Since the announcement of this incredibly surprising acquisition, there’s no doubt you’ve been privy to a proverbial onslaught of opinions courtesy of the internet. Fan boys and girls the world over will be debating whether or not Disney will handle the franchise with their best interests in mind, all the way up until the midnight release. While I have my reservations on both sides, I do ultimately think that this is great news for fans.
Here’s five reasons why.
1. George Lucas won’t direct
I think we can all agree that George Lucas is a sub-par director, as well as an abysmal writer. I find it extremely hard to be upset about this new development when it means that we won’t have to suffer through cheese ball romantic dialogue like the stuff spewed from Anakin and Padme in Episode II. The fact is that Lucas works best when he’s surrounded by other creative minds. Looking back at the original trilogy, Lucas only wrote and directed A New Hope. Both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi had different directors, not to mention people helping him with the script. Unfortunately, the prequels were made in a vacuum of his own ideas and “yes” men, with little to no collaboration with other professionals. With the new films, Lucas will become a consultant of sorts, limiting his decision power extensively. So now, we have a treasure trove of extremely talented directors and writers chomping at the bit to be a part of these movies.
2. Lucasfilm is still alive
Many fans have been claiming that Disney will “ruin” Star Wars. However the only arguments for this claim I’ve seen are based on narrow-minded assumptions that Disney makes nothing but kids movies. These people are ignoring what Disney, as a company, has become in recent years. The perfect example to illustrate this point is how Disney has owned Marvel Entertainment since 2009. Did you enjoy The Avengers? Of course you did. Disney let’s President of Production Kevin Feige run Marvel and handle all of the movies. While Disney obviously has a hand in the production of the movies, their basic role is to give Marvel money and let them churn out the best entertainment they can. Disney kept the creative minds behind Marvel when they bought the company because it makes sense. Would you tear apart a company and rebuild it, when you bought it because it was successful? No. The Lucasfilm acquisition is almost no different (not to mention it was almost the same amount of money). Lucasfilm, ILM, Lucasarts, etc. are for the moment still completely intact.
3. The Expanded Universe
Over the years, the Star Wars franchise has continued to tell the story it started in the original trilogy through novels, comics, and video games. The day after the announcement of the buyout,it was stated that the new film will be based on an original story, likely taken from the script outlines Lucas himself has devised for episodes VII, VIII and IX. However, it has been stated that the entirety of the expanded universe will be at the disposal of Disney, Lucasfilm, and the writers they choose to hire for these new movies. Understandably, fans are concerned that the plot they have been following through other forms of media will be quashed by this new trilogy. I’m a huge fan of the novels and comics that have come into existence over the years, but I don’t consider this turn of events to be the apocalypse some fans see it to be. As attached as we are to some of these stories, we all want the best movie possible. The best way to accomplish that is to pick great ideas from the entire expanded universe. I also doubt that the stories we’ve grown attached to over the years will be snuffed out completely. While we’ll likely have to wait for more info on the subject, I think the logical thing to do would be to continue producing the novels and comics and consider it an alternate timeline. There’s also the question of when in the chronology the new films will take place. If any of the original actors end up returning, or if tid bits gleaned from Lucas’ treatments over the years are to be believed, we can expect a 30 to 40 (or more) year jump since the end of Return of the Jedi to match with the ages of the actors today. Speaking of the actors…
4. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher knew about VII, VIII and IX
The day after the announcement, it was made known that both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were appraised of the plan to make the new films in August of last year. This is a pretty serious piece of information, because it insinuates that these stars will be involved in the new films, possibly even as actors. Harrison Ford has been silent as of right now, but this has been pretty expected since the star has been as vocal as possible over the years about distancing himself from the franchise.
5. Kathleen Kennedy is kind of awesome
Earlier in the year, George Lucas named Producer Kathleen Kennedy to be Co-Chair of Lucasfilm. This basically means that she was being groomed to be his successor, so someone can take over when he retires. Kennedy has been a producer on a slew of incredible classic films, including a large amount of Steven Spielberg’s movies over the years. She’s certainly got the resume to back herself up. As a huge Star Wars fan, I won’t deny that I feel a bit apprehensive about a new trilogy. Like other fans, Star Wars is important to me. But we all knew that the franchise wasn’t going to lay down and die anytime soon. We knew there would eventually be more movies, and Disney and Lucas making it possible for a whole new generation of filmmakers to take a shot at these stories has me unbelievably excited for the future.
Here is a response on Reddit from a user that was at Disney’s investor call. What do you think?
