The deal unites a boutique Northern California film studio that brought special effects into the digital era with a venerable Hollywood powerhouse that has shown a knack for getting the most out of big-name entertainment brands.

Disney plans to release at least three more films in the Star Wars sci-fi saga that ranks among the biggest movie franchises of all time, Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts on Tuesday. The last Star Wars picture was Revenge of the Sith in 2005.

Although Lucas has in the past denied plans for any new

Star Wars movies, he said in a video interview released Tuesday on Starwars.com that he had already created story treatments outlining three more films as well as many other Star Wars story lines.

Lucas, an icon in the industry known for exercising control over the most minute details of the fictional universe he created, will remain a creative consultant on the new films, although in the video interview he cast the sale as part of a long-held personal desire to exit the mainstream film industry.

In a statement on Tuesday, Lucas said: “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.” He will become the second-largest individual holder of Disney shares, with a 2.2% stake.

Disney will pay about half the purchase price in cash and issue about 40 million shares at closing.

“This is one of the greatest entertainment properties of all time,” Iger said.

It all started with a lightsabre

Disney’s third major entertainment acquisition in seven years, started taking shape in May 2011, when the Star Wars creator had to show Iger how to use a lightsabre.

Lucas and Iger were at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida, brandishing the toys at the grand opening of a 3-D version of the park’s Star Tours ride, Iger recalls, and “ George had to show me how to use it.”

Star Wars”characters also are likely to find a home on the Disney XD cable channel, which is aimed at young boys, Iger said.

Iger wouldn’t commit to keeping the Star Wars operation separate from Disney, as he did with Pixar and Marvel.

From a fan’s perspective, critics said there was sure to be at least some excitement at the prospect of episode seven in the saga of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

“Do I want to see more Star Wars movies? Not really, but they’re not making these movies for me,” the film writer “Mr. Beaks” wrote on the well-regarded industry site Ain’t It Cool News. “There’s a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, and they worship the prequels like folks my age worshipped the original trilogy.”

Besides Star Wars, the Lucasfilm deal also includes rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, though Disney did not elaborate on any plans for that series.

-timeslive