You’ve heard it from the lips of just about every film and superhero pundit who’s ever mentioned the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the biggest gamble Marvel Studios has ever taken. You know, because of the whole talking tree and gun-toting raccoon thing. That’s debatable given how the studio bet its future on a lesser known property called IRON MAN in 2008. Regardless of the size of the bet, the extended sneak peek now playing inside Disneyland and Walt Disney World suggests Marvel’s faith in director James Gunn and his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will payoff in a very big way.

As Disney announced last month, an extended sneak peak of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will play inside both of its North American parks this summer starting today, July 4. Last night, annual passholders like my wife and I were allowed to see the footage one day early (no word yet on whether or not this had anything to do with the fact that yesterday was my birthday). The Magic Eye Theater inside the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland was packed with fans clamoring for any extra glimpse of GUARDIANS they could get in front of their eyes before August 1. They got what they hoped for, and then some.

I’m not here to spoil the movie, so I’ll stick with a very general description of what was shown. You’ve already seen some of it, assuming that you are caught up on GOTG’s trailers. The sneak peek opened by showing us Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) introduction scene as Star-Lord (Who?) in its entirety from his arrival on the planet Morag, to his search for the mysterious orb, to his daring escape from Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou).

Again, without giving anything away, the scene played very well thanks to cool, cosmic gadgets, more music that continues to be its own character in this picture, and a charming, charismatic performance by Pratt. Long-time fans will see that he is Star-Lord, through and through. The audience went back and forth from oohs and aahs to laughs. The pop cultural references that date Quill as an 80s kid were hilarious high points.

A sizzle reel followed mixing in footage seen in the trailers with new and expanded cuts. The dynamic between the members of the team (Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Drax) really clicks, especially Rocket and Groot. The space action looks nothing less than spectacular and is sure to thrill between, and at times, alongside all the witty banter. Ultimately, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY looks to be its own, unique concept and film, but feelings similar to those I experienced during my first viewings of STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES popped up here.

As the sneak peek concluded and the title card returned to the screen, the entire theater erupted in applause. Sure, this was a very pro-Disney crowd, but the response was completely genuine and earned by what was shown. There is still the rest of the movie to see before its quality can be confirmed, but all signs currently point to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY being the best time audiences around the world are going to have at the multiplexes this season. Director James Gunn and his cast certainly have me hooked.

The extended sneak peek can now be seen inside Disneyland’s Magic Eye Theater or at the ABC Sound Studio inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.