What to Expect from Disney’s New Star Wars

They're used to the Jedi Order, the Dark Lords of the Sith and the Galactic Empire... but how will 'Star Wars' deal with the House of Mouse?

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LUCASFILM / 20TH CENTURY FOX

It was maybe the only thing that could have stopped the Internet talking about Superstorm Sandy: After more than three decades, George Lucas is stepping back from control of the Jedi, with the Walt Disney Company purchasing Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in cash and stock, the companies announced Tuesday. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, Disney announced that a new Star Wars movie would open in 2015, and — even more! — it would serve as the start of a new series of movies, with an installment planned for every two or three years.

In the press release accompanying the news, Lucas is quoted as saying that “it’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers,” adding that he’s “always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me” and that “it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.” Although he will act as a creative consultant on the new series, the filmmaker will hand over caretaking duties on the franchise to Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm’s current co-chairman, who will become President of Lucasfilm and Star Wars “brand management” under the new Disney ownership. According to Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger on an investor call late Tuesday afternoon, Lucas has signaled his “intention to retire” following the sale of the company.

On that same investor call, Disney’s Senior Executive Vice President and CFO Jay Rasulo said that the importance of Star Wars to Disney couldn’t be overstated, explaining that “[Disney's] valuation of the Lucasfilm acquisition is almost entirely driven by the Star Wars franchise,” and adding that the Indiana Jones franchise didn’t really factor into Disney’s interest in Lucasfilm as a property (Reportedly, Paramount Pictures retains distribution rights to any future movies featuring the character, despite the sale). Iger underscored that, telling investors that “We expect the Star Wars franchise to provide us a stream of revenue across all platforms for the years to come.”

(MORE: Disney Buying ‘Star Wars’ Maker Lucasfilm)

In order to do that, Disney will have to essentially re-activate Star Wars. Despite the movie series’ popularity — this year’s 3-D re-release of Episode I – The Phantom Menace made $43,456,382 in U.S. theaters alone — there hasn’t been a new live-action Star Wars movie since 2005, with the franchise being kept alive via comic books and the animated Clone Wars series aimed at children.

Perhaps worryingly for fans, both of these are now at risk as a result of the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm: The Clone Wars currently airs on Cartoon Network, owned by Disney competitor Warner Bros., while the comic books are published by Dark Horse Comics, a competitor of Disney’s Marvel Comics. Iger told investors on Tuesday that he thinks that Disney XD would be “a great home” for Star Wars television shows, signaling either an end, or possibly just a network shift, for The Clone Wars, while Dark Horse President Mike Richardson released a statement yesterday that said that, although the franchise “will be with us for the near future…we’ll all have to see what [the Disney acquisition] means for the future,” suggesting that Marvel Comics may reclaim the Star Wars license for the first time in 20 years.

(MORE: The Best Twitter Reactions to the Star Wars News)

According to Iger, 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII is already in active development; he told investors that Disney has “a lengthy treatment that we feel really good about,” although he avoided mentioning any plot details, or naming any creative talent involved in the project. That last point will likely be extremely important for both the core fan base and the wider potential audience. Who is in charge of the project will likely decide whether a new Star Wars is the runaway success of a Marvel’s The Avengers or a box office disappointment that ends up entirely grounding a fan-favorite property like 2010’s Tron Legacy or this year’s John Carter.

This isn’t the first time Disney and Lucas have partnered, of course; the Star Tours ride has been a mainstay at Disney theme parks since 1987, and the parks have also hosted annual Star Wars Weekends since 1997, complete with Disney characters dressed in Star Wars outfits. The acquisition of Lucasfilm continues what appears to be an unusually regular habit of buying out partners or competition on behalf of Disney, coming three years after the company acquired Marvel Entertainment, which itself happened three years after the company’s purchase of Pixar. Clearly, hot media companies looking for a massive one-off payday have three years to work themselves into Disney’s sights before the next spending spree. The rest of us can spend that time wondering whether or not Star Wars: Episode VII will mean a team-up between the Ewoks and the Gungans—just in case it makes for a better theme park experience down the line.

MORE: Star Wars Exhibit Comes to the Louvre

18 comments
Darksider
Darksider

About the THE CLONE WARS being aimed at children?

Mr. McMillan, are you out of your mind?

Have you ever watched it?

It is has a very high level of violence.