I sat in on the investor call this morning and took some notes on the Q&A session:
No George Lucas on call. ILM, Skywalker sound and LucasArts all included in deal. Brand compatibility and mutual understanding of iconic characters and protecting/leveraging brand to create value. 2015 Star Wars Episode 7, first feature under Lucas/Disney. Episode 8 and 9 also planned. New Star Wars film should be expected every two to three years. Talking about Pixar and Marvel acquisitions, integrated business structure. CFO says only Disney can create value from Lucas IP (including Indiana Jones and Star Wars) but only care about SW. More breadth and depth of Star Wars content domestically, and using Disney’s distribution to take it global. Parks and resorts, games and TV big focus for Disney expansion of LucasArts. Interestingly enough, they valued LucasArts at the same as Marvel, but based the LucasArts valuation on just Star Wars alone, any extra content is a bonus. LucasArts has 17,000 characters to utilize.
Questions from audience:
- How does Marvel acquisition compare to LucasArts? Marvel was way better at global distribution and had better licensing and shelfspace.
- How much did Marvel acquisition make you? No details announced. Value-creating for shareholders. Share price compared to pro-forma has been positive. Feel equally strong about LucasArts.
- Recurring library revenue from LucasArts? Can’t reveal breakdown. A quarter of Lucas Films revenue is from their film library, the rest is other licensing deals.
- Any other movies from Lucas? Nope, concentration on just Star Wars. Extensive and detailed treatment for the next trilogy. 2015 for Episode 7, 8 and 9 in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
- Doubling down on film while home entertainment is going down. What opportunities for parks? Box office own has grown exponentially. All good. Being conservative in this purchase. 4 parks, 2 recently redone, incorporate more Star Wars into parks, build on Asian parks. Star Wars #2 franchise in the world by Forbes. “Sci Fi Fantasy” and “Super Hero” franchises under disney control.
- What Star Wars films come in lieu of at Disney? What happens to Marvel? Pixar? Concerns about saturation? Strategy has been 1-2 Marvel films a year, 1 Pixar film a year, 1 Disney animated per year, a couple live action tent poles with 2017 Star Wars being one of those. No huge extra investment in film. Better to invest in sequel to Star Wars than a brand new IP, known quantity, easier ROI.
- Annual Consumer Product Licensing – $215M per year, confirm? Confirmed for 2012
- Projections for future film $? Erred on conservative side. Considering no SW film since 2005, most revenue calculated from future exploitation of SW film franchise.
- Dilutives, single digit EPS and accretives, share buyback in 2 years. Does that include buyback? Single digit drop in EPS caused by dilutives. Accretives are caused by buyback.
- All those revenue projections, were they for 2005 when the last movie was made? No, for calendar year 2012.
- $2 Billion of stock being issued, $100 Billion outstanding. Why is that only single digit change to EPS? Amortization of intangibles and deferred revenue around licensing. Net income impacts different. Transaction and restructure costs also offset OI.
- Do you get ALL characters, unlike Marvel where some characters were precluded? There are very little incumberances. Some distribution incumberances with Fox and previous movies, and Paramount incumberances with Indiana Jones. Fewer incumberances than we had with Marvel.
- Congrats! You’re risking the wrath of the entire Internet! What are you doing with ILM? Let it remain as is. They do work for multiple studios, no change. Does decent business, every intention of staying in.
- How much did 3D revenue differential affect 3D strategy? Can’t compare recent movies to old ones. Adjusted actual BO to inflation with international BO today, relative to old ones. Adjusted prominence of 3D to tent pole films and revenue stream. Total value of past three films = $1.5B. 40% of BO comes from 3D releases for tent pole films.
- Interactive, social gaming? Lucas seems good, what is strategy around that? Social vs console gaming. Focus more on social and mobile instead of console. Licensing property vs developing. Based on story telling and characters.
- Anything personally going on GL and why he’s selling out now? (lol) No words in George’s mouth. About 4-5 years ago, he started contemplating a form of retiring, he put that in process. Identified Kathleen kennedy to run company. Started discussing with Disney 1.5 years ago. He will serve as consultant, doing consulting now on the basic development for next SW film trilogy starting 2015. He intends to retire.
- Indiana Jones – Does Paramount require exit fees? Disney didn’t ascribe any values to IJ because of encumberances. Not factored into acquisition.
- Acquiring Marvel filled void for boys IP. Disney had princesses and fairies. Does SW further fill that boys IP licensing void. Gives good footprint, never looked at boys vs girls for shelfspace. Just look for great IP. Just happy to build on SW. Want to increase Boys IP for TV more than anything as seen with Disney XD and Marvel shows.
- Distribution deal. If Fox has distro rights, how will that change with new deal? No distribution rights for future films. When bought Marvel, Fox still had rights to some future film distribution.
- What kind of production costs assumed for new SW films? Too premature.