New 'Star Wars' trilogy in development, Disney says

The galaxy far, far away is expanding further on screen with a new trilogy of "Star Wars" films outside of the ongoing Skywalker saga, Walt Disney Co said Thursday, to be overseen by Rian Johnson, the director of the franchise's upcoming film "The Last Jedi."

Johnson, 43, will write and direct the first of a new "Star Wars" trilogy that will bring new characters and worlds not yet explored on screen, Disney said.

"He’s a creative force, and watching him craft 'The Last Jedi' from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy,” Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement.

Disney said no release dates have been set for the new trilogy. In addition to the new film trilogy, Disney's CEO Bob Iger said during the company's quarterly earnings call on Thursday that a "StarWars" live-action TV series was also being developed for the company's upcoming streaming service.

Johnson was brought on to write and direct the second film in Disney's rebooted trilogy of the Skywalker stories, which George Lucas first brought to screen in 1977.

"The Last Jedi," which follows on from 2015's hit film "The Force Awakens" and is expected to focus on Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), will be in theaters on Dec. 15.

The final installment in the current trilogy, "Star Wars: Episode IX," will be written and directed by J.J. Abrams and scheduled for release in December 2019.

Disney is also making three standalone "Star Wars" films outside of the Skywalker saga, including last year's "Rogue One" and next year's "Solo: A Star Wars Story," following the origins of the charming roguish smuggler Han Solo, made famous by Harrison Ford in the film franchise.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)