IT is a story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and gained an army of devoted fans around the world.

And millions of voices cried out in anticipation last night after fresh details of the next instalment of the hugely popular Star Wars franchise were announced by bosses at Disney.

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Chief executive officer Bob Iger revealed during the company's annual shareholders' meeting that Star Wars: Episode VII would be set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the last film of the series.

And popular robot character R2-D2 is also set to return, although there was no word on his android partner C-3PO.

The setting also opens the door for the main characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo, played by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, to return.

However, the official Star Wars website posted on Monday the new films would also feature "a trio of new young leads along with some very familiar faces".

It also said that filming would begin in May at London's Pinewood studios, although there was no word on whether any of those who attended an open casting call in Glasgow in November had been successful.

Rumours have swirled for more than a year over the details of the new film, which was announced after Disney bought Lucasarts, the company set up by Star Wars creator George Lucas, for £2.5 billion.

The six films in the franchise have grossed more than $4.4 billion [£2.65bn] at the worldwide box office since the first film, Star Wars, was released in 1977.

Episode VII will be released on December 18 next year and will be directed by J.J Abrams, who helmed the recent big screen reboot of Star Trek.