ANAHEIM, California (AFP) - R2-D2 will be rolling into Mickey Mouse's neighbourhood, Disney announced on Saturday, unveiling plans for two huge Star Wars theme parks adjacent to existing US venues in Florida and California.
With star Harrison Ford on hand, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said that after Disney's US$4 billion (S$5.6 billion) purchase of Lucasfilm three years ago, "we wanted to bring Star Wars to every corner of our company... Not only on screens but in real life."
"We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever," he said. "These new lands at (California's) Disneyland and (Florida's) Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance."
In addition to that battle experience, visitors will be able to drive "one of the most recognisable ships in the galaxy," the Millennium Falcon, on a secret mission, he said.
The Star Wars parks will be in Orlando, next to Disney Hollywood Studios, and in Anaheim, next to Disneyland.
The 6-ha sites will have their own staff and restaurants will be staffed by wild creatures from the space saga.
"You'll have a chance to run into all the droids and fantastic beasts," Iger added.
It is the first time the entertainment giant is trying the Star Wars theme at its parks.
The three-day D23 expo at the convention centre in Anaheim - home to the original Disneyland Park - has drawn Disney fans and media representatives from around the globe.
Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said that on the heels of Colin Trevorrow's smashing success with Jurassic World, the director would be at the helm for the upcoming Star Wars - Episode IX. The movie is due out in 2019.
The cast of Star Wars - Episode VII - The Force Awakens - the next chapter in the wildly popular franchise - drew a massive round of cheering, particularly for Ford, known for playing Han Solo.
As part of its strategy to squeeze the most out of the Star Wars universe, Disney plans to release one film a year until 2019.
After Episode VII will come Star Wars: Rogue One, on Dec 16 next year. Rogue One's first official photo was also released, showing Hong Kong's Donnie Yen and Chinese star Jiang Wen in it. Being filmed with Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) directing, it also stars Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker.
Johnny Depp wowed the crowd decked out as his popular Jack Sparrow character from Pirates Of The Caribbean. Its next instalment comes out in 2017 starring Orlando Bloom and Javier Bardem.
Disney and its subsidiary Pixar also announced new animated movies coming down the pipe, including a love story in the Toy Story series and a modern take on Jack and the Beanstalk.
The new Jack and the Beanstalk film, Gigantic, is for release in 2018 and will feature music from songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who penned the hit Let It Go from the movie Frozen. "We're taking parts of the story we all remember and adding twists and turns, emotion and humour," director Nathan Greno said. The film follows the adventures of Jack and Inma, an 18-m tall, 11-year-old girl.
The fourth film in the Toy Story series this time will focus on a love story between the characters Woody and Bo Peep.
"It's the 20th anniversary of the original Toy Story, said John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. "I'm sorry to make you feel old."
Disney is planning to keep turning animated favourites into live-action blockbusters.
On the heels of Maleficent and Cinderella, it is the turn of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book to shine with live actors next year.
The film was shot using cutting-edge digital technologies and has a star-studded cast. Ben Kingsley plays black panther Bagheera, Neel Sethi takes the role of Mowgli and Lupita Nyong'o is cast as wolf Raksha. Star voicings also come from Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Idris Elba.