Why Disney’s Acquisition of Lucasfilm Offers New Hope to ‘Star Wars’

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After a few days literally in the dark post Hurricane Sandy I logged back online Wednesday to find a perplexing Facebook post. It read; “Leia is officially a Disney Princess.”

Scrolling down my feed I finally got the news; ‘Episode 7 slated for 2015 and More Movies Planned as Disney Buys Lucasfilm.’ As a ravenous fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and other Lucas-fare, my reaction was instant excitement. While many fans are sure to gripe about the merger, I won’t be one of them. Here’s why…

First thing to remember is that Disney has long been known for and focused on the business of children’s entertainment. In fact, Disney has forever been the leader in this narrow yet heavily marketable genre. These notions will likely cause some to jump to the conclusion that Disney will Mickey Mousify Star Wars with adolescent marketing and a cutesy makeover suited to the Disney brand. This is simply not true. In fact, it can be argued that Disney will bring the edge back to the Star Wars franchise.

A huge portion of the net value of the Star Wars franchise comes from the masterful merchandising of the films by Lucas and Lucasfilm. For over three decades Lucas has built up an empire (pun intended) of Star Wars toys, video games, and tie-in products as well as the thousands of comics and books that make up the Expanded Universe. On the merchandising level Star Wars has forever been marketed to children. Where Lucas failed with the prequels however, was in turning much of the focus of the films themselves on pandering to a more kid-friendly audience. This is part of what watered down the prequels for so many fans. There were hints of this with the prevalence of the Ewoks and subsequent Ewok spin-offs post Return of the Jedi as well. Where A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back drew kids in with wonder alone, Lucas eventually softened the franchise with living teddy bears and Jar Jar Binks.

I can’t think of a better company than Disney to bring that wonder back. Look at what they’ve done with Pixar; serious and whimsical themes focused on value rather than demographics. With 2011’s The Muppets they produced an homage to the Muppets of the 70’s and 80’s while simultaneously creating a new generation of Muppet fans. Most notably, look at what Disney has done with Marvel, an acquisition the company made in 2009 for an amount near to the $4.05 billion they paid for Lucasfilm. With Marvel, Disney has introduced an entirely new system of franchise inter-connectivity, a world that encapsulates and crosses over hundreds of titles and characters into one. Disney has evolved the Marvel Universe into just that, a universal cohesion that exists to capitalize on every character, tying one another together through film and television. It’s these connections that excite audiences with familiarity and anticipation and keep them perpetually, even ravenously interested. I hate to use the word capitalize because it sounds so cold, but in essence that’s what corporations like Disney exist to achieve. Unlike other soulless companies however, Disney capitalizes on their audience by knowing what they want and delivering it. Disney respects their audience. Don’t believe me, watch The Avengers.

Star Wars exists in a universe just as large as Marvel’s, with a population of charters just as captivating and diverse. Imagine the possibilities. The Avengers are now crossing over to ABC (also owned by Disney) for the S.H.E.I.L.D. series Avengers director Joss Whedon is spearheading. There have long been talks of a similar live-action series based on some facet of the Star Wars universe as well. Both animated Clone Wars series’ have been great, and more animated Star Wars ventures are sure to come, but a livelier, live-action, adult targeted series could focus on minor characters and planets with even more riveting storytelling. What’s more exciting is that Disney will be bringing fresh blood to write and direct these new shows. What Joss Whedon has done for Marvel a director like Alfonso Cuaron or Neil Blomkamop could do for Star Wars. The possibilities are endless.

The same goes for the newly planned trilogy of films Disney has announced. Episode 7, which will follow Return of the Jedi in the series, has been announced with a release target of 2015. This new trilogy is still a mystery, however, one thing is for certain; Lucas will not be directing. This leaves the field wide open, and opens up a million questions and options Disney has to bring the sequels to life. They can even expand characters from the Star Wars universe into their own film series spinoffs. A Boba Fett movie would be a huge event. I’ll speculate on these possibilities in greater depth for a future story on “Hey You Geeks!!.”

With the Disney/Lucasfilm merger also comes many of Lucasfilm’s other properties. Willow is part of the package. Remember Willow? Not sure what Disney would do, if anything, with the film, but a nicely packaged Blu-ray release would be a good start. Side trivia; Marvel released a comic version of Willow back in 1988. Speaking of Marvel/Lucasfilm connections, the Howard the Duck film, a character originally created by Marvel, was part of the deal as well. Who knows, maybe a Howard the Duck cameo is on the horizon for one of the many Marvel projects currently in the works. Imagine Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon (from the upcoming James Gunn directed/Disney produced Guardians of the Galaxy) and Howard the Duck teaming up for a new short film of some sort. That would be a wonderfully insane mash-up. Indy is part of the deal as well, though a bit limited by Paramount’s stake in the saga. Not sure we need any more Indy films anyways after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nuked the fridge. But some new Indy attractions at the Disney parks would be nice.

That’s the final component of this merger that excites me. I’ve always loved Disney World and look forward to taking my kids there someday soon. There have been tie-ins in the past between Lucas and the Disney parks. These included everything from the Star Tours motion ride, Indiana Jones animatronics rides and stunt shows, Star Wars themed weekends and the Lucas produced, Francis Ford Coppola directed, Michael Jackson starring Captain EO 3D attraction. Now, with complete oversight of the Star Wars brand grows potential for even more ambitious attractions. Universal just recreated the world of Harry Potter for an entire segment of their Florida theme park. It would be great to see Disney do the same, expanding from single attractions to some sort of Star Wars themed land in one of their parks. Devote a huge portion of Epcot Center in Disney World to new Star Wars rides and attractions and turn the parks iconic round Spaceship Earth into a giant Death Star. Disney Imagineers would have a field day with the potential a Star Wars land could bring to the parks. I’ll be the first in line.

In conclusion, the Disney/Lucasfilm merger is an exciting one. Stay tuned to “Hey You Geeks!!” in the coming weeks for more.

Tony

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