Leia is the newest Disney princess. Goofy could replace Jar Jar Binks. And Mickey will surely wield a mean lightsaber. The Force is strong with that mouse.
It was as if a million Star Wars fans suddenly cried out in terror Tuesday, with the surprise announcement that entertainment titan Disney is in the process of buying Star Wars creator George Lucas’s production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., along with rights to the vast galaxy of Star Wars films, merchandise and other spin-offs. The cost of the deal was pegged at $4.05 billion US.
Blowing fans’ minds further, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger announced Disney’s plans to release a new live-action Star Wars film every two to three years, beginning with Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. “We have a pretty extensive treatment of the next three movies,” Iger told a conference call of analysts and journalists late Tuesday afternoon.
And what of George Lucas himself, who announced his retirement from movies in June? “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Lucas said in a statement. “I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”
As social media erupted with what’s surely geekdom’s biggest news story of 2012, some bemoaned the deal as the beginning of the end for Star Wars.
Not so. In fact, this is possibly the best thing to happen to Star Wars since Lucas let his friend Irvin Kershner handle directorial duties on 1980′s The Empire Strikes Back. With all due respect to the man who created these pop culture touchstones, any new Star Wars movie not written or directed by Lucas has to be a good thing. The scars from the prequel trilogy – particularly 1999′s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, with its wooden performances, leaden dialogue and the awfulness that is Jar Jar Binks – are still fresh after all these years.
On Twitter, geek queen Felicia Day summed it up in a point echoed by many calmer heads: “Every awesome creative person in Hollywood would love to work on something new (related to) Star Wars,” she tweeted. “So this could be a great thing.”
A Star Wars movie directed by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, who is already firmly in the Disney/Marvel fold? Or by Brad Bird, who helmed Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Pixar’s awesome The Incredibles? Based, perhaps, on some of the beloved (and non-Lucas) Star Wars novels and spinoffs? A fan can dream.
Iger said new Star Wars TV shows, theme park attractions and video games are also likely. Lucas’s Indiana Jones franchise now falls under Disney’s domain as well, but Iger said for the time being the focus will be on expanding the Star Wars saga and not a new Indy movie.
When Disney dropped $7.2 billion US on Pixar in 2006 and acquired comic book giant Marvel for $4.2 billion US in 2009, there were similar qualms from fans of each company. But Toy Story 3 and that little The Avengers flick seemed to turn out OK.
Fear leads to anger, as Yoda would say, and there’s nothing to fear with this deal. Time will tell how it all plays out, but Disney and Star Wars could be the best partnership since Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Steve Tilley, The Toronto Sun