Disney Announces 'Star Wars' Theme Park, Confirms Director of 'Episode IX' at D23

by John Boone 2:00 PM PDT, August 15, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t need to do much to make a splash at D23.

In fact, director J.J. Abrams and his cast, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Lupita Nyong'o, only had to walk onstage to send the crowd into a frenzy -- and that was all before Harrison Ford stepped out, at which point the crowd lost their minds. Which was good, because they didn't share any new footage or news about the movie.

But there was one huge announcement: Disney is creating a Star Wars theme park!

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Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

"We're bringing Star Wars to life in a big way," Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed. "And I mean really big." At 14 acres, it's set to be the largest single-themed expansion ever and will be built at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida and at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Iger said the park will "transport guests to a whole new planet…one of the last stops before wild space." There will also be a cantina (of course), and one of the two signature attractions will let you control the Millennium Falcon.

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We also got a first look at the cast of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Felicity Jones, wearing a Han Solo-like outfit and scarf, stands at the center of her team, which includes Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsoh, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen. Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker have also been cast.

Meanwhile, Disney chairman Alan Horn announced that Colin Trevorrow, who directed this summer's box office smashJurassic World, will helm Episode IV after Rian Johnson (Looper) tackles the Force Awakens sequel.

"This is not a job or an assignment," Trevorrow said in a statement released by Disney. "It is a seat at a campfire, surrounded by an extraordinary group of storytellers, filmmakers, artists and craftspeople. We’ve been charged with telling new stories for a younger generation because they deserve what we all had -- a mythology to call their own."

"We will do this by channeling something George Lucas instilled in all of us: boundless creativity, pure invention and hope," he added.

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Bryce Dallas-Howard, who Trevorrow directed in Jurassic World, told ET that she's happy with Disney's choice. "Colin is a filmmaker who is really masterful at juggling a lot of different elements while also staying focused on what is most essential about a story and so he's kind of the perfect guy for a film like that," she said backstage at 23.

While it'll be a few years before production begins on Episode IX, Trevorrow will begin working with artists and his fellow Star Wars directors at Lucasfilm later this year.

The news comes after Abrams recently confirmed he would not be returning. “I am the temporary captain of this ship that George built,” he said. “No, I’m not going to direct Episode IX, as much as I am deeply envious of anyone who gets to work with this group of people on the future movies.”

Now, take a nerdy deep dive with us into this new The Force Awakens footage: