Star Wars history in the making ... (from left) director/writer J.J. Abrams, builders Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy.

Out of this world: (from left) director/writer J.J. Abrams, builders Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy. Photo: Twitter: bad_robot

Production on the highly anticipated Star Wars sequel - presently known only as Star Wars, Episode VII - will kick off in May.

Disney chief Bob Iger revealed the shooting date at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Although his audience was composed primarily of shareholders, very few of whom are likely to be declared Star Wars geeks, he also threw a few more choice morsels their way.

Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'We all go a little crazy, sometimes.' Click for more photos

Tricks of Star Wars filming

Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'We all go a little crazy, sometimes.' Photo: Twitter

  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'We all go a little crazy, sometimes.'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: Kenny, Carrie, Mark and some tall fellow... @HamillHimself @CarrieFFisher.
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'Kenny about to get into the blender.'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'They said the Wampas were the most dangerous thing on Hoth, but they had forgotten the frost giants...'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'After the first dozen scaldings we learned not to bother @realbdw until after his first cup of coffee...'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'Anthony getting relief from the blazing sun.'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'THE ARISTOCRATS!'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'Ok, you lot really like pics of a certain princess! Here's one of Carrie and her stunt double. You're Welcome.'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'Not to call anyone a diva, but here's @HamillHimself being ferried from his trailer by chopper AGAIN, or something ;)'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'Yup, this is how it was done a long time ago, in...'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: 'it all started with a dream. a dream, and a storyboard...'
  • Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew tweets: '#nostalgic so Im going to post some pics tonight. Like this 1 of Harrison, Anthony, Carrie & I sharing a laugh... '

The film, Iger revealed, would pick up the story 30 years after the events depicted in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

In that film, which was released in 1983, the rebel alliance destroyed the second Death Star space station and, with the death of Emperor Palpatine, effectively toppled the Galactic Empire.

In the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters of the film, A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strike Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), producer George Lucas chronicled the struggle between the rebel alliance, led by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and the tyrannical Empire.

Lucas subsequently produced the early history of the saga, the so-called "prequels", The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), which examined the collapse of the Galactic Republic, the fall of the Jedi Knights and the rise of the Galactic Empire.

Iger said the seventh chapter would feature "familiar faces including a trio of young leads" but noted that the only official cast member is the "astromech droid" R2-D2.

Lucas has previously said the only characters he wanted to span across the trilogies were R2-D2 and his counterpart, the "protocol droid" C3-P0.

There is intense speculation, however, that the three stars of the original trilogy - Hamill, Ford and Fisher - will reprise their characters in the new film.

Iger told shareholders that the movie "really looks amazing," though presumably he was referring to pre-production material as principal photography has not yet commenced.

The film will be directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan.

Kasdan was co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the much-loved George Lucas/Steven Spielberg collaboration Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Disney purchased LucasFilm, which owns the Star Wars saga, in 2012 for $US4.05 ($4.48) billion. One of the most anticipated projects to come out of the acquisition is the prospect of a new Star Wars trilogy.

Lucas had, in the saga's early life, flagged the possibility of a nine chapter story, but had later pared it back to six.

Star Wars: Episode VII is slated to open on December 18, 2015.