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The Force is With Disney

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

star-wars-poster-small1By now, most of you have heard that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm — the studio that produced Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and many other SF and fantasy properties — for over $4 billion. The deal was very similar to Disney’s acquisition of Marvel three years ago.

Prominent among the headlines was the news that Disney and Lucasfilm are already hard at work on Star Wars VII, aiming for a 2015 release, and that they also plan to produce Episodes VIII and IX. Walt Disney chairman Bob Iger announced that they expect to “release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years.” If this is all news to you, Entertainment Weekly has a lengthy article here, including a 5-minute video in which you can hear George Lucas detail his current work on future films with unnamed writers.

“We could go on making Star Wars for the next 100 years,” Lucas says.

Okay. While part of me is appalled to see Lucasfilm, perhaps the most successful and creative independent studio of the last century, get swallowed up by an all-devouring entertainment conglomerate, that part has been roundly shouted down by my inner twelve-year-old, who desperately wants more Star Wars movies.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Do I want Star Wars movies if they’re ground out on a schedule by a soulless corporation interested only in profit?

You know, I kinda do.

I’ve got nothing against corporations. Disney’s done pretty well by Marvel, far as I can see — and Pixar, now that I think about it (Disney bought Pixar from Steve Jobs in 2006). As for profit, the neat thing about profitable franchises is that they can attract talent. Look at Batman, Iron Man, and The Avengers.

And finally, I’m a fan of serial fiction. I know that properties can pass out of the hands of their creator, and land safely — especially pulp properties. That’s the process that brought us Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Star Trek IV, and the tenth regeneration of Dr. Who.

So while I expect to see a lot of debate in the fan press, I don’t expect to be part of it. Instead, I’ll be in line early in 2015, anxious to see the new Star Wars film. Even if it’s terrible, I won’t be too worried. Disney will keep trying. When you pay $4 billion for something, you tend to treat it right.

19 Comments »

  1. I think people will like it because they will have such low expectations, I know I will. It would be nice if they would follow the story of the novels but I doubt that’s going to happen.

    It just doesn’t feel right…I guess it’ll all work out

    Comment by Glenn - October 31, 2012 10:06 pm

  2. I guess with Lucas staying on as a creative consultant it could turn out to be good.

    Comment by Glenn - October 31, 2012 10:13 pm

  3. Best thing that can happen to Star Wars is getting it away from Lucas, imo.

    Sadly I still don’t think this means we’ll be getting the original films on DVD, but one can hope.

    Comment by Bill Ward - November 1, 2012 1:49 am

  4. Meesa thinks this idea so bad it makes Jar Jar Binks idea brilliant. I lost faith in Disney’s story telling capabilities ever since Walt and Roy Disney stepped out of the company. There best films have come from Pixar and Pirates of the Caribbean started off promising but the stories fell flat.

    Comment by Wild Ape - November 1, 2012 7:01 am

  5. I’m with you on this, and I agree with Bill that letting someone else have a go with the franchise is a good move, especially if they can keep Lucas strictly in the role of consultant. I certainly don’t think it can hurt (see Glenn’s point on expectations). As might be apparent, I’m not a big fan of episodes I-III. They have a lot of gloss, are nice and shiny, but when you kick the tires they all fall apart. Or maybe flat would be a better term. For me the story is just not there. I’m an episode IV and V person, and with Brackett’s involvement in V you know it’s got story. With the Marvel properties I think they’ve given us a glimpse of how they can manage several storylines and weave them together nicely on a multi-movie scale (at least I think they’ve done a good job with it), and that could work wonders in the Star Wars Universe . . . they just have to remember to put more focus on the stories they’re telling (as Wild Ape mentions)–not that I don’t want the flash, too.

    But I’m a creature of a certain age and era, and I wonder what someone who has grown up with a Star Wars that began with episode I and not IV might think? I imagine they might have a completely different experience to bring to the table and see the entire series in a far different light than I do; they might even think the whole notion of midichlorians makes sense, whereas I just put my head in the sand with my fingers jammed in my ears and pretend I never heard of them.

    Comment by Jason T - November 1, 2012 8:23 am

  6. This sellout is so wrong for so many reasons. Check out my blog.

    http://www.johnmwhalen.wordpress.com

    Comment by John Whalen - November 1, 2012 10:49 am

  7. “Do I want Star Wars movies if they’re ground out on a schedule by a soulless corporation interested only in profit?”

    As opposed to what Lucasfilm was already? ;)

    I don’t see any downside to this as Star Wars has already been exploited and worn down by Lucas himself. How much more harm can Disney do?

    Comment by andy - November 1, 2012 1:02 pm

  8. For once, I’m gonna play Pollyanna. Two reasons: First, Pixar’s success rate. What Disney does best is play hands-off. And with Star Wars, they will. Second, my experience with THE CLONE WARS. These digital animation spin-offs are FAR superior to the three movies they followed, and frequently show exactly the sort of action-and-comedy blend that made the original three (well, two and a half) so mesmerizing. True, I’ve only seen a few of these all the way through, but my kids ADORE them, and they’re pretty savvy judges of what works and what falls flat. So may the force be with Disney. I won’t be first in line, but I’ll remain optimistic.

    Comment by markrigney - November 1, 2012 1:31 pm

  9. One of things that I find interesting is what deal means to some of the smaller companies that are connected to Lucasfilm via licensing. I don’t think that this is going to bode very well for Dark Horse Comics which publishes a number of Star Wars comics as well as Indiana Jones. After all from Disney’s point of view why should they keep licensing out Star Wars to DH when they own Marvel? One only has to remember that BOOM once had the license for Disney comics and found that it wasn’t renewed after Marvel was gobbled up by Disney. Can Dark Horse be far behind? And then there’s the matter of book publishing. How much longer will the Star Wars license reside at Del Rey? Disney has a perfectly good book publisher, namely Hyperion, that is sitting right there. All in all it’s going to be fun to watch the upcoming seismic shift in Star Wars related media ventures.

