Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Lucas, The Star Wars Saga Continues, And the Internet Breaks in Half

Yesterday afternoon my cell phone was buzzing with so many texts one after the other that I sort of felt like I was a character on The West Wing after some geopolitical crisis has just occurred. Thankfully it was nothing as serious as all that, but in geek terms, the day's events were probably just as momentous. The story of the day -- and probably the week -- is that the Walt Disney Company got one step further in its eventual goal of owning every piece of intellectual property ever created by gobbling up the entirety of George Lucas' Lucasfilm, lock, stock, and barrel-shaped robot.

This is news I honestly never expected to hear, because it just never even occurred
to me that Lucas would ever want to walk away from the massive, multimillion dollar Empire he created in '77. But I guess the thought of retiring with a nice nest egg for him and his family while leaving the day-to-day grind of maintaining his properties to other, more interested parties has been on his mind for awhile, and this acquisition, sung to tune of a cool $4.05 billion, will sure give him that security -- and then some.

Whatever the whys-and-wherefores, the big picture result of this deal is that, in addition to now owning ILM, LucasArts, Skywalker Sound, etc., Disney controls the destinies of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones brands forever and always effective immediately. Indeed, it's right there in the initial press release that the first thing they have on-tap with their shiny new toy is to bring the Star Wars movie series roaring back to life after we all assumed it was over and done with in '05, with a new trilogy consisting of episodes VII, VIII, and IX due to begin unspooling at your local cineplex in three short years (in 3D, natch).

As far as my own thoughts about this, it's hard to know what to feel, to be honest. Initially, and purely reflexively, I viewed the news of an impending Star Wars sequel with an arched brow, with visions of Disney riding the franchise into irrelevance like the Pirates of the Carribean flicks dancing in my brain. Like or dislike the prequels, the story was complete. Let's just leave it alone and let it stand. But then it occurred to me that it might well be the best thing possible for the Star Wars brand to let it breathe, building on the foundation that Lucas built while benefitting from the creative input of other voices. So that initial skepticism turned into, if not anticipation, at least optimism.

However, while I've had plenty to say about how Lucas mismanaged his brands, I do have to admit feeling a little sadness that his entire legacy -- the greatest independent filmmaking operation in history -- is now subsumed as another appendage of the Disney monster. From a purely nostalgic standpoint, I can't imagine a Star Wars unspooling on the big screen without the Fox logo (and Alfred Newman's iconic fanfare) in front of it. But if the Marvel and Pixar product under the Disney umbrella proves anything, it's that the Mouse House knows when to get out of its own way and let its creatives create.

There are a whole lot of questions that people are understandably going to have about the Disney-Lucas merger, such as what this means for Indiana Jones, the future of the (excellent) Clone Wars animated show, and the way forward for the various Star Wars licensees, but I'm sure plenty more information will emerge in the days and weeks ahead (look for an in-depth discussion with the Mr. Boy gang about this topic in next week's MovieFilm show). For now though, all we need to know is that in 2015, the Star Wars saga continues. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type.

Check out the vid of Lucas discussing the sale below:


Anonymous said...

Great post, Zaki.

I for one am very happy about the news. I think the person holding Star Wars back was George Lucas himself. I too share your apprehension of Star Wars getting "Disney-fied", but honestly, could it get any worse than it already is?

Look what was done with prequels. And then think about what COULD have been. George Lucas does a lot of things right, but he shines best when he relinquishes a little bit of control, like he did for Empire Strikes Back (which turned out ot be his best movie!).

I think Star Wars will benefit greatly done through a set of fresh eyes. Lucas's obsession with changing the entire concept of the series to be focused only on Anakin/Darth is a goofy idea anyway. It changes the feel of the original trilogy, and not in a good way.

Plus, I look forward to no more fiddling on Lucas's part with the original trilogy. Give it a rest, dude!

I'm also looking forward to a director who doesn't insist on filming everything in front of a green screen, cramming fake-looking CGI into every frame, and inserting fart jokes at inoppurtune moments.

What my son is already asking me about is what the next story will be about. I read there is a story treatment already set 10 years after ROTJ, with the continuing adventures of the Skywalkers and Co. I wonder if that is really true or not. If it is, how would they handle that? Would have to get new actors, probably. Although I could see Mark Hamill pulling off an aged Jedi Master quite well.

I wonder if they will follow something similar to the Heir to the Empire series, or any more of the expanded universe? I doubt it.

You're right too - what's going to happen to Indiana Jones? After #4, I'm hesitant about a #5. Harrison Ford is an awesome actor, but using these aged actors in action hero parts results in sequels that are a mixed bag. But prequels and remakes are worse!

So yeah, interesting news. For sure!

Zaki said...

If I were a betting man, I'd tell die hard SW fans not to be too attached to any of the "canon" thats been built up over the last twenty years via the Expanded Universe...

The Mad Swede said...

I think most of the sequel stuff in the expanded universe (like Zahn and Anderson) sailed out the window with the prequels (which do not exist!) having been established (no, never!) as canon.

The entire ideas referring back to the Clone War there is not compatible with Lucas' effed up version.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

I'm afraid you might be right about continuity. The various books map the future of the Star Wars universe in a great deal of detail so if the movies follow the books there won't be much suspense.

Also some elements of the expanded universe make some aspects of the movies a big waste of time (e.g. the Emperor surviving RotJ in a clone body and Luke Skywalker becoming his apprentice anyway)

At the same time, I think they should at least stick to the broad outlines. I hope they show Mara Jade (who I would almost swear was in Return of the JEdi anyway),Black Sun, some kind of Imperial Remnant, a New Republic, New Jedi academy