Disney is buying George Lucas’s studio empire LucasFilm for $4.05 billion dollars, according to breaking news reports. Disney also announced that it has scheduled a new, seventh live-action Star Wars film for 2015. The film will be the first of a new trilogy with installments expected every three years or so.
Although Lucas will have no active role in the Star Wars film, he will retain a “Creative Consultant” credit on the project. As he stated in the press release making the announcement –
For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas. “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.
There are precious few other details at this time and to be honest, I am having a bit of a problem processing this news, so out of the blue that it is. Keep checking back for updated information as this develops.
UPDATE: It appears that the deal will also include Disney gaining control of the Indiana Jones franchise, Skywalker Sound and the Industrial Light and Magic special effects company. CNBC is quoting Disney’s Bob Iger as stating that they are “unqiuely positioned to make the most” out of the acquisition.
CNBC is also reporting that the studio and Lucas had been discussing a possible merger for years, but those talks only began in earnest in the last year.
It should be noted that back in June, Lucas appointed longtime producer Kathleen Kennedy as co-chair of the company. She will continue with company, now in the position of president of Lucasfilm, reporting directly to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.
Given that discussions have been going on for a while, I would not be surprised if Disney already has a writer and director lined up for the Star Wars: Episode 7 gig. Hopefully there will be an announcement soon.
Unless there is some contract clause that we are unaware of yet, with Disney now owning the Indiana Jones franchise as well, perhaps Spielberg can make a final Indy picture without having to deal with the type of suggestions that Lucas insisted on that many felt harmed the recent Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
2nd UPDATE: Here is the text of Disney chief Bob Iger’s email to Disney employees about the merger –
Dear Fellow Employee,
I am very pleased to announce The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. and its world-class portfolio of creative content — including the legendary Star Wars franchise — along with all of its operating businesses, including Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound.
Star Wars is clearly one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with hundreds of millions of fans around the globe. Its universe of more than 17,000 characters inhabiting several thousand planets spanning 20,000 years offers infinite inspiration and opportunities to continue the epic Star Wars saga.
A new feature film, Star Wars Episode 7, is expected to open in theaters worldwide in 2015. Kathleen Kennedy, the filmmaker George Lucas handpicked as his successor, will be the executive producer with George serving as creative consultant. Kathy will also join Disney as President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and leading us forward on all things Star Wars.
George Lucas is a visionary, an innovator and an epic storyteller, and we are deeply honored that he has entrusted the future of his extraordinary creative legacy to Disney. We have a great relationship with George and his Lucasfilm team that goes back a long way — with Star Wars- and Indiana Jones-themed attractions in our parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo. We see great potential for these franchises across our entire company — from consumer products, television, games, theme parks and beyond.
Lucasfilm fits perfectly with Disney’s strategic priorities. It’s a great source of branded, high-quality content with true global appeal that is well suited for new business models, especially digital platforms, and will benefit a number of our businesses. Adding Lucasfilm to our powerful portfolio of content brands — along with Disney, Pixar, Marvel, ESPN and ABC — gives us even more ways to serve consumers with incredible entertainment experiences and to create long-term value for our shareholders.
We’re obviously very excited about this acquisition. We believe we can do great things with these amazing assets, and we can’t wait to get started. Please join me in welcoming Lucasfilm to the Disney family.
3rd UPDATE:Word is coming out from the investors conference call that followed the announcement that an “extensive and detailed treatment” for the new trilogy has been completed and is in “the early stages of development.” Still no mention of who the creatives might be.
Twentieth Century Fox will still retain distribution rights to the original and prequel trilogies but Disney will distribute all new movies going forward.
I know that it would be great if Disney kept to the traditional Memorial Day weekend release date for their announced Episode VII, but that would put it just a few weeks after the release of The Avengers 2 and I would think that the studio would want to give that film as much space as possible to allow that film to replicate the same box office success it had this past summer.
Also, no word as to what this would mean for the in-development Star Wars live action television series, although that was originally set up at ABC, which is owned by Disney, so who knows?
4th UPDATE: It’s beginning to sound as if Lucas has penned the aforementioned treatment (see second video below) there is also talk from Kennedy that she is meeting with a couple of writers and “and we’re starting to discuss what those stories might be.” It sounds as if Lucas, in the form of “creative consultant” has given his ideas but that Kennedy may be free to use or ignore them as she sees fit.
And while not a direct answer to my question above about the Star Wars live action television series, Deadline does quote Iger on the conference call as saying –
We love the fact that this will take its place in our live-action strategy as a known and loved brand. We really like Star Wars’ potential on TV, and [Disney owned cable outlet] Disney XD would be a great home for that.
Finally, here are two videos that have been released concerning the announcement. The first is Disney’s official announcement –
And the second is Lucas talking about the deal –