The return of the Jedi will happen in 2015 under the guidance of Mickey Mouse.
In announcing its $4.05 billion purchase of San Francisco-based Lucasfilm on Tuesday, Disney said it will release a seventh installment in the most popular science fiction saga of all time in 2015, "with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future."
"Our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years," Disney CEO and Chairman Robert Iger said in Tuesday's news release.
George Lucas, who created the franchise, will serve as a creative consultant on the new project, with his co-chairman of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, running the show as executive producer. Kennedy will also take over the role of president of Lucasfilm, reporting to the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and become the "brand manager" for the Star Wars franchise.
The movie series debuted in 1977 with "Star Wars," later retitled "Star Wars: A New Hope." The movie was a smashing success and was followed by two equally successful sequels, "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," in 1980 and 1983, respectively. In 1999, a new trilogy -- a prequel to the events in the original trilogy -- began appearing, with the three films being released every three years, ending in 2005. To date, the Star Wars movies have taken in $4.4 billion at the box office, Disney said Tuesday.
The new film would seem to be a sequel to the original trilogy, as it is being called "Star Wars Episode 7" by Disney.
Lucas' prequel trilogy -- "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" -- were criticized heavily by the saga's fans, as were rereleases of the original three films, leading Lucas to say as recently as January that he would not make a third trilogy.
"Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?," Lucas told The New York Times Magazine for a January feature.
"I'm retiring. I'm moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff," Lucas said in the same article, written in concert with the release of his most recent feature, "Red Tails."
"It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers," Lucas said in Tuesday's news release.
Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.