If you’re like me, then you felt a disturbance in the Force yesterday right around the time it was announced Disney had purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. If you’re not like me then most likely you read about it online (what can I say, the Force is strong with me).
Following the news was a cavalcade of responses from geeks combing the outer rim of cyberspace. Their comments filled with more heat than a summer on Tatooine. Their fear? Disney buying Lucasfilm and essentially the Star Wars mythology could only mean one thing…Mickey Mouse in space.
Admittedly, I was one of these people. Having been subjected to the ‘Disney Channel’ programming because of my kids, one could only shudder in fear at the potential for a Disney-fied Star Wars. But fear leads to anger. And anger leads to hate. And hate leads to snarky Tweets and irrational Facebook posts.
I’m not worried about Disney buying Star Wars. I don’t believe the Mouse will harm this franchise and neither should other fans think that. Now holster that DL-44 heavy blaster mister and I’ll explain.
First I should explain my credentials. I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember. Since I was 2 at the time of the Episode IV’s release, it was sometime in the early 80’s. Like any good fan, I shun the prequels, I think Han shot first; Empire is by far the best movie, I’m willing to look past a little incest for the sake of story progression, have met and had a conversation with Peter Mayhew (right behind seeing my kids being born on my ‘Greatest Things to Happen to Me’ list), and sleep on Star Wars pillow cases. One might say I, like so many other geeks, have a vested interest in this.
So why do I think the Star Wars universe is going to be ok?
Right now, some of the companies owned by Disney: Marvel, ESPN, Pixar, ABC, SOAPnet, History Channel, Buena Vista Records, Touchstone, and 277 radio stations. Not to mention the parks, the Disney Channel, and more than likely a warehouse full of unsold Hannah Montana merchandise. What has Disney done with all of their acquisitions? If you look past shows like Cavemen, ABC is worth approximately $3.5 billion to Disney and makes up a measly 5% of their stock price. Pixar movies have earned over $7 billion combined worldwide and continue to crank out hits. ESPN has net profits over $600 million. There have been no talks of letting the Zach and Cody from ‘Suite Life’ anchor SportsCenter and there has been nothing about covering less sporting events (although less Chris Berman would be welcomed). Marvel just had a $1.5 billion summer with the Avengers. They are planning Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Captain American 2 in the coming months. Disney has no plans on sitting in on the Marvel Bullpen nor did they have anything to do with Spiderman ‘Brand New Day’. What should this tell fans? Disney knows when to stay out of the way.
With their Lucasfilm purchase, that’s what they are doing. The Mouse has no plans on replacing anyone at Lucasfilm. George Lucas will stay on until his retirement then co-chair, Kathleen Kennedy, will take over just like he had always planned. There is no reason to believe any of the 1700 employees at Lucasfilm will lose their job. Stability is a good thing and should tell fans Disney isn’t interested in putting their stamp on the Star Wars legend as much as they are interested in putting simply adding their logo and the profits from Star Wars in to their portfolio.
They are proactive. As news was announced, Disney was announcing a release date for a new film. Seeing the job George Lucas did with the prequels, I would argue, with the same conviction I argue that Han shot first, a Disney owned Lucasfilm will make better movies than Lucas has made recently. First, George Lucas’ influence will be in a consultant role and not the petulant child who no one would dare say ‘that sucks’ to. Secondly, the list of directors for a new Star Wars movie will most likely be longer than an Imperial Destroyer. It is exactly what is needed for this franchise. A new vision, while staying true to the established mythology, could re-energize a fan base still sore, like they went 10 rounds with a Rancor, from the prequel trilogy.
Star Wars fans will watch anything (guaranteed you’ve watched the Christmas Special on youtube). Combined, the prequels made over a billion dollars. Episode 3 is in the Top 10 All-Time grossing films. Every time Lucas re-released the originals they made money. Fanboys and girls may have hated changes in the re-releases and the prequels but they sure weren’t shy about coming out from their parents’ basement and going to see these films. That’s because, as fans, we want to see Star Wars on the big screen. We are willing to spend our money and will do so again in 2015.
If there is one thing Disney does better than anything else, it’s merchandising. Short of having Donald Duck on a pack of Marlboro’s, Disney will put their owned images on anything. Is any fan upset about seeing more crap made in China with Lightsabers attached to it?
Lucasfilm (and George Lucas who is sole owner of Lucasfilm) earned $215 million dollars in Star Wars revenue last year. Disney no doubt has plans on pushing that total up somewhere north of what it would cost to heat the Death Star.
Do you know how much source material is out there that could be used for the next round of movies, Most of it not involving Ewoks, Gungans, or George Lucas? The Star Wars Expanded Universe will give potential writers plenty of ideas to gather ideas from (so hopefully we can avoid gaping inconsistencies from the stories) for fans to enjoy.
The point is, regardless of being owned by Disney, Disney doesn’t want to influence already established franchises, be it sports, computer animated movies, 4th ranked television networks, superheroes, or sweeping space sagas. Disney wants to make money. Paying $4 billion dollars for the rights to Lucasfilm and specifically the Star Wars franchise only to dip their hands in the Bacta-Tank and mess it up would make no sense.
Star Wars fans need to rejoice. Expect Disney to license Star Wars merchandise most of us will all go out and spend too much for, to add new rides to their parks we’ll all wait too long in line for, and to make movies most of us will camp out in line, dressed as Tusken Raiders or Bobba Fett, for days in advance to get tickets for. A new era is coming to Star Wars. So for now, have a little faith. We can handle the onslaught of images of Disney characters dressed as Star Wars characters and May the Force be with all of us.