Disney - already owner of brands including Marvel, Pixar and The Muppets - has strengthened its hold on family entertainment by acquiring Star Wars producer Lucasfilm.

The House of Mouse last night announced it had paid $4.05bn - half in cash and the remainder in an issue of 40 million shares - for the business founded and 100% owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

To the delight - and some trepidation - of geeks young and old, Disney also announced it would be extending the Star Wars movie series - starting with Episode Seven in 2015 and followed by two more films at two-year intervals. This will mean Disney will have a Star Wars film in cinemas in the same year it rolls out Avengers 2 - sequel to this year’s smash-hit.

“It’s time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers,” said Lucas. “I’ve always believed Star Wars could live beyond me, and thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”

The Star Wars films have earned $4.4bn in global box office sales to date, and Lucasfilm is one of the world’s leading product licensors. Disney and Lucasfilm have already worked together to create rides and exclusive products - including Star Wars-themed Disney toys - at the Disney theme parks in the US, Paris and Tokyo.

“This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets,” said The Walt Disney Company chairman and chief executive officer Robert A. Iger.

Kathleen Kennedy, current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become president of Lucasfilm and report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. She will also serve as the brand manager for Star Wars.

The boards of directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, although it is subject to US antitrust and some non-US merger control regulations.