The Future Of Star Wars At Disney

Originally published November 1st, 2012

“This will be a day long remembered…” — Darth Vader

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.  I fear something terrible has happened.” — Obi Wan Kenobi (And some Star Wars fans)

The news blasted across Twitter like a violent soundwave, leveling everything in its path, and unseating #Sandy as the most talked about topic on the internet.   Disney had bought Star Wars.  Is this the worst possible situation for a franchise with such a passionate fanbase, or is it the best possible future for revitalizing a brand and ensuring its relevance for years to come?   Disney acquiring Star Wars will either be the best thing to happen to the franchise, or the absolute worst, but realize, there was no better time for it to happen.

Every fan of the franchise has their moments that define them as a fan.   For me it comes down to a handful of experiences over the years. I saw all 6 movies in the theater with my dad.   It established a tradition that’s spanned over 30 years.   I remember sitting on the curb of the movie theater with an unhinged anticipation when Return Of The Jedi came out, and I can see my dad holding a cup of coffee, the steam hovering off the top, as we waited for Revenge Of The Sith 22yrs later. I remember that one time a year before VCRs or DVD players when Star Wars was shown on CBS.   (I can still see the swirling motion of the CBS Special logo.)  We all have our handful of memories growing up that get a different perspective as we get older.  I couldn’t wait to sit down and watch the originals with my two girls, and I still smile when I think of Maddy turning to me and saying quite sternly “That’s not true.” when Darth Vader uttered those words “I am your father.” only to have her older sister look at her and say “Yes it is.”   Maddy’s mind was blown.  My daughters still ask to play Star Wars almost daily, and when we went to Disneyland last year, Megan insisted on going on Star Tours 5 times, and spent her own money on a stuffed Ewok that sits on her bed.   It’s those kinds of events and memories that define me as a fan.   So how do I feel about Disney buying Star Wars?  I couldn’t be happier.

Realize where George Lucas has taken the franchise over the last 15 years:  A series of Special Editions that fans generally dislike, and a series of Prequels that are widely panned.   It’s not which of the Prequels did you like best, it’s which one was the lesser of 3 evils?   Since the 1990’s, George Lucas gave us Greedo shooting first.   He’s given us hours of Galactic Senate, a 10yr old boy that destroys starships on accident, a racial stereotype that steps in bantha crap, dialogue that sounded like bad Shakespeare, Mel’s Diner in space, a Jedi Librarian and more.   It makes a lot of fans want to take a step back and yell “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”  (Couldn’t resist.)  Granted, it hasn’t all been bad.   We’ve seen some solid books, some good comics, and a great animated series in the Clone Wars.   But how much of those are in spite of George Lucas?   There are some definite advantages to Disney buying Star Wars, and it starts with direction and creativity.

