George Lucas the creator of the series has done fans a great favor by selling the Lucasfilm companies to Disney. Lucas has always admired the Disney brand and modeled his own company after the Disney standard of high quality family entertainment, so the Lucasfilm sale to Disney seemed a natural fit.
Lucas has stated that he will continue as creative consultant on any future films and he has passed on his story treatments for possible future story ideas in the Star Wars universe to his successor Kathleen Kennedy, who he hired to head Lucasfilm when he retired back in May. Kennedy is a longtime associate of Steven Spielberg, who is a good friend of Lucas, and will continue as President of Lucasfilm under Disney.
As Disney writers are already in the process of writing possible story ideas for the next Star Wars films, there is now much speculation about who will direct the next episode in the Saga. Some names that have come up are obvious choices who are well known fans of the series such as J.J. Abrams, Star Trek (2009) Super 8 (2011), and Jon Favreau, Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011). Jon has also been involved as a voice actor in the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Both would be great choices to direct the next films.
Gore Verbinsky is another great director who is associated with both Disney, as director of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and Lucasfilm, as director of ILM’s Rango (2011). I think he would be a natural choice to continue the Star Wars series as he has the sense of humor and experience with Disney and Lucasfilm properties. The incredible Brad Bird is another great choice, having come out of the Disney animation school and directing some of Pixar’s best films.
As far as the plot goes, it’s well known to all Star Wars fans that Lucas has taken great pains to honor the integrity of the Star Wars timeline, making sure that there are no lapses in continuity. All of the existing expanded universe material must fit somewhere into the Star Wars continuity and cannot contradict anything that has already been created elsewhere. Any future Star Wars projects, especially movies, will respect and be able to draw from any existing adventures created in the books and comics.
Episode VII will most likely continue sometime after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) as this was always the plan. The question now becomes where in the timeline will the new films likely take place? The good news is that since all the original principal cast members are still alive, they can all be used to recreate their original characters if they weren’t killed off in Episode VI. The bad news is that favorite characters like Yoda, Darth Vader, The Emperor, Jabba the Hutt, and Boba Fett all died in the last film and Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams are in their 60s and 70s now, so for them to reprise their roles, the new movie would have to take place at least 40 years after the events of Episode IV to match their real ages. This would place the new films in the Legacy of the Force era of the timeline, which deals with the children of Han, Leia, Luke and Lando.
The stories that have already been written in this era of the Star Wars timeline are recounted in the Legacy of the Force novels written by Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss and Troy Denning. They tell of the adventures of Jaina and Jacen Solo, and their cousin Ben Skywalker who become embroiled in a family blood feud when Jacen Solo is consumed by the dark side, forcing his own family to turn against him. It’s also revealed that Lando Calrissian has a child nicknamed Chance. These new characters will carry on the legacy of the of the Star Wars universe.
I for one am excited about the possibilities that can be explored in future Star Wars movies and the immense expanding universe that has been created by George Lucas and passed on to Kathleen Kennedy. May the Force be with her.