'Star Wars' Rollout Plan "Extremely Deliberate," Says Disney CEO

Star Wars Characters - H - 2015

"We’re mindful of the fact that there’s a whole generation of people out there that were not as steeped in the 'Star Wars' lore and not as in love with the franchise as an older generation," Bob Iger explained on an earnings call.

Star Wars fans seeking clues as to what Disney has in store for the lead-up to the next film installment were treated to a slew of them Tuesday courtesy of Disney CEO Bob Iger, though details remain intentionally murky.

“We’ve already got some increased product in the marketplace, but the real ramp-up from the consumer-products perspective won’t come until just a few months prior to the release," Iger said during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due out Dec. 18, and Disney says that, at midnight on Sept. 4 — dubbed "Force Friday" — stores worldwide will begin selling products related to the film, including lightsabers, action figures and Lego sets. Disney also confirmed Tuesday that the next iteration of its Infinity video game-toy hybrid will feature Star Wars characters.

Electronic Arts also has Star Wars Battlefront due in November.

“You can expect that there will be more game-related activity between now and the release,” said Iger.

Those hoping for an all-out blitz of merchandise, online trailers and various forms of manufactured hype between now and the release date, though, will be disappointed, as Iger says he worries about oversaturation.

“Generally speaking, you’re going to see us release, in a very careful way, certain elements of the film as part of a carefully designed marketing plan as we get much closer to the film," said the CEO.

“This is already a very strong franchise, but a film has not been released in 10 years," said Iger. "We’re not treating this as something that is brand new. We’re mindful of the fact that there’s a whole generation of people out there that were not as steeped in the Star Wars lore and not as in love with the franchise as an older generation."

Star Wars definitely will play a bigger role at theme parks, too, though much of what's being bandied about likely will appear after the movie opens, according to insiders.

“We have a huge opportunity there," said Iger. "We’ve had single attractions, Star Tours, in multiple places around the world ... and some Jedi training-academy related shows here and there, but the opportunity here in the U.S. and around the world is tremendous, and we’re doing some development work on it.”

Iger even acknowledged thinking about a Disney streaming service, perhaps something akin to the recently launched CBS All Access product, and he said Star Wars could play a role there, too.

“With these channels and these brands — ESPN, ABC, Disney, maybe even down the road something related to Star Wars and Marvel — we do have the ability as a company to take product, specifically filmed entertainment, telvision, movies, directly to consumers, and we got some development underway to do just that," he said.

Iger boasted that the second Force Awakens teaser trailer released online garnered 80 million views in the first 24 hours and "hundreds of millions since. Quite amazing."

Not that he needed confirmation, but research firm Amobee Brand Intelligence said Tuesday that there was 197 percent more digital consumption around the franchise on May 4 — "Star Wars Day" (May the fourth be with you.) — than there was for Avengers: Age of Ultron the day it opened, May 1.

"Star Wars is part of the national cultural identity in a way where online interest far exceeds other popular movie franchises," concluded Amobee.

The research firm said 54 brands engaged in Star Wars Day, including Amazon, Miller Lite, Subway and Volkswagen.

"Considering Age of Ultron has already made [$643.5] million globally, when the new Star Wars movie is released in December, it will probably make enough money to fund a third Death Star," said Amobee.

"There are markets around the world that weren’t as developed back 10 years ago," noted Iger. "China is probably the best example. It’s now the No. 2 movie market in the world. Obviously, when the last Star Wars film released, it was barely a market from a movie perspective."

"We are managing all this with great care," continued Iger. "We are mindful of the fact that we need to market this and go after this new generation and new territories. We also want to be careful that the demand does not create almost too much in the marketplace too soon.

"And so, everything we have done to date has been extremely deliberate, and we have a carefully constructed and deliberate plan going forward in terms of what we roll out in the marketplace in terms of product and marketing.”

Iger concluded with: "We've got something here that is very, very special."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com