What The Disney Acquisition Of Lucasfilm Actually Means: One ‘Star Wars’ Geek’s Analysis
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced”¦”
Several Star Wars fans may have felt this way or even recalled the above quote with the announcement on October 30 that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm, and were proceeding forward with the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy commencing with the release of Episode VII in 2015. Some may have even had strokes. The news was initially perceived to be a possible joke by many fans, and I’m sure many pondered whether it was actually April Fool’s Day and not Halloween.
In spite of this, the news is very real, and the new Disney Lucasfilm (is that actually a name now?) is steaming ahead with upcoming and current projects.
Following the breaking of the news, I followed the link to the Disney Investors Conference Call to listen in on the full sordid details on the acquisition. It was a bizarre experience; I felt like I was eavesdropping on the Empire in some kind of twisted livestreaming Space Watergate, but it was incredibly informative.
Since then, I’ve got many thoughts and theories and opinions on this massive purchase by Disney, and while I’m going to go through them on the latest Social Blend podcast, I wanted to put fingers to keyboard here at Geeks Of Doom.
The Sequel Trilogy: I Was Right
The principal item I want to get out of the way is the bragging rights. I’ve persisted in asserting the opinion that one day there would be a Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, that it was inevitable. People called me crazy. “George Lucas does not want to do another one,” they’d say. Or they’d point to the numerous times Lucas had said the story was now complete (more on that little chestnut in a different article) and that I was wrong and I was nuts for advocating this position.
I can finally say to all of those people: you were wrong, you silly little neckbearded jackasses.
I’ve lost count of how many times I pointed out that Lucas had also flip-flopped on the concept of doing other Star Wars movies before the Prequels were released, or the mind-numbingly obvious profit from further movies that could be made.
I mentioned my standpoint on this many times on the Social Blend podcast, and nearly a decade ago had a complete section of my Shadow Of The Sith site (now defunct) obsessively dedicated to the Sequel Trilogy. You can see some of the material at The Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, which was captured in 2003. It was a geeky OCD I held in the pre-WordPress days of the interwebs.
Consequently I’d like to take this opportunity to lift the middle finger to the naysayers, say “fuck you” and do my Star Wars happy dance.
Righto, gloating over, we move on.
What This Acquisition Actually Is All About
From one bold (but accurate) call to a new one, nobody has really questioned specifically WHY this acquisition took place. I’m not criticizing the purchase, but very rarely are huge financial decisions made like this without reason or motive. And at the same time as the motivation for Disney is clearly revenue, for George Lucas there seems to be all quiet on the Skywalker Ranch perch.
Lucas scored big time in 1976 when the movie studios thought Star Wars had no chance, and he asked for the licensing rights for his quaint space opera. Over 35 years later, he had retained those rights the entire time.
So, why the hell would you sell now?
The authoritative word from the Disney exec’s in the investor conference call is that George Lucas has, and has had, his eyes on retirement for some time now. But this explanation doesn’t add up to me. I’m sure there are plenty of entrepreneurs who retired but conserved their hold on specific rights. I’m afraid, my friends, that my theory as to why Lucas sold his company to Disney is rather sad, morbid, and negative.
I think and believe that George Lucas is in all probability, dying.
This is perhaps the only logical reasoning behind Lucas resolving to make this decision right now. He’s had the rights for nearly 40 years, why give them up now? Something changed, that’s why – and I don’t think it was retirement. With an impending “best before” date, Lucas could have (and has had) time to choose the company that would deal with Lucasfilm the best way possible after his passing. He also gets to contribute as an advisor for the early and pre-production of Star Wars Episode VII to ensure his vision of the Star Wars universe is positioned on a good course.
In many ways, it would make sense from a legal perspective that Lucas makes these decisions now, rather than have Star Wars rights and Lucasfilm ownership tied up in legal arguments after his passing. Not only has he got the chance to send his baby, Star Wars, on its way with Disney, but he also gets a $4 billion inheritance for his children. That’s no chump change right there.
