Yesterday afternoon my cell phone was buzzing with so many texts one after the other that I sort of felt like I was a character on The West Wing after some geopolitical crisis has just occurred. Thankfully it was nothing as serious as all that, but in geek terms, the day's events were probably just as momentous.
The entertainment story of the day -- and probably the week -- is that the Walt Disney Company got one step further in its eventual goal of owning every piece of intellectual property ever created by gobbling up the entirety of George Lucas' Lucasfilm, lock, stock, and barrel-shaped robot.
This is news I honestly never expected to hear because it just never even occurred to me that Lucas would ever want to walk away from the massive, multimillion-dollar empire he created in '77. But I guess the thought of retiring with a nice nest egg for him and his family while leaving the day-to-day grind of maintaining his properties to other, more interested parties has been on his mind for a while, and this acquisition, sung to tune of a cool $4.05 billion, will surely give him that security -- and then some.
Whatever the whys-and-wherefores, the big picture result of this deal is that, in addition to now owning ILM, LucasArts, Skywalker Sound, etc., Disney controls the destinies of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones brands forever and always, effective immediately. Indeed, it's right there in the initial press release that the first thing they have on tap with their shiny new toy is to bring the Star Wars movie series roaring back to life after we all assumed it was over and done with in '05, with a new trilogy consisting of episodes VII, VIII, and IX due to begin unspooling at your local cineplex in three short years (in 3D, natch).
As far as my own thoughts about this, it's hard to know what to feel, to be honest. Initially, and purely reflexively, I viewed the news of an impending Star Wars sequel with an arched brow, with visions of Disney riding the franchise into irrelevance like the Pirates of the Carribean flicks dancing in my brain. Like or dislike the prequels, the story was complete. Let's just leave it alone and let it stand. But then it occurred to me that it might well be the best thing possible for the Star Wars brand to let it breathe, building on the foundation that Lucas built while benefitting from the creative input of other voices. So that initial skepticism turned into, if not anticipation, at least optimism.
However, while I've had plenty to say about how Lucas mismanaged his brands, I do have to admit feeling a little sadness that his entire legacy -- the greatest independent filmmaking operation in history -- is now subsumed as another appendage of the Disney monster. From a purely nostalgic standpoint, I can't imagine a Star Wars unspooling on the big screen without the Fox logo (and Alfred Newman's iconic fanfare) in front of it. But if the Marvel and Pixar product under the Disney umbrella proves anything, it's that the Mouse House knows when to get out of its own way and let its creatives create.
There are a whole lot of questions that people are understandably going to have about the Disney-Lucas merger, such as what this means for Indiana Jones, the future of the (excellent) Clone Wars animated show, and the way forward for the various Star Wars licensees, but I'm sure plenty more information will emerge in the days and weeks ahead (look for an in-depth discussion with the Mr. Boy gang about this topic in next week's MovieFilm show). For now though, all we need to know is that in 2015, the Star Wars saga continues. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type.
Check out the vid of Lucas discussing the sale below:
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