Escapism: The Komplicated Relationship Between #StarWars and Disney [@hannibaltabu]

Komplicated: Escapism

“This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi, and will soon see the end of the rebellion.”

On a day when the nation’s eyes were focused on a storm battered east coast, a single headline snatched the attention of genre fans, financial analysts, entertainment industry pundits and children everywhere:

Disney to Buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 Billion; New ‘Star Wars’ Movie in the Works

“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, chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm, in a statement. “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. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

On one hand, lightsabers ignited with the red glow of fanboy rage. More Jar Jar, more Ewoks. The company that brought The Song of the South to silver screens had their hands on Lando and Mace Windu. Horrified fans imagined a superdeformed Darth Vader dancing on Disney XD, or images of … well … more stuff like this (and that stuff is from 2008!) littering retail shelves and diluting the “true” vision of what the franchise is about. Episode 7 directed by Michael Bay. Something cuddlier than the Ewoks on the horizon, more racist than Nemoidians or Jar Jar Binks. The possibilities are endless, and amongst the naysayers of the ‘net, they’re easy to imagine in voluminous quantities.

“I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!”

“It is pointless to resist, my son …” Source: The Official Star Wars Flickr Photostream

On the other hand, a new hope arose amongst many. Episode freaking seven? The long-prophecied, then oft-denied fulfillment of bringing the contents of a backpack that traipsed around USC’s Film School in the 1970s. New worlds. New enemies. New possibilities. Words and concepts that are part of the Star Wars lexicon began getting thrown around on message boards and in Facebook comments. The kids of Han and Leia. Yuuzhan Vong. Thrawn. What will fuel fan interest, toy sales and a merchandising bonanza the likes of which God has never seen is that kind of speculation. Anything could happen, and that means it could recapture that spark, that jaw-dropping moment of wonder when many fans first believed. Brandon Perlow of New Paradigm Studios floated an interesting idea: Joss Whedon directing Star Wars. Given his existing commitments, there’s no time for him to handle Episode 7, but beyond that? That kind of wondering makes some fans aglow with anticipation, even as the scowling citizens of the nation of dreams maintain the strength of their hatred.

“… at last, we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have our revenge!

After the wondering about quality is covered, there are technical issues worth considering. Lucasfilm was purchased for the equivalent of four billion dollars — about the same amount the Mouse House paid for Marvel and a little more than half of what was paid in stock for Pixar. With the expense of about fifteen billion dollars, Disney (which includes a host of television networks, please never forget) now owns a massive intellectual property library that spans from Buzz Lightyear to Spider-Man to Kermit the Frog to Luke Sykwalker. In licensing and merchandising alone — where the real money is made — this investment will pay off for decades. Under CEO Bob Iger, Disney has further increased their stranglehold on a significant chunk of the western zeitgeist and popular culture.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?”

Other unanswered questions?

Disney's Own Astromech

“Uncle Owen! This one’s got a bad licensing agreement!” Source: Pop Culture Geek

Does the Indiana Jones franchise fall under the deal (because if so, theme parks just got super real)? That seems likely, but hasn’t been specifically noted in coverage we found.

Does this make properties like the proposed Star Wars: Underground more likely, given the various distribution and production resources Disney brings to the table? Well, Disney opened the discussion about TV, and despite its quality, they probably didn’t want to end that discussion at The Clone Wars given how many hours of programming they have available on cable providers.

How about popular games like Star Wars: The Old Republic or Star Wars 1313? A LucasArts representative said, “For the time being all projects are business as usual. We are excited about all the possibilities that Disney brings.” The extreme violence of the underbelly of Coruscant may either get some tweaking or be released in a different way from their mass market materials, but given the amount of development on 1313 that’s already complete, perhaps that one will slip by untouched.

What about Dark Horse Comics, which holds the license for comics? Publisher Mike Richardson didn’t offer much of an indication in his statement

“Dark Horse and LucasFilm have a strong partnership which spans over 20 years, and has produced multiple characters and story lines which are now part of the Star Wars lore. Star Wars will be with us for the near future. Obviously, this deal changes the landscape, so we’ll all have to see what it means for the future.”

Not so promising.

Does this affect the special effects industry? In that the deal did include Industrial Light and Magic, you can trust that tons of cash will continue to flow into Disney’s coffers from many other avenues. However, for the likes of Peter Jackson’s New Zealand shop or other upstarts, they might find the Mouse muscling them out of jobs with Wal-mart styled rates, because they don’t need to make a profit in order to survive. Some are already worried about such anticompetitive behavior.

“Greed can be a very powerful ally.

In the end, like it or not, you’re getting a lot more Star Wars from the house that Walt built, and you won’t have to go to a galaxy far, far away to get it.

[Source: Multiple]

Hannibal Tabu is the editor-in-chief and owner of Komplicated, aimed at capturing the Black geek aesthetic in areas of music, technology, culture and escapism. His debut novel The Crown: Ascension is available at most major online booksellers.


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Perhaps it’s the approaching 67% increase in cap gains taxes that concentrated the minds of some folks.

  2. QuantumInc says:

    Star Wars has engendered a “for Kids” with Lucas at the helm, being given to Disney certainly cements that perception. “…to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas, he meant your kids will enjoy this more than you. Still you could conceivably fit a more interesting plot line in there, just have to balance it with the need to make it accessible to kids. This is a universe where the Light Side and the Dark Side are physical constants just like gravity, so we cannot expect a lot of plot lines centering around moral ambiguity. While a Sith could crush a man’s body injecting violence into Star Wars seems pretty pointless unless it’s part of a meaningful plot point.

    • He crushed someones throat as a plot piece, it showed how scary they are. In the game video you see Star Killer crushing an AT-ST up, that definitely should be in the movies. Their strength with the force looks absolutely miniscule n pathetic in the movie. They showed people being dismembered so I can’t see why a crushed skull would be worse. If you’re gonna show a character as powerful and evil, show it properly. 😛

  3. Well, Disney’s not well known for hard core violence, despite what many of us believe a Sith should be capable of (and Force Unleashed really brought the pain — the man threw a Star Destroyer at somebody). They are in the business of selling stuff — shirts, toys, and so on — and that’s normally done by staying in the middle lane.

    • That’s what scares me, how do you show the power of a sith/jedi with a pg13 rating? It’s so watered down it’s annoying, and they don’t feel evil at all. At least the Clone wars showed their power better but was still quite watered down.

  4. Episode 7 better be ma/R rated and have the true power of Jedi n Sith. Nothing worse than watered down violence trying to be a kids movie, either go hard or go home. Vader is powerful enough to crush peoples bodies, yet they don’t show it even though he’s meant to be quite evil. The force unleashed games show appropriate levels of power for badass sith like Vader should be.

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