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Lucas Sells “Star Wars” To Disney

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Victoria Zelvin

In a move that stunned everyone, last Tuesday it was announced that George Lucas would not only be stepping down as chairman of his production company Lucasfilms, but had also sold the movie rights to his much beloved Star Wars franchise to Disney. Bob Iger, CEO of the Disney Corporation, revealed in the same statement that Disney was happy to announce the production of a brand new trilogy of Star Wars movies, the first of which has already been set for release in 2015.

Fans have already heavily weighed in with their reactions. Given that this is such a beloved franchise, there have also been a good deal of overreaction especially from a more negative viewpoint, ranging from numerous “Disney will ruin Star Wars!” tweets to a heavily shared image of three Death Stars forming Mickey Mouse ears. Such strong, exceedingly virulent reactions are the main reason that Lucas cites as his disinterest from personally directing or writing the next trilogy.

“On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie,” Lucas says, referring to the vitriolic wrath of a large segment of fans of the Star Wars movies. “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”

When repeatedly asked if he would want to make another Star Wars film after the conclusion of production on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2004), Lucas added bitterly, “Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

Lucas also defended himself against accusations of lying about making new Star Wars films, referring back to a comment he made some years ago about “there isn’t really any story to tell” after the end of Return of the Jedi (1983). Lucas responded that he wasn’t lying, but just because he wasn’t interested in making more Star Wars movies didn’t mean he was going to let the franchise die.

“I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life, so more people can enjoy them in the future,” Lucas said in a statement.  He says he has handed over a “treasure trove” of intellectual property over to Kathleen Kennedy, the new CEO of Lucasfilm and who shall serve as an executive producer on the new movies. Lucas added: “I get to be a fan now. I sort of look forward to it.”

Some official statements have already come out regarding the new trilogy. Lucas will be staying on as a creative consultant and a producer. Kathleen Kennedy has previously served as co-chair with Lucas and has worked as a producer with Steven Spielberg on essentially every movie he’s made since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Rumors are already flying regarding the content of those story lines Lucas delivered to Kennedy. Will Han, Luke and Leia be back? How far after Return of the Jedi (1983).

There are other concerns on top of the new trilogy set for theaters in 2015. The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been airing on Cartoon Network since 2008 and has been widely considered a commercial success. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement that “the prospects of Star Wars on TV were good” and that he thought it would be a perfect fit for Disney’s own channel, Disney XD, that already airs action oriented shows like Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, TRON: Uprising and Motorcity. 

Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise has been called “a license to print money” by the Atlantic article and the general consensus from the business side of things is that Disney’s move was the smart one. It is a proven franchise with the option to create sequels and numerous other projects. Disney has already pledged another theme park ride on top of their widely successful Star Tours in Hollywood Studio. All in all, the consensus is that Disney shall be able to do a great many things with the Star Wars franchise.

Little discussion, however, has been given as of yet as to the meaning of Disney’s other acquisitions in the deal: Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound. Both studios came about through George Lucas’ desire to get the effects “just right” for the original Star Wars. Both were founded formally after the release of Star Wars (1977), but the groundwork for these very influential houses came about for the movie.

The number of films that ILM has worked on since its inception are too numerous to count. Just to give an idea, here is a brief list of the influential movies that ILM has worked on: all the Indiana Jones, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars and Marvel Studios movies since Iron Man, the Jurassic Park movies, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), War of the Worlds (2005), the Men in Black films, most of the Mission Impossible series, Star Trek II-VIII, Star Trek (2011) and Star Trek (2013).

ILM is also responsible for many of the innovative milestones in the VFX community. Their innovations range from the first motion control camera (Star Wars, 1977), the first completely computer-generated sequence (Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, 1982), the first completely computer generated character (Young Sherlock Holmes, 1985), first complex and realistic computer generated living creature (Jurassic Park, 1993), first computer generated character to have human anatomy (The Mummy, 1999) and an innovative iMocap system (Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest, 2006).

For their work, ILM has earned a career of 15 Best Visual Effects Oscars, with 23 additional Oscar nominations.

Skywalker Sound has a similar pedigree. With a somewhat small staff, Skywalker Sound has been home to just as many innovations as ILM and has worked on just as many movies, if not more, that ILM has. Pioneers in sound mixing, collectively Skywalker Sound has earned 18 Oscars for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, with dozens of more nominations.

Bob Iger said in a statement that despite the acquisition, it was to be “business as usual for ILM and Skywalker Sound.” Given the high number of independent work that both ILM and Skywalker Sound do for numerous production houses, Disney has added another lucrative

revenue stream to their already massive empire. ILM and Skywalker Sound are proven pioneers in their own individual industries, hold numerous patents for inventions and continually prove themselves as major players in their respective fields.

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas as part of the announcement Tuesday. “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. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Star Wars: Episode VII is set for release in 2015.

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