Is the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney a random progression in the world of entertainment? Not really, argues Tracy Nyhan, Entertainment editor.
Disney is buying Lucasfilm, the company behind the Star Wars franchise, for $4.05 billion which is marginally more than what they spent on Marvel ($4 billion). Considering the success of The Avengers (which grossed $1.5 billion), it seems like the price tag could potentially pay off just as quickly. Lucasfilm is also the production company behind the Indiana Jones franchise, and fantasy films Willow and Labyrinth.
Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011.
Is this a sign of clever business or timidity on Disney’s behalf? Investing in something that is almost certainly going to work instead of trying something new and untested? Both, actually. Michael Corty of Morning Star said Disney’s deal was clearly part of a pattern in buying new franchises; “Pixar was the first big one, then Marvel, and now this one here,” he said. George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm, had this to say about the situation; “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. 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.”
Lucas, famous for making movies that have garnered astonishing success and influence throughout the world also made a movie similar to a Disney film in the 1970s when Disney was struggling to gain a steady audience.
Disney enjoyed gargantuan success in the 1930s and in the 1950s but by the 70s they were struggling to connect to a regular, traditional audience. Movies during this time, for example The Rescuers, Basil the Great Mouse Detective were slated as not living up to the same standard as previous Disney films. Film historian and senior lecturer at University of East Anglia in London, Peter Kramer, has extensively researched the relationship between Lucas, Disney and Spielberg. He has noticed that Lucas and Spielberg (with whom Lucas collaborated) gained their massive success by addressing Disney’s target audience with a string of new adventure movies suitable for entire families. In fact, American newspaper Variety refers to ET (Spielberg) as “the greatest Disney movie Disney never made”). As we all know, Disney excelled again in the 1980s, taking an example from the success of Lucas. Based on this, there is an interesting history between the both businesses that suggests a tension and, arguably, inevitability that Disney would eventually take over their competition in Lucasfilm.
It has also been argued that Disney, acquiring Star Wars (and the other productions that come with Lucasfilm) represents an opportunity to further extend its demographic reach to target male consumers of all ages. It would be wrong to state that girls like princesses and fairies and boys like cars and soldiers, but it may have influenced Disney’s decision in taking over Star Wars. Disney has enjoyed massive success with their merchandise based on princesses and fairies from their movies but haven’t had the same success in the male market. Of course, they produced Cars (Pixar) merchandise which sold very well, but that success pretty much stands alone thus far. Disney’s purchase of Pixar and Marvel may suggest their desire to target a wider male audience which will then ensure that they have a much wider demographic appeal.
It’s an interesting move that has the potential to be a great success for Disney. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the new Star Wars film planned for release in 2015. Whether it will be received well or slated is still to be seen. Only time will tell.
Deputy Entertainment Editor Jack Broughan questions whether the series has bottomed out.
By now you’ve probably heard the news, either through half heated moaning Facebook status updates or through angry blogs penned by Star Wars fans the world over. Disney has added Star Wars to its latest list of acquisitions, buying the franchise for four point five billion dollars and securing a tidy retirement fund. Unsurprisingly the fan backlash to the news was swift as it was cringe worthy, claims of a slew of new horrible new movies, speculations on how Disney will dumb down the franchise or even possible weird crossovers between Disney’s intellectual properties. Regardless of how the new buy out will affect Star Wars; it’s been no secret that the franchise has been dying a slow death for a very long time.
Jar Jar Binks – Perhaps one of the most out of place and biggest targets for fan ire is Binks. While it may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, Binks is a character I’m sure nobody over the age of ten years enjoyed in the Star Wars films. At best an unfunny comedic sidekick to whichever character he appears in a scene with Bink’s slapstick humour is not only completely unfunny but Bink’s whole demeanour offends me. His walk, the fact that he speaks in Ebonics and seems to be some sort of intergalactic Steven Fetchit comes a little too lazy racial caricature.
Awkward re-edits – For a long time I thought the usual chorus of complaints about Lucas remastering and rereleasing the first trilogy as ridiculous. Lucas of course had hit upon a canny marketing scheme and a method of shoving his now fifteen year old films back on to the market and driving up sales in a way few other film franchises can. To me it seemed like an albeit clumsy but somewhat noble task, touching up special effects in order to stay the march of time against an ageing but loved collection of films. When I actually sat down and watched a few however it was clear that Lucas wasn’t just touching up the glow of lightsabers or easing out the creases in Uncle Ben’s forehead. One scene in particular is burned into my brain for decades to come. In Star Wars episode IV it seems Lucas cobbled together a new scene in which Han is confronted by Jabba the Hut outside of the Millennium Falcon. While Han’s movements may be used from scenes from the original shoot, Jabba’s CGI’D form looks absolutely awful, almost as if somebody had edited the scene in Windows movie maker.
Han Shot First – No whine about how George Lucas has been killing Star Wars would be complete without this, an issue that’s close to my heart, hence me capitalising each word. Han is confronted in the first film by a bounty hunter named Greedo. Greedo presumably has cornered Han in the attempts to wrangle a sum of money out of him that had been owed to Han’s former employer; Jabba the Hutt. A tense conversation ensues and mid-way through Han, shoots Greedo from under the table. In later re-edits Lucas has decided to change the encounter so that Greedo shoots at Han first forcing his hand to kill his assailant. While Lucas cites his reasons as attempting to portray Han in a more positive sense the reedit crushes a long held fan interpretation of Han Solo as the morally ambiguous anti-hero of the film. On top of that the whole notion of anybody missing from such range is completely ludicrous. Perhaps as ludicrous as my assertion that I wouldn’t have missed shooting a smuggler with a laser gun in a science fiction galaxy that was concocted in the seventies.
Regardless of my bitter fan rants, it’s clear that the series has long overstayed its welcome in the hands of Lucas. Perhaps new funding and a new writing and directing might take the series in an altogether positive direction. Whatever the Disney acquisition may mean for Star Wars, it can’t be much worse than what Lucas may have had planned.