Star Wars at D23 Expo: All the news from Disney’s Marquee Event

D23 is the biennial convention at which Disney unveils it’s most celebrated and anticipated projects, and this year is no exception. With the Star Wars universe now securely in the hands of the Disney empire, Lucasfilm saved some of the best reveals for the Hall D23 stage on Saturday. Rogue One, Episode IX, and even Disney’s theme parks all had some major announcements, and needless to say, fans of the franchise are already losing their minds. Lets run through the best parts of the presentation:

Star Wars: Rogue One

Lucasfilm announced today that their first film in the new standalone Star Wars stories series, “Rogue One,” has begun principal photography. Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla,” “Monsters”) is directing “Rogue One,” which tells the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy and is slated for a December 16, 2016 release.

Kennedy was on-hand at today’s event and had the following to say: “‘Rogue One’ takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe…It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know. Gareth is such an innovative director and I’m so excited to be working with him and the extraordinary ensemble cast he’s selected for ‘Rogue One.’”

Rogue One is shaping up to be one of the most interesting takes on the Star Wars mythology, and I personally can’t wait to see what Edwards does with the story and stellar cast, which includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Forest Whitaker.

Star Wars: Episode IX

As if Rogue One news wasn’t enough for our Star Wars movie news palettes, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn announced that writer-director Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars: Episode IX, which is set for release in 2019.

While production won’t begin for a few years, Trevorrow is heading to Lucasfilm this year to begin working with artists and his fellow Star Wars directors. “Colin is someone I’ve been interested in working with ever since I saw ‘Safety Not Guaranteed,’” says Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “The power of that film paired with the enormous success of ‘Jurassic World’ speaks volumes about his abilities both as a storyteller and skilled filmmaker. We are thrilled to have such an incredible talent as Colin join our family and step into the Star Wars universe.”

Trevorrow states, “This is not a job or an assignment. 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.”

While I will be the first to admit Jurassic World  was not as great as the hype-beast engine that is the internet made it out to be, it was no-doubt a box-office summer hit that was both thrilling and fun. If we can get some of that magic out of Trevorrow for the final installment of the new trilogy, then by all means take the wheel Colin–just don’t take us off a cliff.

Star Wars: Episode IX will conclude the third trilogy of Star Wars movies that begins with Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18, 2015.

Star Wars Lands at Disney Parks

Yes, I saved the best for last: Disney is making entire lands dedicated to the Star Wars universe. Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced to an audience of more than 7,500 fans that Star Wars-themed lands will be coming to Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., allowing Star Wars fans to step into the stories from a galaxy far, far away. Ambitious plans to bring Star Wars to life in the two parks include creating Disney’s largest single themed land expansions ever at 14 acres each, transporting guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.

“I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars,” said Iger.  “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever.  These new lands at Disneyland and 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.”

These authentic lands will have two signature attractions.  Along with the thrilling battle experience, another attraction puts guests behind the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, as they take on a customized secret mission.

In addition to these new lands, details on a few changes to the current lands in Disney’s parks were revealed, including:

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Later this year, Star Tours will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving guests a new adventure in the Star Wars galaxy.

Star Wars Launch Bay – This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings.  Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park.  Also atDisneyland park, Star Wars Launch Bay will share the space with the reimagined Super Hero HQ, featuring opportunities to meet and take photos with super heroes like Captain America and Thor, as well as experience the returning Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries.  Both experiences will be available for guests later this year.

Jedi Training Academy — A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels.”

Season of the Force – This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts.  In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more. Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.

Needless to say, it was an exciting day for Star Wars fans the world over. What did you think of all the news from D23 today? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

by Erik Lucas @erikdlucas

All images courtesy of Lucasfilm LTD and Disney

Erik Lucas
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Erik Lucas

Editor in Chief at That Geek Show
Erik has covered the gadget/tech world for more than 6 years, attending CES and other major industry events. More recently, he has covered the crazy world of pop-culture and comic-book life, attending almost every convention in the So-Cal area--even the little ones. He has an unhealthy obsession with collectibles, and an even unhealthier one with Netflix.
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