Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Christopher Rosen
December 08, 2015 AT 12:00 PM EST

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts on Dec. 18, a whole new generation of young fans will get to experience the world of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo for the first time. But what does director J.J. Abrams remember about his initial experience with a galaxy far, far away?

“How real it looked,” Abrams told PEOPLE and EW editorial director Jess Cagle during a Sirius XM town hall that will air on Dec. 14. “What I recall is watching the ships flying through space didn’t look like anything I had seen in any movie prior.”

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But it wasn’t just the technical achievement that wowed Abrams, who was 11 years old when he first saw Star Wars; it was the story too. “It had this incredible heart, this amazing sense of romance, these great characters,” he said. “You just loved the world, almost regardless of how it looked, but it looked cooler than anything you’d seen before.”

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As Abrams explained, the world of Star Wars also created his favorite moment in the first movie: Luke watching the two suns setting. “It wasn’t because of a story moment, it was a feeling that galvanized the authenticity of that world,” Abrams said. “Star Wars tells you anything is possible.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out on Dec. 18. The full Sirius XM Town Hall with Abrams will air on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. ET on EW Radio Sirius XM 105.

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