You might think I’m somewhat disturbed or fucked up or melancholic to be thinking this way, but on a lower-financial tier, I’ve seen this kind of behavior and decision-making process in another person before: my mother, who was diagnosed with cancer in late 2003. She died in 2005, but during the entirety of 2004 while undergoing treatment, she was able to plan in incremental stages where and what she wanted to happen to her property.
She was able to find closure on a lot of different things, and seeing this deal between Disney and Lucasfilm just reminds me so much of someone making arrangements for their ownerships before their passing. There’s nothing really morbid about it, it is simply a practical approach – and many others who have dealt with family members and friends dying from cancer will agree with me here.
In this manner, George has his say on what happens to Star Wars before his passing – as opposed to clinging onto the rights before his death which would be followed by all kinds of legal ownership bullshit. Lucas gets the last laugh: he can assure that Star Wars is in the good hands of a company that has done an exceptional job at managing “classics.”
This is my bold call, and I’m sticking to it.
The Expanded Universe May Now Become An “Alternative” Universe
While eavesdropping in on the Disney Investors conference call announcing the acquisition of Lucasfilm, I noticed that emphasis was being made on two major areas: movies and toys. Video games were mentioned briefly, but the two foremost areas the Disney head honchos were salivating over were the upcoming films and the ownership of toy merchandising rights. Arguably these are the two areas that must cause financial boners during board meetings.
There was unquestionably no attention spent on the Expanded Universe of comic books, novels, graphic novels, and so on. In fact, I wonder how Dark Horse is pondering this new ownership of Lucasfilm now, particularly with no mention of how the transaction was going to affect them in the long run.
Being a Star Wars EU nut as well, I was a little uneasy by this. Add in to the mix that Disney have already started early production on Episode VII, and the script and production will be based upon a treatment evolved by George Lucas between 1977 and 2012. OK, so I’m a little more than uneasy – I’m unreasonably petrified that my obsessions with Grand Admiral Thrawn and Prince Xizor and the Yuuzahn Vong Invasion will now amount to nothing more than glorified fan fiction written by authors paid to put the stories out there.
Maybe this isn’t the case, but in a realistic situation, what this means is that Lucas does not have to shadow the continuity established by the Expanded Universe. Hardcore continuity nerds call this material “non-canon” – meaning that it may not have any bearing on the “canon” content released as Star Wars movies.
In completely different hands, being Disney, there is entirely no emphasis or need for them to want to follow the Expanded Universe continuity. Why would they care about continuity? They still can’t explain how Goofy and Pluto are both dogs for crying out loud. In fact, if you compare this with their other acquisition, Marvel, you might see a parallel I’m driving at here”¦
Marvel Movies have their own continuity – while the animated shows, comics, books, games, and all else are not dependent on that film continuity; and neither are the films dependent on the other media.
I am guessing there’s a good chance we might see this happen with Star Wars media as well.
Conversely, one of the executives did mention during the investor conference call that the Star Wars stories and universe span a fictional timeline of “over 20,000 years.” Maybe, just maybe, they might adhere to the whole continuity. But they’re certainly not obligated to do so. I’m crossing my fingers and legs that they stick with it though.
Principally, this acquisition is good news for Star Wars fans. It means we get more Star Wars films and the ongoing life of the franchise is assured by being in the hands of Disney. They have a precedent for working well with Lucas (Star Tours as one example), and some people forget that Disney’s Pixar property originated in Lucasfilm’s hands as well.
Above and beyond that, while fans had reservations about the Marvel acquisition in 2009, take a look at how that property has progressed since that time. Captain America and Thor did exceptionally well in 2011, and look at what Joss Whedon achieved with The Avengers this year!
While some fans will be thrilled with the forthcoming Star Wars content, the purists who poke with the “Original Trilogy Only” mentality will see nothing good in this today and in years to come as well. In spite of this, like I’ve told the purists before in the past, they’re wrong. They’ve always been wrong.
Because taken as a whole, Star Wars will be in good hands with Disney.