You’ve probably heard the news by now in what is shaping up as a big week in the business world. No, I’m not talking about the massive shift in executive management at Apple. Instead I talk of Tuesday’s announce that The Walt Disney Company has purchased full ownership in Lucasfilm Ltd. and its subsidiaries (LucasArts, LucasBooks, Skywalker Sound, Industrial Light & Magic) for a whooping $4.05 billion – half in cash to Mr. George Lucas, the other half in 40 million shares of Disney stock for a Mr. George Lucas.
So first, Lucas is now even richer in his retirement. This news is fairly shocking. Lucas announced retirement back in January, and over the summer announced longtime friend and collaborator Kathleen Kennedy as his successor (a good pick based on her vast experience with great films), but I think most people expected Lucasfilm to continue on as usual. Apparently, Lucas had worries about the brand’s longevity without more films to boost younger generational support and sought out a parent company to help Lucasfilm stay in the game. Enter Walt Disney Company, the company that likes to let things succeed and then purchase them for all their glory: Pixar and Marvel, notably.
TheForce.Net and StarWars.com are filled with plenty of support for the decision. One in particular: Disney jointly announced a release year of 2015 for Star Wars: Episode 7. That’s correct; they not only announced plans to release a new Star Wars film every “two to three years” along with continuing the Star Wars television push, new media, theme parks, and more. Disney specifically titled their first film as Episode 7 with confirmation from Lucas that it refers to a post-Return of the Jedi story. The contents of that story are, of course, completely unknown, but Lucas has always been honest about having drafted story ideas but been committed to not directing any further films. He will keep to those promises, serving as a “consultant” to Disney-Lucasfilm while Kathleen Kennedy serves as brand manager and executive producer.
The announcement of more Star Wars films is not entirely a surprise. When Kennedy’s involvement with Lucasfilm was announced it was assumed that major films had to be involved. The Clone Wars, Detours, and Star Wars television is very successful, but Kennedy is leaving her post at Amblin Entertainment to join Lucasfilm and that had to have meant something more. Still, revealing the films to specifically be Episodes 7/8/9 was a SHOCK in all definitions. So many questions are raised: will it feature original trilogy characters? Will it feature original trilogy actors? What happens to existing Expanded Universe stories that take place post-films?
Speculation does us no good here. At first, I was unhappy with the news because I wondered why Lucasfilm felt the need to sell themselves to such a large conglomerate in the first place. Further, episode seven is not my personal pick for where I’d like to see Star Wars films go. Still, as the news has developed and the initial shock subsides, things start to clear up. I hold judgement on future Star Wars films until more is revealed. 2015 is a long ways off, so there really isn’t very much to say until cast, crew, and story are slowing revealed.
My initial worries revolve around other Lucasfilm properties. Cartoon Network contracts for The Clone Wars and while it really doesn’t matter to me I’m uncertain how I feel should Disney want the show moved to The Disney Channel (which I don’t even know if it still exists). Dark Horse handles Star Wars comics, but Disney’s ownership of Marvel suggests there might be conflicts (though I think I remember reading that Dark Horse’s contract was recently expanded through 2014 or 2015). Del Rey handles Star Wars novels and luckily I cannot foresee any problems there. Star Wars isn’t the only thing Lucasfilm handles, however. More Indiana Jones films? ILM is now Disney owned, but I hope that doesn’t put them off limits to non-Disney film work. The same goes for Skywalker Sound.
Never forget the theme parks! Star Wars already has a pretty major presence in Disney theme parks both in rides and merchandising. It’s interesting that so soon after Universal & Warner Bros open their Harry Potter park so successfully that Disney begins plans to incorporate Star Wars into their parks.
Lucasfilm’s acquisition by Disney is one of those announcements that is instantly both amazingly awesome and skeptically worrying. Personally, I remain cautious, but I find myself opening up. Disney did great things with Pixar, but their potential with Marvel has not yet been shown – it must be remembered that The Avengers was still produced by Paramount and only marketed by Disney. Iron Man 3 will be our first look at a true Disney-Marvel collaboration. Likewise, it will not be until 2015 to truly see what Disney plans for Star Wars. Until then, I only hope Disney allows the successful parts of Lucasfilm to remain: thriving novels, comics, and a successful animated show. And always remember how much we so truly want a live-action television series set between Episodes III and IV!
In other news, it was announced today that Bryan Singer will direct X-Men: Days of Future Past, the sequel to X-Men: First Class.