Disney just entered into an agreement to purchase Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. The plan is to make Star Wars Episode 7, which is currently slated for release in 2015. And that's just the beginning. Some fanboys might groan, but if you love Star Wars, this is exciting!
According to the deal, Disney is acquiring the whole Lucasfilm shebang from George Lucas, who still owns 100-percent of the company. In addition to massive properties like Star Wars, Disney will also get Lucasfilm's hugely profitable film technology and marketing companies including Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound.
Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm. She'll report directly to Walt Disney Studios chief Alan Horn. Kennedy, who was apparently "hand-picked" by Lucas, will executive produce the new Star Wars films. George Lucas will remain a "creative consultant" on the projects.
Yes, we said films. Many films. This deal is all about Star Wars and the unstoppable juggernaut that it is. Disney's plans extend far beyond Episode 7. From Disney CEO and Chairman Robert A. Iger's prepared remarks to investors on a call today:
In 2015, we're planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 – the first feature film under the "Disney-Lucasfilm" brand. That will be followed by Episodes 8 and 9 – and our long-term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years.
In other words, as with the acquisition of Pixar in 2006 and Marvel in 2009 before, Disney wants to leverage the brand for its cultural capital, and cash in on Star Wars. It's already a massive multi-film franchise with lunch boxes, neckties, and toys. But it could be so much more.
And that's where this deal starts to get pretty exciting. A lot of hardcore Star Wars fans are going to see all the negatives right away. This is very lame, they'll say, because, you know, Disney. Disney is colossally uncool. But consider how well Toy Story 3 and the Avengers turned out. They were freaking awesome. Disney's track record in recent years has been impeccable.
Now, think about what George Lucas has done in recent years to our beloved Star Wars franchise. It's been nothing but stagnant rehashing. We don't need a new Blu-ray of The Return of the Jedi. We need something huge and impressive. Lucas just wasn't capable of it any more, but maybe Disney is. At least here, we've got a chance for a Star Wars movie wrenched free of George Lucas' hubris.
Lucas' words from the release ooze the resignation of a man who knows he did his best work long ago:
It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. 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.
Plus, Iger hints at a Star Wars theme park material? Can we suggest a TIE fighter roller coaster, please? Now we're talking. [Disney]