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Our Thoughts on Disney’s Buyout Of Lucasfilm

Okay, so today’s been a pretty big news day. Those of you not directly affected by strong winds along the East Coast of America will have heard by now about the Disney Corporations purchasing of George Lucas’s production company, Lucasfilm. The deal, revealed today, cost Disney just a little over $4 billion – money they will no doubt make back easily thanks to the copious cash reserves die-hard Star Wars fans have at their disposal. Essentially, Disney now owns Star Wars, with Lucas himself being kept on as a “creative consultant”. While Disney also pick up ownership of Lucasfilm brands such as Skywalker Sound, ILM, and LucasArts (who make all the Star Wars computer games), the most exciting news to come from Disney today is, in my opinion, twofold. Mainly – no more Lucas-directed Star Wars, and second, new creative talent coming on board to expand the Star Wars universe.

Cue the positive dot-points!

  • George Lucas now no longer has control over Star Wars to the point where he suffocates it. My feelings about Lucas’s treatment of his beloved franchise aren’t exactly nice, and you can read my previous diatribe here, so this news fills me with excitement. Only three people in all of human history have been able to direct a Star Wars feature film; Lucas himself, Richard Marquand and Irvin Kershner. Now, thanks to this new deal, other filmmakers and artists will be able to dip their toes into the Star Wars pool, bringing with them a new vigor and viewpoint on one of cinemas most successful science fiction sagas. This in itself is cause for celebration. While he might be brought on to ensure things like in-universe continuity and other assorted stuff, new and better writers will be able to have a crack at delivering a script for the franchise – new blood, if you will – and I cannot possibly see the harm in trying that.

  • The release of the original trilogy films in their original, pre-’97 Special Edition formats, a long held ideal by purists and die-hard fanboys, could become a possibility in the future. The original Star Wars films were distributed by 20th Century Fox, and from what I’ve been able to determine, Fox holds the rights to Star Wars (A New Hope) in perpetuity (forever), while Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi revert back to Lucasfilm (now Disney) in 2020. Should Disney want to release the original Star Wars film (in any version), they’ll have to do a deal with Fox that suits both studios.  Note also that the Clone Wars animated series is handled by Warner Bros, so should Disney want to put together any ultimate, all the bells-and-whistles edition of the saga, there’s going to be some money changing hands behind the scenes.
  • Disney’s plan to release a new Star Wars film in 2015 fills me with hope, with further news that Episode VII will be followed by another two films to complete a “sequel trilogy”, if you will. And following that, a new film will be released “every two or three years.” While I was initially skeptical that this time-frame could be achieved while keeping the quality of each successive film high, there’s no reason why a couple of these films couldn’t be in production simultaneously. With plenty of scope for new stories and characters, the Star Wars universe if ripe for mining by new and enthusiastic film-makers, meaning any number of films could be produced within the same few years.

  • My personal preference for the franchise beyond the next three films, would be for Disney to approach it like the James Bond series – each film tells a unique and individual story within the umbrella of the Star Wars universe: this way, you could have stories from both before, during and after the previously established films’ timelines. Plus, you’d not have to worry about replacing an actor for a particular character like Bond or Doctor Who; you’d just tell that characters’ story and move on to somebody else. That, to me, is the most mouth watering aspect of the whole thing. What I suspect would be a positive aspect too would be to avoid returning to the Skywalker story once again – after all, isn’t six films already enough to spend on Luke and Annakin’s tragic family?
  • Kathleen Kennedy, a name synonymous with big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, is set to helm Lucasfilm going forward, and if we can trust in anything, it’s that she has the balls and clout to make sure things don’t go all pear-shaped. Kennedy’s been the producing partner for major Hollywood players like Spielberg and Zemeckis, Scorsese and Eastwood. Her box office receipts are second only to Spielberg himself. In other words, you have one of the industry’s biggest hitters leading the team on one of the industry’s most successful and lucrative franchises. My question is, how could this not work?

I’m no Star Wars hater, let me be clear on that. I love Star Wars as much as the next person (possibly with the exception of my good mate Pete!), and I was among those so utterly disappointed with the three prequel films that I never bothered with any of the “new” Star Wars product – such as the animated Clone Wars series from Warner Bros. Today’s news actually feels refreshing, like a weight has been lifted from the shoulders of this once-mighty franchise. Disney, who have acquired Pixar and Marvel in recent years as well, are developing a strong portfolio of product in their stable, and while the cynic inside me says there will inevitably be a Mickey vs Darth Vader cross-over at some point (natch, that would be horrible), I hold out hope that the Powers That Be at Disney hold Star Wars in the same reverence as millions of fans around the world – and leave it to the creative team to mold, build and expand. What I, along with many others, fear happening is a diluting of the brand, much as what occurred with the Star Trek franchise over at Paramount. Star Trek had five iterations of the television series, multiple feature films, and goodness knows what else going on at the same time, until saturation had been reached and the franchise needed to be revitalized (thanks to JJ Abrams, that happened!). Should Disney over-saturate the market with their new Golden Egg, they might find things heading south as the public – fickle as they are – will just yawn and say “meh”.

