After eight films, the Skywalker saga will come to a close this December. And now the much anticipated upcoming "Star Wars" release has an official title: "Star Wars — Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker."
Friday morning at the Star Wars Celebration fan convention in Chicago, Disney unveiled the new teaser for the ninth film in the franchise set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away that will hit theaters Dec. 19.
Directed by "The Force Awakens" helmer J.J. Abrams, "The Rise of Skywalker" picks up after the events of the Rian Johnson-directed "The Last Jedi," which saw the emotional death of Jedi master Luke Skywalker and left the tenuous alliance between Rey and Kylo at an impasse, the balance in the Force decidedly shaken up.
"Episode IX" will pick up sometime after the events of "The Last Jedi," teased Abrams during the film's Celebration panel. "This movie is about this new generation and what they've inherited, the light and the dark, and asking the question as they face this evil — are they prepared? Are they ready?"
Producer and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy echoed archival footage of George Lucas describing his vision of the "Star Wars" saga as a trilogy of trilogies, a series of three three-act plays.
Thousands of fans packed into the Wintrust Arena for the anticipated panel event, some holding up glowing lightsabers. The entire arena erupted as the first of many first-look images flashed on the jumbotron — featuring the reunited "Force Awakens" and "Last Jedi" squad of Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, C3P0 and BB-8.
Among those joining the panel were continuing franchise cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo and Anthony Daniels. (Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o and Mark Hamill were among the "Episode IX" cast who couldn't make it to Chicago.)
The arena exploded in loud cheers at every glimpse and mention of the late Carrie Fisher, who will appear posthumously in "Episode IX."
"We all talked about how to move on," said Abrams. "She was the best. She was glorious. She was amazing. We all just loved her. ... It was impossible. There was no way. You don't recast that part and you don't suddenly have her disappear."
"Episode IX" will feature the late Fisher using previously filmed footage, including scenes opposite her real-life daughter, Billie Lourd. Abrams described the discovery that the footage could be used to continue Leia's story: "What if we could actually write scenes around her?"
The result will be not a CG Leia, but Fisher herself onscreen in her iconic role. "Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me," said Abrams.
Celebration attendees leapt to their feet to greet returning "Star Wars" icon Billy Dee Williams with a standing ovation. Williams, who last appeared in the franchise as Lando Calrissian in 1983's "Return of the Jedi," will return to the galaxy as Calrissian in "Episode IX."
"How did I find Lando again?" he cooed as a peek at Calrissian in "Episode IX" flashed onscreen. "Lando never left me."
The Celebration crowd got special sneak peeks at character images, new creatures and stills from the film, including shots of Finn, Poe, Rey, Rose, newcomer Jannah and Chewbacca.
Naomi Ackie plays Jannah, who may or may not be the daughter of Lando. "Listen, Lando is a very charming man," she quipped. "He could have children all over this universe."
But it appears Lando is not the only character from the original trilogy making his return in "The Rise of Skywalker."
Familiar laughter was heard as the teaser faded to black to reveal the film's title, which seemed to tease the return of a classic villain. Then, after the footage was over, Ian McDiarmid himself took the stage to confirm with his presence that yes, Emperor Palpatine will be back in some form for "Episode IX."
Abrams is also co-writer with Chris Terrio on the film that Abrams produced for his Bad Robot banner with Lucasfilm's Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan.