'Star Wars' land coming to Disney's California, Florida parks

By Piya Sinha-Roy Anaheim, Calif. (Reuters) - "Star Wars" is being transported from a galaxy far, far away to California and Florida after Walt Disney Co announced on Saturday it was developing two new expansions at its theme parks that will bring the celebrated film franchise to life. The new 14-acre "Star Wars" land, the largest themed land to be part of Anaheim, California's Disneyland and Orlando, Florida's Disney World, will introduce a new planet from George Lucas' intergalactic film saga. It will also feature two new rides, including one where participants will be able to take control of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, as well as the Cantina, the infamous hub of rogue smugglers and traders in the films. A date for the opening of the new attractions was not given, and Disney did not comment on the cost of the expansions. The new lands will hope to harness the avid fanbase of "Star Wars," which first came out in 1977 and has since become embedded into U.S. pop culture. The announcement, made by Disney Chief Executive and Chairman Bob Iger at the annual D23 Exposition in Anaheim on Saturday, comes as fans gear up for the first installment of a new trilogy of "Star Wars" films, kicking off with December's "The Force Awakens." Harrison Ford, who reprises the role of Han Solo, was welcomed to the convention stage with a standing ovation and led the cast of the new film, including Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o and British newcomer John Boyega. "It's a great thing to be here with you, who made this whole thing happen. I couldn't be happier," Ford said to the room of 7,500 fans. Outside of "Star Wars," Disney harnessed star talent to drum up buzz for its other live-action films. Johnny Depp swaggered through the hall dressed as his "Pirates of the Caribbean" character Captain Jack Sparrow, as fans were told that Orlando Bloom's character, Will Turner, will return for 2017's fifth installment of the swash-buckling franchise, "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Chris Evans presented the third installment of his Marvel superhero franchise, 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," and fans were shown an action-filled clip. Nyong'o was joined by Sir Ben Kingsley, newcomer Neel Sethi and director Jon Favreau for the upcoming CGI/live-action re-telling of "The Jungle Book." Early footage showed vibrant scenery of Mowgli's jungle and Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, singing the film's classic theme "Bare Necessities." (Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Alan Crosby)