 With that, I hold my breath that the next few years – nay, decades – will be filled with enthusiasm for Star Wars once more.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. It's an interesting move by Disney and one I'm sure will make give them a steady flow of cash from all the merchandise alone. They have been making some good decisions. I'm not a big Star Wars fan myself, but I'm interested to see how this turns out eventually. Thanks for the link by the way…nice coincendence that I chose to do one on Disney this week 🙂
    My recent post The Story Behind… The Walt Disney Pictures logo

    • No worries my friend, always glad to link to those who deserve it! I think you, like a lot of folks without a significant interest in Star Wars, will be keen to see how this all pans out long term. I think (hope) that Disney will do a great job, as long as they remain relatively hands-off and leave the majority of the creative decisions to those who're passionate about it.

  2. I don't know what make of the idea behind new Star Wars films. Part of me welcomes it but another part makes me think it is another indication that Hollywood has run out of ideas. I'd love to see the original cast returning as older versions of themselves though…that would be interesting.
    My recent post Top 10 Interesting Male Voices in Cinema

    • As I said in my piece, I think a great way of continuing this franchise would be to tell other stories within the same universe (no doubt there's other historical battles, wars and conflicts to narrate in this universe!) without touching on the Skywalker saga. Start fresh, create new and interesting characters, and see what happens. If it can be done in Star Trek, it can be done in Star Wars.

  3. Nice write up Rod, interesting to see you break it down, sparked all kinds of ideas on the subject, feelings for and against, with and without..also Nostra pointed out another thought (see above) regarding audiences. When I first heard the news I immediately felt woozy to be honest, saddened more than anything, disappointment turning quickly into disbelief. I felt like Lucas sold out. I don't know what I was going to do with it until I noticed your post on FB which gave me the push to put it down, see where we draw our lines in the sand, agreement or…
    Looks like we're in the same ballpark on a number of issues but I go ahead and settle on my first gut reaction, looking beyond the surface treatment interviews (as I refer to in my article) and looking for the nuts in the candy bar. There are a number of things that could have made this great, a number of things that would have made it right – at least more palatable to fans, non-fans and the aforementioned fence sitters – and while you can't cater to everyone by catering to any one group in particular, I guess the filmmaker in me returns to the trenches where the real wars are waged, to the struggles and the bandages made from the collective spirit of making films together, elbow to elbow, set lights burning permanent shadows in the back of your eyes, twenty-four hour tape lines and crew calls that make weeks out of days…down there in the muck of it all, the soul and Lucas giving all that away to someone for the sake of a guarantee to "keep things going" just misses the whole point of it all. I don't know, maybe my article makes more sense or just another shot in the dark. Please share, drop by and say hello.
    http://rorydean.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/selling-

    cheers->
    My recent post Selling Lucasfilm to Disney is like selling Apple to Microsoft.

    • Sigh – it appears that no matter what happens, no Star Wars fan is going to be happy here. if Lucas had made another set of films himself, the haters would come out and ridicule him again. As it stands, the majority of stuff I'm reading online is all about how Lucas sold out and how Disney will ruin this franchise. I read a comment by Lucas once, where he responded to people asking about the "third trilogy" just after the Prequels had come along, and he said (verbatim) "why would I make three more, it's just too hard; people will yell at me every time I do something with Star Wars", and I agree with him. It was time to let go, I think, and he's done just that. Now, if somebody screws up Star Wars, it won't be Lucas folks will be yelling at, it'll be Kathleen Kennedy. I hope she's prepared for all the haters coming her way!!

      That's why I hope that this decision will ultimately turn out for the best, much like the time Daniel Craig was announced as Bond and all the haters came out the – only to shut the hell up once Casino Royale came out and it was actually pretty good as a film……

  4. Lucas was a sell out from the start … he can shove Jar Jar and the Ewoks – they were a far cry from Joseph Campbell. He's a muppetmaster; one of the greatest comment anyone made about this perpetual misogynist California dreaming teenager was in South Park when he and Spielberg sodomise Indiana Jones a la Deliverance (after they got us all to squeal like pigs at the box office).

    Having said that, he DID help distribute Kagemusha with Frankie Coppola and revolutionise Hollywood post production sound and effects. Plus there was American Graffitti, although I still haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch it over the past 29 years since sitting through Return of the Jedi …

    • Funnily enough, I saw the documentary "The People Versus George Lucas" on television last night, and I had to laugh.

      I'm just excited that we get another chance to have some awesome Star Wars films again. Lucas never raped my childhood, but he certainly didn't do it any favors…..

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Never blessed with a body worthy of a porn star, nor being the heir to a wealthy industrialists fortune, nor suffering the tragedy of having his parents murdered outside a Gotham theater, Rodney is, contrary to popular opinion, neither Ron Jeremy, JD Rockefeller, or Batman. As a serious appreciator of film since 1996, Rodney's love affair with the medium has continued with his online blog, Fernby Films, a facility allowing him to communicate with fellow cineasts in their mutual love of all things movie.

Our Thoughts on Disney’s Buyout Of Lucasfilm

by Rodney Twelftree
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