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Star Wars invades Angry Birds

3:28 PM, Oct 8, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) - Those wacky Angry Birds, created by Rovio Entertainment, have already been cast into space. Now they are joining forces with the cast of a beloved space saga.

In Angry Birds Star Wars, a totally new edition of the game out Nov. 8 for iOS, Android and computers, the birds and pigs alike will take on the personalities of characters from the Star Wars saga. "They are not Angry Birds dressed up as Star Wars characters," says Paul Southern, vice president of licensing and consumer products marketing for Lucasfilm Ltd. "They are characters in their own right."

For example, Red Bird will be transformed into Luke Skywalker as an X-Wing pilot in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. "They've got personalities which are kind of similar," he says.

Other birds provide takes on Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the game, which will likely have free and paid versions. And, of course, Darth Vader and the dark side of the Force will be represented. "You will see a pig-esque Vader and pig-esque stormtroopers," Southern says.

Players have already downloaded more than 650 million Angry Birds games. And theStar Wars game will likely propel the franchise to new heights. "We wanted this to feel like one of the biggest, if not the biggest, entertainment launches of the year," says Rovio's Andrew Stalbow.

The Lucasfilm collaboration was a natural after having teamed up with NASA for Angry Birds Space, released in March, and last year's Angry Birds Rio, a mashup celebrating the animated film Rio from Twentieth Century Fox, the studio that distributes Star Wars.

The gravitational physics used in the Space game will come into play in the new entry. Well-known environments from Star Wars films - from Luke's home world of Tatooine to the ice planet of Hoth - will serve as settings for intergalactic bird-pig showdowns. Even John Williams' seminal soundtrack music will be reflected. "Let's just say there's some really fun music in there," says Stalbow, who serves as the Finland-based Rovio's executive vice president of strategic partnerships. "It is very magical."

Angry Birds continues its ascent. Just two weeks ago, Rovio launched Bad Piggies, a game starring the grunting green pigs. The game is the top-ranked paid app in the Apple iTunes Store and, in the Android Market, it tops the free apps list.

And Angry Birds merchandise is already a hit. The plush toys have topped $25 million in sales.

With Angry Birds Star Wars, merchandise sales will likely kick into hyperdrive. Clothing, toys and action figures will appear in stores about a week before the game becomes available.

There's big-screen potential for the franchise, too. A series of animated shorts will be released by year's end, but Stalbow had no update on a rumored film, saying only that "Hollywood is very hot for Angry Birds."

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