And it is in no danger. Season 6 is already in the bag, and will most likely air on Disney XD next autumn. If it not, it does it's complete run on Cartoon Network. Season 6 or 7 is most likely it's final one as Dave Filoni said this past summer that the series is already in the second half of the war.

No one is insane enough to cancel this show.

mchristi
mchristi

Thanks for the article. However, the title is misleading: it tells us nothing about "What to Expect from Disney’s New Star Wars."

Darksider
Darksider

@mchristi That is because they don't know. But hits mean advertising revenue?

CharlesFarris
CharlesFarris

OK, if Disney wanted to start right, it would ditch JarJar Binks, a supremely annoying character with murky, if not questionable cultural references.  Then I would ditch the eugenicist storyline of Lucas' last three Star Wars movies and get back to the spiritual framework, the first three movies built the franchise on.  Seriously, between Binks, the Master Race ethic, and the slaughter of child Jedis the last movie ended with, I won't let my kids see the last three movies although they are BIG Star Wars fans and they have seen the three previous ones multiple times.

yat282
yat282

7? Like in the future? After episode 6?!? I really hope that it doesn't suck, because this could be very interesting.

TrajanSaldana
TrajanSaldana

Disney huh...hope it's not all Ewoks and JarJar Binks for "family" time

JessicaLohse
JessicaLohse like.author.displayName 1 Like

I hope if they make the new one that it starts over, continuing beyond the original trilogy and completely ignoring the prequels and everything they contained. As films alone they did not stand on their own feet. They stood on their fanbase at first until they were too embarrassed to be associated with it anymore. Gungans were annoying, Jedi were as common as muck, racism was out of control in the stereotypical characters and their choices of racial accents.. Neimoidians & Watto, for example. It's really not going to end well for Disney if this is made like the prequels. Get the original producers, DoP, and directors from a New Hope back or learn from their success. Make it about the characters we care about. The actors are old now, can't we see them again? Or maybe their children?

I'd really like to see Mara Jade kick some butt.

I don't look forward to plastic Disney characters and lame storylines we've seen before. What about entertainment? Who needs political messages? I cringe to think of how they will use this opportunity to expand the franchise for another generation as if the previous attempts at the CG animated series and spin-offs were even any good. If Disney doesn't want the next generation to hate Star Wars, they will treat the audience more intelligently than in the past and not try to sell them a plastic plateful of indigestible regurge.

Darksider
Darksider

@JessicaLohse There will be no "starting over" and the story and characters will be Lucas' creations, not anyone else's - like Timothy Zahn (great story - but really? Mara Jade is so one dimensional that she has to kill a Luke clone just to fulfill the last command? And years later Luke marries her "just because"!!!

jbojet
jbojet like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Music by John Williams

PaulRustad
PaulRustad like.author.displayName 1 Like

Well now that Disney has control, you will have a gay jedi adopting an autistic waif, while both are worried about Galactic Warming..and everyone will have to pay their 'fair share' to make Tattooine a better place to hide from the Evil People. .the movie will be designed by committee and a new ride will open yearly at the Resorts where you will be badgered by countless CGI characters in a car that bounces.....

GrahamIngles
GrahamIngles

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU that is all

RyanLivingston
RyanLivingston

Well VII can't possibly be any worse than the prequels...

kctobyjoe
kctobyjoe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I remember reading in TIME magazine decades ago that George *planned* 9 films; Thank GOD I wil be alive to see the next three

Then in 2025 or so a NEW 9 disc blu ray Star Wars 'definitive' box set!!!

I do NOTunderstand why the article pans TRON:Legacy; it was a GOOD film; too bad 'we' canot say the same for John Carter...what a TURKEY!!!

I think Disney will 'protect' the franchise in it's creative take over

Darksider
Darksider

@kctobyjoe I agree with everything but the John Carter bashing as I haven't seen it ;)

kctobyjoe
kctobyjoe

@Darksider IF you get a chance then reply back; I sat as a captive audience on a 5 hr bus trip; it appeared there were story holes but a raucous bus full of 'adults' forget it!

JimH69
JimH69 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@kctobyjoe Couldn't agree more about TRON:Legacy, Toby.  While I can see how younger audiences may have been turned off by Jeff Bridges "zen-hippy-hacker" portrayal of Flynn, the visuals, musical energy, and overall story made for a good film.

Darksider
Darksider

@JimH69 @kctobyjoe I brought a "young audience" - they thought Bridges was awesome.