ORLANDO (REUTERS) - The force has come to Orlando, where George Lucas and his creative collaborators are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their Star Wars franchise.
Thousands of fans from near and far, far away have travelled to join the party.
Star Wars creator and director George Lucas said: "There have been fan conventions and things that kept it alive. It's pretty amazing."
The first Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope, opened in US theaters in May 1977.
It has spawned several sequels, spin-offs, animations, and generations of fans.
Cast members Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams and Peter Mayhew were in Orlando, along with Harrison Ford.
Ford played the charismatic scoundrel-turned-hero Han Solo who was killed in the December 2015 sequel The Force Awakens.
The next installment The Last Jedi is due out in December.
Hamill, whose Jedi knight character Luke Skywalker is expected to return as a principal role in the next film, says the fan support is overwhelming.
"Everyone has a story, you know it's become such a fabric of our culture."