Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The House of Mouse and Lucasfilm: Some Initial Thoughts

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, "You don't have Lucas to kick around any more."

Out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened yesterday: George Lucas sold...well, sold everything to Disney. Lucasfilm (including Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises), Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, etc...all now under the Disney banner.

In the released videos, everyone's saying all the right things: how Disney is the right home for Star Wars, how they know brand management, how much respect they have for the franchise, etc. I'm sure it's all true, but when I see George Lucas himself talking about the sale, I can't help but feel a pang of sadness. Not too sad, mind you, since he is personally $4.05 billion wealthier today, but still a bit sad. You can almost see the resignation in his face. You can feel that he gave up. Yes, he's sticking around as creative consultant, already having worked on treatments for future movies but that's more of an honorary title. It's not the same.

Whether it was the past 15 years of bashing from the public (since the release of the special editions, he's been the object of scorn), or perhaps it was the tepid reception of "Red Tails" that pushed him into abdicating his empire. Whatever the reason, from a purely artistic point of view, it must hurt to sign over your baby like that.

More Movies
But on to the positive news: more Star Wars movies. But is this a positive thing? It all depends, of course, on who shepherds all this. Some people are thrilled at the acquisition, pointing to how Disney steered the Marvel movies into a cohesive universe, enjoyed by the masses. But you can also point to the Pirates of the Caribbean films to cite Disney returning too often to the well of a franchise that wore out its welcome. If we think Lucas milked SW, just wait until Disney gets their hands on it. The only difference is that Lucas exhausted existing material, while Disney will surely abuse SW by pumping out new content at an alarming rate.

We'll find out in 2015 when Episode VII comes out, something unthinkable for decades. Not since 1983 did fans have hopes of seeing Luke and the gang back on the big screen. While Carrie Fisher is looking more Jabba than Leia these days, and Harrison Ford has repeatedly said he wouldn't reprise the Han Solo role, I'm hoping Mark Hamill is brought back as an aged, wise Luke Skywalker. That would be totally boss.

And the great granddaddy of all SW questions: Will Disney finally be able to circumvent Lucas and put out blu-rays of the original, unaltered trilogy???

More TV?
Disney's head honcho suggested that SW TV projects will air on Disney XD. So what does this mean for The Clone Wars, which currently airs on Cartoon Network, a Warner Bros channel? Will it continue airing there or move over to Disney XD? Or will they simple cancel it altogether, like when Disney cancelled "The Spectacular Spider-Man" cartoon upon their acquisition of Marvel a few years back?

What of the new SW animated comedy coming up, "Star Wars Detours"? Will that be on Disney XD? But more importantly, let's turn our attention to the Star Wars live-action series in development, of which 50 scripts have already been written? Does Disney now possess the financial muscle to get this sure-to-be expensive show off the ground? I sure hope so, and I sure hope it doesn't air on Disney XD! ABC would be nice...

Outside of A Long Time Ago...
There are countless other questions floating around, chief among them: what about Indiana Jones? Disney now owns that franchise, as well. Since they seem so gung-ho on putting out a new SW movie every 2 years, I wonder whether they'll try to rush out at least one more Indy movie. Indiana Jones isn't SW, though: it requires Harrison Ford or it just doesn't work. I mean, how else can they make new entries in that franchise? They can't do Young Indy again. Maybe an animated series? Who knows...

What becomes of Lucasfilm Animation? Disney already owns Pixar (itself a former Lucasfilm company...everything comes full circle). Will the two companies merge? Will Lucasfilm Animation shut down? They're doing pretty nice work on The Clone Wars, it would be a shame to see them go out of business.

Finally, LucasArts is part of the deal also. I just hope somebody at Disney realizes that there is a pent-up demand for old-style point 'n click adventure games that LucasArts excelled at 15-20 years ago, as well as space simulations. The recent crowd-funded success of Chris Roberts's "Star Citizen" is ample evidence of that.

Returning to the Galaxy Far, Far Away The Internet is already awash in haters, now upset at Lucas for selling out. The guy is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. (Aside: Stupid only half the SW movies are pretty good. So what? Less than half the Star Trek movies are good, or James Bond, for that matter, and yet they don't receive the same hatred...)

For rational Star Wars fans, though, this is the biggest news since the announcement of the prequel trilogy. Hell, it's not only huge in SW circles but in the entertainment industry as a whole. We're getting more SW movies, and soon! Rejoice! Not only episodes 7, 8 and 9, but other movies outside that scope are coming. The possibilities are endless. Let's just hope they hire the right creative minds to put out some quality stuff.