Thursday, March 07, 2013

Behind the Disney-Star Wars Deal

In the months since the acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars empire by Disney was announced, the web has been in a state of continuous buzz, with legitimate and conjectural news items burped out with a remarkable consistency. And though JJ Abrams was officially announced as the man shepherding Episode VII of the revived Star Wars saga, we still don't know much about what lies ahead -- indicative of both George Lucas and Abrams' penchant for lockdown secrecy on their projects.

Still, we may not necessarily know what lies ahead, but thanks to a very in-depth article by Devin Leonard over at Bloomberg, we now have a pretty detailed account of exactly how the whole Disney deal went down, with about as revealing an insight into Lucas' mindset in the days lead up to and immediately following the sale as I've ever seen. From the piece:
Lucas released Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999. Combined, the three films in the second trilogy would gross $2.5 billion, but many fans thought they were a mess. They were particularly appalled by the bumbling Jar Jar Binks from the planet Naboo, a creature with an inexplicable Jamaican accent who became the butt of jokes on South Park and The Simpsons
The criticism got to Lucas. He found it difficult to be creative when people were calling him a jerk. “It was fine before the Internet,” he says. “But now with the Internet, it’s gotten very vicious and very personal. You just say, ‘Why do I need to do this?’ ” At the same time, Lucas was reluctant to entrust his universe to anyone else. “I think he felt like he was a prisoner of Star Wars, and that only intensified over the years,” says Dale Pollock, author of Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas.
That goes along with a suspicion I've had all along. After all, how could the continuous barrage of, "We love what you created, but hate you," from the geek set not get to him eventually? Later in the article, upon the deal finally being done and Lucas signing over his life's work to the Mouse House:
At the end of October, Iger arranged for Lucas to fly down to Disney’s Burbank headquarters and sign the papers. He thought Lucas seemed melancholy. “When he put that pen to the piece of paper, I didn’t detect a hesitation,” Iger says. “But I did detect there was a lot of emotion. He was saying goodbye.” 
I don't know why, but there's something very bittersweet about that passage. The end of one era and the beginning of another. There's much more at the link, including when development of Episode VIII started (sooner than you think!) and how Lucas chose his successor(s). For anyone interested in the mechanics of Hollywood dealmaking, or who just wants to know how Star Wars got to where it is, this is a can't-miss piece.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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