5 Key Advantages To Moving Star Wars To Disney

  • Filmmakers will kill to make the next set of movies.  Understand there is a legion of filmmakers with a reverence for Star Wars.  Joss Whedon’s Firefly has clear homages to the series, and JJ Abrams loves Star Wars enough that he found a way to sneak R2D2 into the Star Trek reboot.  And what about Brad Bird?  Bird has been a highly successful influencer at Pixar, and helmed the well received Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.  While both Whedon and Abrams are currently attached to projects, there are more waiting in the wings.
  • Creativity.  George Lucas had a hand in every creative decision in the franchise.  If it wasn’t approved, it didn’t happen.  What kind of ideas were turned down because they didn’t fit into Lucas’ vision?  It’s easy to think “Well, if it didn’t fit Lucas’ vision, then should it be in there?” and to that I’d answer YES.  Lucas’ vision has changed over the years.  Now it’s so centered around proving the value of the prequels that it’s pushing projects and development around stuff the fans didn’t like in the first place!  Look at the initial seasons of the Clone Wars compared to now — It seems like there’s been a pretty clear pulling back by Lucas, because the tone of the series has changed a lot the last 2 seasons.  (And for the better!)  What can writers and creators of the franchise do without George Lucas hampering the process?
  • Money.  The prequels made money in spite of what fans thought of them.  George Lucas didn’t care if we liked them or not, he was going to make them the way he wanted because he knew we’d take it and like it.  Let’s face it though, Disney wants to make money.  They saw how awesome the Avengers did and how successful it was because it gave the fans what they wanted, and in doing that made almost a billion dollars at the box office. You don’t think Disney sees Episode VII as a billion dollar movie?  I do.
  • Theme Parks.  We went on Star Tours five times last summer.  It was great, and a load of fun!  But where’s its “world”?  Harry Potter has his at Universal — Will this be the first step towards Star Wars getting its own section of a park?  What kid doesn’t want their picture taken with Darth Vader or Boba Fett?  Disneyland is a haven of princesses targeting young girls, but where’s the focus for boys?  Until now it was Cars and non-Princess Disney characters.  Adding the Star Wars universe to the mix drives Disneyland as an entirely different destination.
  • Originals!  We all want the originals on Blu Ray, but it was pretty unlikely that was ever going to happen with George Lucas because he’s shown a constant resolve around his evolving vision.  Rightly or wrongly, no one was going to change his mind about it.  But go back to point 3: Money.  At some point in the not too distant future, we will get an original re-release of Star Wars.  It may go back in the “Disney Vault” at some point, but we’re going to get it.

There’s a lot to be excited about, but this is hardly the first relationship that Disney and Lucasfilm have had.  Star Tours, the Indiana Jones Adventure, and even the 80’s era Captain E-O were all created in partnership with George Lucas.  The two entities have been partners since the 80’s.   The move makes sense and could be the perfect thing to revitalize a franchise that is on a dangerous path to stagnancy.   Regardless, the deal is happening, so enjoy the next 3 years of speculating what will come next — as for what I want?

3 Quick Things I’d Love To See From Episode VII!

  1. Practical effects!  There isn’t anything I want more than practical effects for Episode VII.  I sat through 3 movies of guys walking without any kind of urgency in front of a green screen for hours on end.  Give me real sets! If I had one complaint about the prequels (besides the story…) it would be that nothing looked real.
  2. Luke.  Just Luke.  The biggest struggle for Episode VII will be in how they make it relevant, while paying respect to the original trilogy.  C3PO and R2 are a certainty, but you need the glue.  Bring in Luke temporarily to bridge the transition between films.  If you stage the movie out far enough, it’s easy to explain that Han and Leia are gone, but HEY look, here are their kids (or whatever).  You can still create a connection w/o overdoing it.  What I don’t want?  Han and Leia sitting in front of a fireplace or something.  We don’t need them.
  3. Retcon?  For non-nerds (who are unlikely to still be reading this article) “retcon” means retroactive continuity.  It’s the way they changed up Peter Parker’s origin in the new Spider-Man movie.  There are few cooler moments in Empire than “No. There is another.”  So how big of a drag was it that the other was Leia?  I’ve always hated that.  Has anyone ever considered that maybe Obi Wan was lying?  (Sure, that’s harder now that the prequels came out, but…)  How cool would it be if we find out that Obi Wan just told Luke “what he needed to hear”?  Luke knowing he had a sister gave him the confidence to confront Vader, knowing that there was another hope for the galaxy if he failed.  Granted, that all unraveled when Vader read his mind, but maybe Obi Wan knew that would happen anyway, keeping the other “safely anonymous”.  Chances of this happening?  Zero percent.  But hey, a fan can dream.

It’s OK to be skeptical.  I understand that Disney is the same company that made Cinderella 2 and Lion King 1-1/2, but that was a different time, and under different leadership.  Disney realizes they have a cash cow in the Star Wars franchise.  Think of Disney as the company that bought Pixar and continues to make engaging, thoughtful, and fun stories.  Think of Disney as the company that bought Marvel comics and helped turn the Avengers into a juggernaut.   By purchasing Star Wars, Disney has secured the chance to keep Star Wars alive into the future for my kids to show their next generation of fans.   (I’m just hoping they’ll take me with them!)  It’s bound to be a fun ride.

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