Lucasfilm, Disney and the Star Wars Universe
By: Dan Turpin
Edited by: Gerard Baer
Ok, so let’s set the scene. Picture this: October, 2012, fandom is rocked to its very core as news is released that George Lucas decided to sell Star Wars to Disney, and more shock, Lucasfilm’s plans to make a new series of films set after Return of the Jedi, a brand new trilogy plus, spin-offs.
The fact was, George Lucas had actually been talking about it for a long time. But having just gotten married and then having a baby, and being a 70 year-old diabetic, he decided to retire. Time was no longer on his side, so he chose this option rather than devoting another decade of his life to making the movies. Considering how the prequels were unfairly, irrationally, childishly maligned was likely a deciding factor as well. People may wonder why Disney?
I ask Why not?
Disney and Lucas have had a connection since the mid 80’s when he sold off his company that would later become PIXAR and of course the popular collaboration that is Star Tours. But the single most important reason why Lucas chooses Disney was how Disney leaves it’s other companies alone. They leave PIXAR alone. Under the leadership of Bob Iger, who has taken notes from Walt Disney himself, “let the creative people create, let the business people do business.” Disney bought Marvel. And Disney left Marvel alone. Disney owns ESPN. Disney leaves ESPN alone. So, when George Lucas decided his company would be safe to run itself under Iger, he sold the company, turned over his notes for the new films, and he retired. That’s what’s happened. Sounds simple, right?
To get ready for the new films and to cope with Mr. Lucas’ retirement, the entire company had to reorganize around their future projects. New Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy scrapped three planned TV shows (two of them with completed episodes in the can) and then pulled the plug on LucasArts, their in-house video game division, which had been hemorrhaging money for years. Kennedy dismantled it and transitioned it into a licensing arm. A lot of people were let go. Meanwhile, to free up returning writer Lawrence Kasdan and new talent, all of that pre-existing Expanded Universe content was re-branded as “Star Wars Legends”. No books were burned. Nothing was destroyed. It’s all still there. It is just now RE-BRANDED as “Star Wars Legends”.
Well…a small but vocal group of Star Wars fans are having a very hard time acclimating to the idea that Uncle George is gone, and the Expanded Universe novels, comics and all sorts of things are now “legends”, not “canon”. They think someone like Bob Iger spends his time flipping through the Thrawn novels, or old Marvel comics or Splinters of the Mind’s Eye deciding what is “canon” and what isn’t in the Star Wars universe. They post “Star Wars after Disney” GIFS with images of dead bodies on the floor and other such uninformed nonsense.
Let everyone put his or her listening ears on…(pun intended)
Lucasfilm reorganized Lucasfilm to prepare for the new films; it was going to happen with or without the Disney acquisition. LUCASFILM’s president now answers to a corporate body, the head of which is Bob Iger, who largely leaves the division alone to do what they do; they’re going to be responsible for what they do. But it’s still Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm is run by the Kathleen Kennedy, not J.J., or the devil, and NOT Disney.
Smart business decisions killed the Expanded Universe. NOT DISNEY. NOT DISNEY. NOT DISNEY.
Let’s pretend it was up to Disney to kill it, there are plenty of solid reasons why they would, since they wanted more live action movies. The Thrawn stories were never canon. They were always ready to be contradicted or ignored had Lucas got the notion. And he would have ignored them if he went ahead and did the version of Ep 7 as he had planned before selling. But lets stress this; Heir to the Empire could not be made into live action movies now as the cast has aged out. Lets not forget those books were released in 1991. Maybe an option to do them in animated form to keep in line with the Clone Wars style of animation is not an unheard of idea, with the original kids providing their voices and John Williams scoring. I could get behind that perhaps. The same could be done with “Shadows of the Empire.” As for live action, it just isn’t possible.
Secondly, no filmmaker would want to be handcuffed with such a long and twisted contradictory mess the narratives had become. Like the issues with the previously mentioned age issues, the problem is this: where do you start?
In my opinion, it is more soap opera in the style of “Dynasty” than traditional Star Wars. I have enjoyed some of the EU, but as a whole, it lost me with Chewie dying, and those damn Solo brats turning dark as if they caught a social disease. The darkside turning became way too easy crutch for lazy writing. It meant something when Anakin turned, it meant something when Luke was tempted and meant everything with Anakin’s redemption. Instead of creating real, compelling villains with an agenda and personality, they took an established character instead and made him go DARK. Even Luke went dark in some comic stories. It was just written badly.
If you are a Star Wars fan, you need to embrace the new era. Disney is an excellent company with quality control and Lucasfilm’s new head; Kathleen Kenney has a long and impressive resume as producer. She knows how to make big budget quality entertainment and the ignorant anti-Disney crowd needs to do their research before throwing childish fits and making these foolish Facebook pages full of oblivious ignorance and willful stupidity.
These are just my views on this matter. I invite you to come over to The Alliance of Star Wars Fanatics (Click group name to visit!) to discuss this subject with us. Even if you disagree…everyone is welcome!