[Opinion] - What Happens Now That Disney Owns LucasFilm

The big news this week, not just in nerd circles, but in business and film-industry circles as well, is something you at this point already know: George Lucas sold his 100% interest in LucasFilm to Disney for $4.05 billion. Anytime anyone buys anything for that much money, everyone is going to hear about it. It marks the third big purchase Disney has made in the past five years, after their acquisitions of Pixar ($7.4 billion) and Marvel ($4 billion nearly even), both of which have proven very profitable for the House of Mouse.

And obviously, the sale of LucasFilm means that Disney now owns Star Wars. In fact, it was out and out stated by Disney's Bob Iger that the whole logic behind the purchase, and the size of the purchase, was based entirely on the Star Wars franchise and merchandising (in part because Star Wars is the only property LucasFilm holds the rights to exclusively).

So, what does this mean for the future of LucasFilm? After the jump, we'll look at some certainties and some possibilities, and some maybe hopefullies.
Certain: Star Wars Sequels

It might surprise some readers (and not at all surprise others) that despite my recent efforts to make Return of the Jedi better, I'm not actually that big of a Star Wars fan. I respect the original film, and enjoy Empire. That is about it. So the announcement that Disney intends to make a seventh Star Wars film by 2015, and another every two years doesn't really faze me. I don't experience an immediate gut reaction to the news like others. But it is happening.

Does there really need to be another Star Wars film? Setting it far before, or far after the originals will certainly place the films where established characters won't be expected to appear (I doubt all the money in the world would get Harrison Ford back into the role of Han Solo), but is there a story that is worth telling? The answer is, sadly, it doesn't matter. Disney is being remarkably honest about this: they don't care. They just want the money. It's refreshing, and maybe that honesty will translate to the film. Maybe, in the interests of making money, they'll put a concerted effort into making the film the best it can be, in an effort to improve fan opinion. Of course, this is the same company that drove the Pirates series straight into the ground in the interest of profit.

The upside, and the best possible outcome to more Star Wars films, is the lack of Lucas' involvement. Earlier in the year, when Lucas was on The Daily Show, he seemed almost passive when discussing Star Wars, a complete change from his usual attitude. Now, the series, if it must continue, can without the obsessive micromanaging that caused the series to suffer in the first place. Lucas, rather then moving on after the success of Star Wars, became obsessed with it. The constant working and reworking of the original films shows signs of someone who simply was unable to let go, to move on, and let a thing stand on its own. This obsession manifested itself in the prequels, which act as nothing more then unnecessary exposition and explanation to elements from the original films. They weren't their own films, they were prefaces and appendixes to the original films. Keep in mind, the best film in the series (Empire) and the best Extended Universe materials (Clone Wars, The Thrwan trilogy I'm told) are the ones that had very little input from George. And remember that the best long living franchises (Star Trek, James Bond, Alien) are the ones that shed their original creators in exchange for fresh ideas.

A new series of films, with George filling the role currently occupied by Stan Lee in the Marvel films (none at all, except as fan service), have a chance to escape that obsessive repetitive cycle that led to a strict adherence that everything within the extended universe, across all medium, be in canon and non-contradictory.

Possible: Star Wars TV Series

The chances of the long promised Star Wars: Underworld TV series getting made any time soon are still slim. But, most of what was holding that series up was the cost. The size of the series that George envisioned meant that the technology wasn't cheap enough/exists to use on a smaller scale and regular basis. The key to that excuse is "that George envisioned." It isn't George's show anymore. Disney, if they are inclined to develop the series, will in all likelihood scale it down, make it manageable. Disney, for the sake of the revenues, and not because of an artistic vision, would make the series happen.

Hopeful: No Indiana Jones 5/Yes To Animated Series

The rights to the Indiana Jones series are held in partnership with Paramount Studios, a company Disney has already had bad dealings with due to their acquisition of the Marvel properties. That, and the Jones movies don't generate nearly as much revenue as Star Wars. These two things, more then anything else, means that Disney is currently cold to the idea of continuing the series with another film, to my pleasure. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the ginger step-child of the Jones series, and I'm certainly will only be remembered for its mediocrity. I didn't ask for a fourth film, and I don't want a fifth. And that looks to be the way things will remain.

What this deal might make more likely is the creation of an Indiana Jones animated series, like the one that artist and animator Patrick Schoenmaker developed on his own. Disney has a lot of experience (and the resources) with animation, and owns many networks and speciality channels on which to broadcast such a series. Add to that the critical and commercial success of the Clone Wars series, and Disney might be convinced that continuing the adventures of Dr. Jones as a cartoon is the wiser, and cheaper, choice.

Unlikely: Howard The Duck Reboot

Because Lucas became obsessed with Star Wars, it became the primary output and focus of his entire company. Skywalker Sound, Skywalker Ranch, books, games, action figures, etc. But people forget that LucasFilms, especially in the eighties, and using the profits off the original two Star Wars films, produced a hand full of other features, in cooperation with other companies. These include Willow, starring Val Kilmer; Labyrinth (with Jim Henson), starring David Bowie; and the infamous flop, Howard the Duck. While the movie was a co-production, Disney now owns the LucasFilm percentage of rights, as well as Marvel comics, where the character originated. And while it is extremely unlikely that Howard will every reappear on film again, Disney at least has that option.

Certain: My Opinion Of George Lucas Improving

While I may not respect George Lucas as an artist, after the announcement of this deal, I could respect him as a businessman. He was offered a fair deal, and took it, putting aside nearly forty years of personal involvement in an obviously deeply held personal project, and stepped away. And then, a day after the deal was announced, came someting that I feel is more news worthy then anything else mentioned: Lucas is giving all of the money away.

He is already wealthy; he has to be. Being the sole stock holder in LucasFilm, plus revenues which Disney estimated at $4.4 billion from Star Wars along, means that Lucas has money. And this deal gave him much more money. Money he doesn't need, or want. So, in accordance with his Giving Pledge agreement, the following appeared in the Hollywood Reporter:
"By the end of the year, the $4.05 billion sale of Lucasfilm to Disney should be finalised. And since George Lucas owns 100 percent of his company - which has little to no debt - all that money goes to him. After that, Lucas plans to quickly put the bulk of the money into a foundation which will primarily focus on educational issues, a spokesperson for Lucasfilm tells THR. "George Lucas has expressed his intention, in the event the deal closes, to donate the majority of the proceeds to his philanthropic endeavours."
"For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company," Lucas said in a statement Wednesday. "As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy."

The spokesperson noted that this "announcement continues a commitment that Lucas made in 2010 to The Giving Pledge where he stated, "I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future--and the first step begins with social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt--as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.'"
Well done sir. Whatever mistakes you may have made as a writer and a director, you haven't made any a human being. And for that, I respect you.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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