park attractions.
And the experience begins before one ever enters Disneyland Resort. Here, the force hasn't just awakened, it's taken over the happiest place on Earth.
Outside The Parks
Although one could expect that Disney-owned hotels in Anaheim would represent Star Wars quite a bit in their gift shop merchandise, even third-party hotels have caught on that they can make money on Star Wars. Pretty much every hotel in the area has a gift shop and every one of those gift shops has Star Wars dolls, T-shirts, postcards and mugs available to any tourist willing to part with their hard-earned cash.
This is also the case at Downtown Disney, Disneyland's outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment center. The large World of Disney shop there alone boasts several large displays focusing on the world of Jedis and Siths, and inside is anything you could imagine you could buy emblazoned with Star Wars characters and logos.
The good news is that Rey is also well-represented in merchandise here, including several not-pink T-shirts and toy sets featuring her as a main character. As this was a problem with previous merchandising of her, it's a welcome sight.
Other shops at Downtown Disney also deal with Star Wars merchandise. For example, Build-A-Bear lets you create stuffed animals in the image of Star Wars characters. And the Wunderland gallery has some Star Wars-inspired art.
Star Wars Launch Bay
Take the monorail directly into Disneyland and when you arrive, you'll notice that Tomorrowland doesn't quite look the same. In fact, it doesn't really look like Tomorrowland at all. It's been nearly completely taken over by Star Wars, from the theming to the dining to the attractions. Only a few of the previous Tomorrowland rides remain, but they get lost in all that red, black and white.
The first thing you'll notice in Tomorrowland is the Star Wars Launch Bay in the building that used to house Innoventions, a site dedicated to promoting science and the technology of tomorrow. Now that building has been cut in half, with the top devoted to all things Marvel, and the bottom devoted to all things Star Wars.
There are, however, some interesting things to see here, including replicas of props and vehicles seen in the Star Wars movies.
There are also a few settings that will prove familiar to fans of the latest movie, including recreations of some iconic scenes: these are great for photo opportunities.
There is also a gaming area, complete with copies of Disney Infinity 3.0 on the Xbox One, as well as tablets set up for Angry Birds Star Wars gameplay.
However, fans don't come here for replica props and gaming: characters are the real draw of Star Wars Launch Bay. Yes, you can meet characters from Star Wars and have photos taken with them. And as expected, this is where you'll find some of the longest lines in all of Disneyland.
Unfortunately, it seems that there are only two characters available at any given time, and during a February visit, those two were Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.
For the record, Chewbacca gives great hugs.
There's a whole interaction thing going on with Kylo Ren, though, and he will basically tell you if you're his enemy or if you have a future with the New Order. It seems cheesy, but if you're not expecting it, it's kind of cool and even a little intimidating. After he finishes his bit, though, he poses for a photo and you can pretend to force-choke the photographer.
By the way, if you ask Kylo Ren's handlers about the famous Dark Side cookies, they'll tell you they only make them on Fridays because they had a problem with their last baker, a certain Wookie whose cookies were a little too "chewie."
Tomorrowland As A Temporary Star Wars Land
Star Wars Launch Bay already takes up a lot of space within Tomorrowland, but the rest of the area in that part of the park also got invaded with the franchise, including the legendary Space Mountain, which is now Hyperspace Mountain. Basically it's the same ride, but with a new overlay, new special effects and new music and sounds.
Of course, there's also Star Tours, which isn't a new ride, but it recently got an update so that it now includes a story taken from The Force Awakens and an appearance by Finn and BB-8.
But wait, there's more! In case you didn't pick up any Star Wars merchandise at Downtown Disney, nearly every shop in Tomorrowland carries a slew of clothing, toys, lightsabers (including customizable ones), Mickey ears, candy and anything else you can imagine dedicated to the franchise. And yes, there are even cookies here, although you can get them in both light side (Yoda) and Dark Side (Darth Vader).
Finally, Disneyland retooled its Star Wars kids' show, which is now called "Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple." The show is basically the same, though, using the premise that kids get recruited from the audience to start their Jedi training. However, it's still entertaining to watch, because you never know what those kids will do. Interestingly enough, once Darth Vader appears, he no longer asks each child to join him as with previous versions of the show (presumably because, upon previous viewings, we witnessed a lot of kids willingly taking Darth's hand to join the Dark Side).
If you got to Disneyland early and did all this Star Wars-related stuff, you're bound to get hungry. Fortunately, you don't have to leave the realm of Yoda to partake in some out-of-this-world food. In the heart of Tomorrowland is the Galactic Grill, serving up burgers and fries to everyone, regardless of their affiliation with the light or dark side.
The Galactic Grill's menu lets you choose your own path: will it be the First Order burger that includes a little chorizo mixed in with its ground beef, topped with peppers and a spicy lime aoli on a dark bun? Or maybe you're more about the light side and want the Jedi Order chicken sandwich that's topped with crispy green beans, pickled red onions and wasabi?
Of course, your path also takes you to the Galactic Grill's drink menu: will you opt for The Dark Side, a strawberry lemonade concoction that comes with a souvenir light-up Death Star? Or perhaps you'll lean toward The Light Side lemonade with a souvenir light-up Millenium Falcon.
Finally, don't miss dessert, because that's where the Disney chefs got truly creative: will you go for The Pastry Menace or a BB-8 crisped rice treat? Perhaps the best choice is the Darth by Chocolate, though, with its layers of chocolate ganache and chocolate and red velvet cake.
Once you're well-fed, you can leave Tomorrowland and walk into the rest of Disneyland proper. The Star Wars influence there is less noticeable, but still felt, especially in the park's shops. This is also true of Disneyland's second park, California Adventure.
It's likely that once Star Wars Land is complete, many of the current special Tomorrowland attractions and events will move there. Of course, let's hope that doesn't leave the long-neglected Tomorrowland without anything new.
Photos: Robin Burks