    Comment by Randy101 - November 1, 2012 4:22 pm

  10. I wonder what this will do for Orlando’s 2015 Worldcon bid.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - November 2, 2012 1:24 am

  11. Regarding Randy’s comment about Dark Horse Comics… actually, I’m old enough to remember when Marvel did a Star Wars comic (this was a long time ago, though not in a galaxy far away). I mean, who can forget the mad old man (or possibly Jedi) “Don-Wan Kihotay”. See http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Don-Wan_Kihotay if you don’t believe me (and don’t get me started on Jaxxon the giant rabbit…).

    It will be interesting to see the obsessive wing of SW fans frothing about “canon” given all the follow-up SW novelisations, games etc that now exist, and are likely to be tossed aside by Disney’s reimagineering.

    Me, I’ll just hope they can find a way to tell interesting stories. Whatever merits they had, Episodes 1-3 weren’t that.

    Comment by tchernabyelo - November 2, 2012 5:41 pm

  12. When I was watching the interplay between Obi Wan and Anakin in the beginning of episode III, I thought how cool it would be to have more adventures of those two before Anakin turned to the dark side.

    Yeah, I could really do without Jar Jar in episode I but watching Ewan MacGregor with a lightsaber was a real thrill. He’s so light on his feet. The battle between Obi Wan and Anakin on the molten planet was so cool too. The swordplay in episodes IV-VI was so heavy handed.

    I give George Lucas credit for following his own vision in spite of the protests of many fans. At the end of episode 6 when Luke insists that there’s good in his father, I couldn’t believe it. Here was someone who had killed thousands, if not millions of people and Luke is going to *save* him? I had a lot of trouble believing that. After I saw I-III though, I had more understanding. I saw that all of his life, Anakin had been a slave or under the strong domination of someone else. As far as I could tell he never was a free person. Following the Sith Lord was not anything against his nature. After being a helpless slave in his childhood, a craving for power was explained.
    I really disagree with some of the choices Lucas made when writing Star Wars but I admire his courage for making the movies he wanted to make and telling the stories he wanted to tell.
    Personally, I think there are still lots of stories of Anakin and Obi Wan left to tell….I hope Disney does as well with this as they did with The Avengers. I wish them luck and thank George Lucas for making this possible.
    BB

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - November 4, 2012 12:12 am

  13. > Second, my experience with THE CLONE WARS. These digital animation spin-offs are FAR superior to the three movies they followed,
    > and frequently show exactly the sort of action-and-comedy blend that made the original three (well, two and a half) so mesmerizing.

    Mark,

    I’ve had a similar experience. So many of my friends are huge CLONE WAR fans that I bought the Blu-rays for my kids, and they love them.

    I hadn’t considered that as evidence that STAR WARS could continue successfully in someone else’s hands, but I probably should have.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 4, 2012 3:10 pm

  14. > from Disney’s point of view why should they keep licensing out Star Wars to DH when they own Marvel? One only has to remember that
    > BOOM once had the license for Disney comics and found that it wasn’t renewed after Marvel was gobbled up by Disney. Can Dark Horse be
    > far behind? And then there’s the matter of book publishing. How much longer will the Star Wars license reside at Del Rey? Disney has
    > a perfectly good book publisher, namely Hyperion

    Randy,

    An excellent point, and another one I hadn’t considered.

    I guess the real question is when are the current Dark Horse and Del Rey contracts up for renewal? Because that’s pretty much their runway. They have until their renewal dates to convince Disney they can do better than their counterparts under the Disney umbrella.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 4, 2012 3:13 pm

  15. > When I was watching the interplay between Obi Wan and Anakin in the beginning of episode III, I thought how cool it would be to have
    > more adventures of those two before Anakin turned to the dark side.

    Barbara,

    Indeed — I enjoyed that part of the story too.

    But I don’t think the new movies will follow that storyline. Disney’s mum about what episodes VII – IX will cover, but they appear to be set well after RETURN OF THE JEDI.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 4, 2012 3:16 pm

  16. No matter what timeline they choose, fans will be deprived of some of the characters. Post episode 6, we will be missing Obi Wan, Darth Vader, and Yoda, the trio that influenced those first three episodes. Both the Sith Lord and his apprentice were killed. Perhaps another of each will rise from the ashes. And, as we all know, conflict with someone comes in every generation.
    Obi Wan and Anakin are formidable warriers and the repartee between them was such fun. At least they are in The Clone Wars so we have that much!
    BB

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - November 4, 2012 6:27 pm

  17. Excellent points, John. If anything, I think that it could be better now that it’s out of Lucas’ hands. I, along with most fans of the classic series, wasn’t particularly impressed with the prequels. And, while the Clone Wars animated stuff is somewhat interesting, it doesn’t really add anything to the overall franchise that I can tell, since you do ultimately know exactly how it is all going to end.

    Consider comics. It’s not like Stan Lee had non-stop ownership of his properties over the decades. He created amazing characters in the 1960′s … and then handed them off to other creative talent to let them evolve. Some of the most impressive Spiderman, X-Men, and Avengers storylines happened precisely because Stan Lee was not at the creative helm of each title. He knew when it was time to let someone else take the reigns.

    Here’s hoping that this is the directions things go with the subsequent episodes of Star Wars.

    Comment by Andrew Zimmerman Jones - November 4, 2012 10:30 pm

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