Today the news of the Disney/Lucasfilm acquisition hit the internet like a proton missile finding its mark in the Death Star’s access tube. People, myself included, were sent into an emotional state of panic and shock.
After listening to a part of the shareholders conference call and reading through the news articles with great detail I’ve decided that I’m split in two over the merger. Intellectually I should’ve known that this would one day happen, George and Disney have always been on good terms way back to when they hosted his 3D movie starring Michael Jackson, “Captain Eo.” With Disney always hosting ‘Star Wars’ weekends, recently revamping Star Tours, and selling merchandise in their parks with their beloved characters dressed as ‘Star Wars’ icons, it shouldn’t have been a shock that one day the Mouse would oversee George’s Galaxy from far, far away.
Disney has acquired other companies in recent years, Pixar, the Muppets, and Marvel – all of which have thrived under the Mouse’s helm. Disney decides on what films they want to produce each year, they fork over the funds and then distribute them accordingly. Disney’s become very savvy in handling their acquisitions; creatively they leave them alone and trust that each of the companies will produce quality products as a result.
Marvel fans have rejoiced over the direction of the films that have come out from their comic universe under the Mouse. The last Muppets movie evoked wonderful nostalgia for the franchise from its hey-day, there is no reason to believe that ‘Star Wars’ will be any different, right?
I suppose if you look at ‘Star Wars’ from their perspective as an amazing franchise and intellectual property to play with, this deal couldn’t be better. Disney is the industry leader in producing top quality family cinema; when it comes to pure family entertainment, Disney and ‘Star Wars’ as brands are the top of the pile. This merger makes sense. Out of all the studios out there in Hollywood, Disney may be a huge corporation, but they never lose sight of the original vision of their creator, Walt, to create family fun. George’s films have always been designed for families, a fact that many ‘fans’ have forgotten over the years. For me personally, when I heard about the rumblings about plans for the new live action series being darker and adult programming, I felt crushed – that wasn’t MY ‘Star Wars.’ With Disney overseeing the company now and looking to them to fill holes in their programming schedules be it in cinema or on TV, those holes will be for FAMILY programming. George’s legacy will be preserved.
My head tells me that this is fantastic news for the franchise. With Disney’s resources we can expect to see the parks to now expand out huge areas for ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Wars’ will be more accessible to people all over the world.
It’s not my head that’s causing issues here, it’s my heart. George was a maverick for his day, he remained an independent filmmaker all of the way through the making of the Prequels. He quit the directing guild and intentionally made himself an outside to Hollywood so that he could make his films the way that he wanted to make them. Even though his films shattered box office records he never got the respect that any other ‘studio man’ would’ve gotten. George financed his films with his own money – the money his company generated always funded new projects. Lucasfilm, ILM, Skywalker Sound were places of innovation and were the companies that every young aspiring filmmaker wanted to work at – at least for a while. The companies will still be there. The same people will be there. Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas go back a long way, she’s no stranger to his ‘verse. She is however more of a businesswoman than George ever was. She knows how to wrestle the Hollywood beasts and play their games. Again, my head sees this as a good thing.
My heart, however, aches. For all that this is the beginning of a new era for ‘Star Wars’, it is also the end. During the conference call the Disney heads kept telling their investors that they can’t wait to “exploit” the franchise in order to make money. Lucasfilm is no longer independent, it’s now a clog in a much larger money making machine. Disney will tell them when they want movies churned out, they’ll hold reins on the financial resources. The man who imagined the incredibly rich ‘Star Wars’ universe will now barely be involved with its future. I certainly don’t blame George. After he threw all of his love into the prequels, the ‘fan’ backlash against them was enough to drive any sane person into wanting to hide in a hole and never emerge. George’s desire to give it to other people to work on new stories and expand the franchise is his way of saying “I give up, you think you can do it better? Well, here’s your chance.”
I can only hope that whoever gets hold of the next films will understand George’s ‘verse and to do that you have to understand the man himself. George grew up watching the serials from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. He dreamed of creating complex heroes heading off on wild adventures. His style of film making always intentionally left things up in the air in order for the view to come to his/her own conclusion on things. That’s a big part of why ‘Star Wars’ had endured, because the story is often left up for interpretation fans can spend hours debating things online and are not just left with talking about tiny technical details. ‘Star Wars’ is a film series that you can enjoy as a kid for the pure adventure, then when you watch the films later you realize there’s a lot more going on with the characters and their growth.
Apparently Kathleen Kennedy has taken the initial script treatments that George wrote up years ago for episodes 7-9 and has been actively looking for a script writer to work on them. With Disney now demanding that the first film needs to be ready for release in 2015, the little studio that used to move on George-pace will now have to move at the speed of business. The next two segments will also need to be produced quickly since Disney wants the films to come out 2-3 years apart. There will no longer be artistic creative musings about the film’s direction – they will just need to be made. George always had a unique way of making films that clashed with how modern filmmakers go about their projects. George was very non-linear, he attacked the films and would film sections and shuffle them around and ultimately decide on the final order before final production. Modern filmmakers won’t make films like that, they’ve worked for big studios and know how to crank out modern block busters to meet their requirements. My hope is that LFL will hire someone who truly understands George the man and not just his Universe to make the next films, because I couldn’t think of anything worse than the franchise losing its heart.