JJ Abrams will write as well as direct Star Wars: Episode VII following the departure of Toy Story screenwriter Michael Arndt.

Abrams will pen the script with Star Wars regular Lawrence Kasdan who worked with George Lucas on the screenplay for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and also contributed to 1983's Return of the Jedi.

"I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and JJ working on the script," said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy via StarWars.com.

"There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen.

“JJ of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing film-making and design team in place already prepping for production."

Arndt's departure comes as a surprise to keen Star Wars geeks. The writer, who won an Oscar for 2006's Little Miss Sunshine, was seen as a vital part of the Star Wars reboot.

Disney bought the rights to the enduring space opera last year when it purchased LucasFilm for $4.05bn. Episode VII is due to shoot in London early next year and is scheduled to be released in 2015 as the first in a new trilogy of films which are tipped to star original cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.