In case you had not heard, Disney just acquired Lucasfilm for enough money to bailout a small-medium bank, announced that they would be working on Episode VII – and the Interwebs erupted with a million NOOOOOOOOOOOOS.
Allow me to play the devil’s advocate for a moment. A couple of years ago I was at a seminar in which the lead counsel for Disney Japan gave a very interesting speech. Most of it involved the need to be clear and precise in professional communications, it also touched on intellectual property issues and a range of other topics. I went to the seminar in a bad mood and had prepared myself a range of questions designed to throw Disney Esquire through a few loops – but he won me over and it ended up being a good deal more interesting than I had anticipated. One of the things he brought up is the absolutely massive scope of Disney.
When we hear the name “Disney”, we think of the likes of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, hardly fitting company for Lord Vader – but Disney runs far wider and deeper than their countless saccharine-sweet cartoon characters and the company has made some clever acquisitions in the past that have led to some pretty good movies.
In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Studios, since then the company has put out Thor, Kick-Ass, Iron Man 2, Captain America and The Avengers – along with a number of less memorable titles. The company has proven that it can maintain a hands-off approach when it comes to content creation, why would things be any different with Lucasfilm? While we like to think that Star Wars is a little bit deeper and deals with more grown-up themes, the truth is that the heart and soul of the franchise was traded for toy revenues with Return of the Jedi. Han was supposed to die at the end and the popularity of the Ewoks is more than likely responsible for the grating character of Jar-Jar Binks.
The point is this: it would seem that George Lucas traded his creative integrity for a sackful of money a long, long time ago. With Jedi, the franchise was on the precipice, Lucas compromised and it paid off financially – but we were left with something far lighter and with much less impact. Let me set this straight, George Lucas made some fantastic movies – his first few were good enough to get people lining up for the disappointments that followed. He created some memorable characters but he really seemed to lose direction after the original trilogy – having someone else calling the shots could be what it takes to get things back on track.