Today in yes, really: Disney buys Lucasfilm, announces Star Wars: Episode 7 for 2015
In one of the most unexpected news stories in recent memory, Disney has just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion—a business deal that will spur the creation of more Star Wars movies, beginning with the release of Star Wars: Episode 7 targeted for 2015. (UPDATE: The Associated Press now says Episodes 8 and 9 are already being planned, with "one new movie every two or three years to follow after that.) As previously reported, George Lucas had been looking to get out of the blockbuster business, retreating to focus on smaller, more independent projects that spurred less fan rage whenever he tinkered with them. Apparently he's really done that by selling off his company and his characters to Disney, saying in the press release, "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."
That transition will begin immediately with this next Star Wars project, whose title confirms that it will take place after the original trilogy—though of course, there's certainly nothing in this early information about it continuing with the same actors, or anything else regarding what form it will take. All that is known at this point: George Lucas no longer has any control over the Star Wars universe beyond being a "creative consultant," Disney now has the power to keep making Star Wars movies, TV shows, and whatever else it wants from here until infinity, and in 2015, you're going to get the first of what sounds like many more Star Wars films to come, picking up after the events of Return Of The Jedi and continuing ever outward from there. Take a moment.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In case you're curious about whether George Lucas is happy to be $4 billion richer today, or you'd like to hear him discuss what other, non-money-related reasons he had for yielding control of his franchise to Disney, here's this just-posted video in which he discusses the merger with Lucasfilm's new head, Kathleen Kennedy. In it, Lucas also describes the "treasure trove" of Star Wars stories he's bequeathed to his heir—including story treatments for Episodes 7, 8, and 9, plus "a bunch of other movies"—with Kennedy adding that they're already sitting down with writers to discuss plans for what to do with those. Lucas also says he'll be happy to be just "a fan" now, obviously forgetting that Star Wars fans are never happy.