In an incredibly surprising move, Disney announced early Oct. 30 that they would be purchasing Lucasfilm in its entirety for $4 billion in cash and stock. Through its purchase Disney will own the main Lucasfilm production company, post-processing subsidiaries Skywalker Sound and Industrial Lights & Magic,video game publisher LucasArts, and the full rights to the Star Wars franchise.
Though the deal does not include the rights to Indiana Jones, which is still held up at Paramount Pictures, or rights to previous Lucas properties like THX, the buyout is undoubtedly massive. Though Disney parks have always featured some Lucas influence in the form of attractions and their annual Star Wars Weekends events, purchasing the company in whole is a major step for the House of Mouse.
However, it’s undoubtedly a good one.
Most people have been fairly disappointed with the Star Wars franchise since the mid-90s. From the many changes to the original trilogy to the many faults of the new one, it seemed that the once beloved series was soon going to die. Though there were a few shining releases in the realm of novels, video games, and animation, very few captured mainstream attention and none of them made up for the tragic fall of the films themselves.
Disney, on the other hand, has been getting consistently more favorable with both fans and critics alike. As a company, Disney is like a roller-coaster, moving from peaks to valleys and back up to peaks throughout the course of a decade or two. Their last big peak, the “Disney Renaissance” era of films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, ended in the ’90s and, similar to Star Wars, the House of Mouse began having critical and commercial issues in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
The difference, however, is that Disney knows how to get a company and a franchise out of a slump. In 2006 Disney purchased Pixar Animation Studios and brought Pixar head John Lasseter over to Disney to begin, as expected, working toward another company peak. And, with the success of their Marvel acquisition, new animated hits like Tangled, the successful rebooting of old franchises like Tron, and their revived success in the direct-to-video and home releases market through Disney Fairies and Blu-Ray Diamond Editions, the Walt Disney company is undoubtedly at their latest peak.
With the announcement of their purchase and their other major announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars films, starting with the planned release of Star Wars Episode VII in 2015, Disney isn’t saying that they want to change the essence of Star Wars. Though there will undoubtedly be some fun crossovers and spin-offs between franchises, Disney didn’t purchase the biggest sci-fi franchise in history just so they could change it.
They purchased Star Wars to capitalize it.
Disney has never been the best at making franchises aimed at anyone other than young kids. Though their movies are usually enjoyable by all, many transcending the label of “kids movie,” they are still seen as the “family company” due to their great ability to capture the hearts of kids from a very young age.
Save for Pirates of the Caribbean and the surprising resilience of Tron, most of the company’s attempts to make properties based on things other than fairy tales and children’s literature have failed. Just look at their recent flops in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and John Carter.
However they’ve always had major success when given other popular franchises to work with. And what better franchise to work with than one that not only has a huge merchandise-purchasing fanbase, but that they’ve also had success with before?
Disney purchasing Lucasfilm is great for Star Wars not because they intend to change a lot but, rather, because they intend to cut out some broken parts. To start, the deal will remove George Lucas from his leading role and, instead, open it up to new writers, directors, and creative visionaries.
Though Lucas will still be involved, Disney has opened the door for people who truly love Star Wars, those who grew up with it and are now reaching high positions in their chosen fields, to fix the series they care so much about. It’s the first time Star Wars fans will have control over the main franchise and that’s a very positive thing.
Almost as importantly, however, is that this purchase gives Star Wars a more diverse environment to be produced in. The greatest fault of Lucasfilm is that, aside from post-production work, almost everything they make relates to Star Wars in some way. And, while that works well for a while, eventually it leads to stagnation, lack of creative energy, and laziness. Lucasfilm has become a sloth because it only gets to do one thing.
Star Wars is about to get creative again thanks to its deal and, throughout the next decade, we should see a rejuvenation of the galaxy far, far way like we’ve never seen before. Though some of Star Wars more questionable choices (like creating more kid-oriented characters a la Jar Jar Binks) will be repeated, they will be done much better and will be supplemented by great new ideas and concepts.
Star Wars will be better off for this deal. Now the only question remaining is what Disney will purchase next. Will the work out a deal to reclaim the rights to Indiana Jones? Will they snap up long-time partners like game developer Square Enix (Kingdom Hearts)? Or will they go for something completely out of the ballpark, like Nintendo (Mario would fit in well with Mickey, after all)?
No matter what happens next, though, the fact of the matter is that Disney will soon own an even larger portion of your favorite media than they do now. And, if they treat what they purchase the same way they treated Marvel, we should see some great results come out of it.
And even if they fail, it can’t get any worse than the prequels, right? Right?
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