LOS ANGELES Disney said on Monday it will produce a new "Star Wars" animated series to air on television in the fall 2014, giving fans of the science-fiction franchise fresh stories before the next live-action film hits theaters in 2015.
"Star Wars Rebels," based on George Lucas' multibillion dollar film franchise, will be set in the two decades between the events of the third and fourth films, where the Empire becomes a dominant force in the galaxy, Disney said.
"I think 'Star Wars Rebels' will capture the look, feel and fun that both kids and their parents love about 'Star Wars,'" Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement.
The animated series, which will premiere on the Disney Channel and shown across Disney XD channels around the world, will come before a new "Star Wars" film in 2015.
"Star Wars: Episode VII," to be directed by J.J. Abrams, is the first of three new "Star Wars" films announced by Disney in October 2012, when it purchased George Lucas' Lucasfilm company for $4.05 billion.
"Star Wars" has become a cultural phenomenon since the first film was released in 1977, making characters such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader, and phrases like "May the force be with you" part of popular culture.
Anticipation is building among the vast "Star Wars" community for the new film, which will be filmed in Britain. The six-film franchise has grossed more than $4.4 billion at the worldwide box office.
The Disney Channel, Disney XD and Lucasfilm are units of the Walt Disney Co.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Eric Kelsey and Doina Chiacu)