Walt Disney Co. unveiled a trailer for the new “Star Wars” film Thursday, releasing a clip featuring series star Harrison Ford to fans at a four-day convention in Anaheim, Calif.
J.J. Abrams, director of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy introduced the trailer during a panel at Stars Wars: The Force Awakens Celebration. Burbank, California-based Disney is using the event to build enthusiasm for the Dec. 18 release. Original cast members Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher joined them at the event.
“If it weren’t for the ultra-passionate fans, we wouldn’t be here,” Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker, said from the stage. “You’re more than just fans, you’re family.”
The panelists offered few insights into the plot or their roles in the new film. The clip reprises classic “Star Wars” lines and musical themes, concluding with a shot of Ford, who returns as Han Solo. Fisher, back as Princess Leia in the new production, said her signature hairdo from the original won’t be back in the new one.
“Her buns are tired,” Fisher said. “They’ll be some other things you’ll be into, but not the metal bikini. I promise.”
Abrams and Kennedy got standing ovations when they came on stage. The crowd also leapt to their feet when BB-8, a new ball- shaped robot droid scooted onto the stage.
Fans began lining up as early as 5 a.m. California time Wednesday for the panel, which began at 10 a.m. Thursday. Guests came dressed as Stormtroopers, Jedi warriors and other characters from the films.
Inside the auditorium, which seats 7,500, employees whipped up the crowd, firing T-shirts from an air cannon and playing a version Don McLean’s “The Day The Music Died,” redone with lyrics based on “Star Wars.”
Andy Beck, 52, and his wife Julie, 57, queued up right after attending a party the night before sponsored by a Star Wars podcast called Rebel Force Radio. The pair, a computer programmer and home health-care equipment installer from San Francisco, said they were looking forward to previews of the film and the chance to hear from the cast and crew.
The six “Star Wars” films have grossed more $4.5 billion in theaters worldwide, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Lucasfilm has produced 10 Star Wars Celebrations since 1999. The last, in Essen, Germany, in 2013, attracted more than 20,000 guests.
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for more than $4 billion. The company plans a series of “Star Wars” films and other attractions over the next several years.
Abrams, a producer of the “Lost” TV show and director of two “Star Trek” films, initially turned down the job of directing a new “Star Wars,” partly because it was “incredibly daunting.”
He talked about filming in the 128-degree desert heat in Abu Dhabi.
“Star Wars is as much a Western and fairy tale as anything else, and one of the things you expect to see is John Ford-like landscapes,” Abrams said on the panel.
Asked if he was afraid the new film may disappoint fans, Abrams said, “You can’t please everybody, but we trying very hard to do just that.”