Episode III Release Date Set

George Lucas’s groundbreaking space opera will finally let the fat lady sing when Star Wars: Episode III hits theaters with a nearly simultaneous worldwide release. The franchise’s official website, www.starwars.com, announced that Thursday, May 19, 2005, has been selected as the release date for North America and Canada. The flick will then hit Japan in July. Dates for other countries are yet to be announced.

In North America, May has been the traditional release date for Star Wars films since Episode IV changed the face of modern cinema in 1977.

Star Wars: Episode III will see the rise of Darth Vader as disillusioned young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker is seduced by the dark side. In addition to seeing star Hayden Christensen don the dark helmet, fans are looking forward to the triumphant return of actor Peter Mayhew as hairy Wookie Chewbacca, a character that hasn’t been seen since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Also returning for the final installment are Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Natalie Portman as Padmé, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2 and Frank Oz as the voice of the computer-generated Yoda.

In addition to the introduction of Lord Vader, the film will give rise to an all-new villain named General Grievous. The fresh baddie is making his first appearance in Cartoon Network’s animated microseries Star Wars: Clone Wars, airing weeknights at 8 p.m. Chapters 11-20 began airing on March 26 and will wrap up on Thursday, April 8. Any missed episodes can be caught when Cartoon Network runs Clone Wars marathons on Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10. The series of three-minute episodes is being produced at Cartoon Network Studios.