Galactic merger: Disney buys Star Wars, your childhood

BY ERIN MOYER ’16
Staff Writer

Droid Story. Lilo & Sith. Bambi Wan Kenobi. No, these are not real movies, and yes, David, this is real life. But a recent announcement has called both of those answers — as well as, if the Internet is to be believed, the very fibers of our existence — once more into question.

On Thursday, the Walt Disney Company agreed to buy George Lucas’ production company, Lucasfilm, in a $4.05 billion deal that is half-cash, half-stock, and all-rights-to-Star-Wars-forfeiting. What’s more, Disney also announced the good folks in Burbank have already entered brainstorming, or, rather, “imagineering” stages in producing Star Wars: Episode Seven, slated to premiere in 2015. Another two films are also foretold to follow, according to The Associated Press, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 already in progress, and then “one new movie every two or three years to follow after that.” I know, I know. The same people who once made John Carter are sitting around on the West Coast hashing out Star Wars: Episode 9. Please, take a moment.

Both the content of the upcoming films, as well as what role Lucas will play in them, seem to each be up for grabs at this point. In a recent interview, Lucas claimed to have a “treasure trove” of fresh ideas for the series, including the framework for Episode 7, 8, and 9, and thoughts concerning “a bunch of other movies.” This is all probably not meant to sound menacing.

But whether these gems are the ideas that will eventually be featured in — God help us all — Episode 9, could hinge on Lucas’ degree of involvement, which itself could hinge on how charitable Disney seems to be feeling. Though Lucas himself had said he will stay on as a “creative consultant,” Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger told analysts in a conference call this past Wednesday that Lucas “intended to retire.” Whoops. In his latest interview, sure enough, Lucas meekly told his interviewer he’ll just be happy to be “a fan” now, perhaps forgetting that Star Wars fans rarely seem to be happy.

Though traumatic for some, the merger is not so shocking to all. After all, the Star Wars franchise is still a (surprisingly) lucrative game. Its retail sales alone have topped a whopping $25 billion.

Think how many action figures that covers.

Disney also seems to have, moreover, a penchant for buying our fondest childhood memories, from its 2009 acquisition of Marvel Entertainment for yet another cool $4 billion, to its 2006 purchase of Pixar Animation Studios for a slightly warmer $7.4 billion. So perhaps Lucasfilm is just fulfilling its true place on the path unwinding, in the Circle of Life (to borrow from something else Disney owns) of fun, family entertainment: being bought out by the House of Mouse.

As dire as that sounds, surely there are worse fates than this for our franchise. Hey, if nothing else, this merger could really enhance Disney Land/World. This seems a pretty meager silver lining, sure, but if that golf ball in Epcot ever becomes the Death Star, I will not be complaining. And oh, the mashups ahead! Think of the mashups! The Avengers could take on the Empire! Chewbacca could star in Steamboat Wookiee! Darth Vader could finally have that sitcom we’ve all been dying for: That’s So Vader, anyone?

Some fans have stopped sobbing into their wookiee-themed throw pillows long enough to speak out in cautious optimism over the films, as well. Den of Geek editor Simon Brew told CNN the series was truly at “its purest point of potential” in quite some time, due in large part to Lucas’, um, “retirement.” Brew felt that, by focusing much more on the business of Star Wars rather than the integrity of Star Wars, Lucas “cheapened” the series.

Perhaps now, free from Lucas’ money-grubbing grip, the series can flourish again, and come back better than ever. Perhaps the Disney name will not be as damning as it sounds; after all, look what the studio managed to do with The Avengers this summer. Perhaps the franchise will achieve lift-off, and we won’t be stuck telling our kids about those movies that defined our popular culture a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

All to do now is hunker down with fingers crossed and lightsabers lit in hopes that, for both Disney and this beloved franchise, the hits—much like the pun-tastic mashups between the two worlds — will keep coming. Until 2015, then, may the Force be with you.

Questions? Email Erin at emoyer1@fandm.edu.

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