Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Disney Bought Star Wars

By Phantom Troublemaker

I don’t know that I have anything worthwhile to say about this, but I wanted to get some thoughts out of my head.

The gist of this whole thing seems to be that Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas for four billion dollars. This is everything – the movies, the books, the toys, The Clone Wars, Jar Jar. Lucas will still consult, but the new head honcho for the Star Wars universe is a lady by the name of Kathleen Kennedy. I don’t know anything about her, but I have to admire her moxie for coming right out and announcing that Episode VII is on track for a 2015 release, followed by new movies every two to three years after that.

That is absolutely fucking crazy pants and in my opinion is the most earth-shattering news of my dorky lifetime.

Not earth-shattering in a bad way, necessarily; but certainly something that signifies changes so massive and unexpected that none of us – I don’t care how smart you think you are – are even close to accurately approximating the true impact this will have on Star Wars. People who operate on an entirely different plane of existence from us fans make decisions about the franchise. I can’t even begin to understand all of the factors that go into creating licensed media. But Disney does. Big time. Evidence suggests that they know how to manage an evergreen franchise and keep it profitable, you know? 
Okay, so let’s talk about this Episode VII business.

What the fuck is Episode VII?

I think we can rule out adaptations of the Zahn books. Even if they can get Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and Denis Lawson (he was Wedge and Wedge is crucial to the books) back for movies, they are all too old to play their characters as they were in the Thrawn trilogy. Unless Disney decides to go with CGI similar to The Clone Wars. I’m not sure how I feel about that option.

But the story could easily pick up in the era of the New Jedi Order books. All of the original actors could pass for around the same age their characters were and Disney could recruit a new generation of actors to portray their children and the rest of the younger cast. The problems here are that audiences might resist the new characters and the NJO books are pretty fucking grim. It might be best to follow the strategy of the Marvel films and visit the general ideas and concepts of the Expanded Universe without being beholden to the minutiae.

As much as I hate to say it, Disney’s best option is probably to ignore the Expanded Universe. 

Guys, I love the books and comics that have come out since Episode VI. The work that authors such as Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss, James Luceno, and many more put into extending the lives and adventures of the characters we love so much is astonishing. The way that all of the post-Jedi novels work together is beautiful and the stories that were told were massive and truly galaxy-encompassing in a way even bigger than the Original Trilogy managed. But if Disney chose to adapt all of that it would be like voluntarily putting on a pair of handcuffs. There is just so much they would have to adhere to and yet so much they would have to dispose of. And honestly, one has to consider that fact that Anakin Skywalker’s story is told. A seventh episode might have nothing whatsoever to do with the Skywalker family. I would have to say I doubt that’s even an option, as even the OT established Luke Skywalker as the one to bring the Jedi Order back to prominence; but you never know.

Speaking of not knowing, there’s still a question of whether or not Lucas had even plotted further episodes.

I think the tale I’ve heard most often is that George Lucas wrote this epic space opera back in the day. He knew it was too long and broke it up into three parts. When he took it to FOX, they said that those were too long so he broke each of those up into three parts; producing a total of nine script outlines for a potential nine movies. The middle three seemed the most accessible or affordable to film or whatever and that’s how Episodes IV – VI came about. For all I know that’s a bunch of yak squeeze, but it sounds neat and is very appealing because it always gave the fans hope for further post-Jedi adventures. And then Episodes I – III came out and that theory seemed more plausible. Yeah, A New Hope was always titled Episode IV, but who truly believed that meant anything?

The most interesting thing to see going forward will probably be whatever the heck goes on with this Episode VII. But there are plenty of other things to consider with this whole deal, and the most significant of these to me is that Dark Horse Comics is almost certainly losing the Star Wars license ASAP.

I’m not going to try and tell you that I’ve read everything Dark Horse has published. I haven’t even read most of it. Maybe not even half. But I’ve read a lot and every single story except for the Crimson Empire stuff ranged between good and outstanding. Dark Horse has made a practice of keeping a certain caliber of creator on their Star Wars titles. I don’t feel like any comic book property has ever been cared for as thoroughly. The stories are impactful and have that certain special feel that is uniquely of Lucas’ universe. The art has always been consistent. Unlike almost any other comic book you could name, Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics haven’t had that run of ugly issues or a miniseries with sub-par visuals. I have been impressed with the company’s handling of the license for years now, with the new Agent of the Empire concept being a particular favorite.

The most current word from Mike Richardson is that Star Wars is staying with Dark Horse for the “near future”. I take that to mean that as soon as Dark Horse’s current deal ends, Star Wars comics are returning to Marvel where they started. I don’t honestly know how to feel about that. While I’d like to say that Marvel should be able to maintain the quality, an awful lot of the shitty art I was referencing above came from them. I would certainly hope that Disney would enforce a certain standard – namely the one that Dark Horse has maintained – but who knows? I also hate to think we would stop getting stories from some of the tried-and-true creators Dark Horse has utilized. The likes of John Ostrander, Cam Kennedy, Jan Duursema, Scott Allie, W. Haden Blackman, and John Jackson Miller have produced some truly memorable and significant comics. I couldn’t tell you whether or not those folks could or would work with Marvel, but I can’t help but think the publisher would want to make a pretty big deal out of launching a line of Star Wars comics and throw some of their own biggest names on it – Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron. Ideally we’d get a big, ongoing title like that accompanied by the sort of miniseries and three-to-four year run event comics Dark Horse has been doing. But the bottom line is that I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Star Wars is staying at Dark Horse.

Finally, there’s the toys. I can’t very well discuss all of this without looking at the impact this huge deal will have on the hugely lucrative and never-ending Star Wars toy line.

My initial reaction was that there would be no impact. Disney already has a working relationship with Hasbro for the Marvel properties. No reason to think that anything would change. But then I thought about how crappy the Star Wars toy line has been for what’s been possibly the past five years. The distribution has been pretty spotty. At its best the character selection could be described as limited, and when Hasbro actually does produce an exciting new character or variation of a character they are ridiculously hard to find. You’ll be lucky to see many of the figures even once at retail, let alone multiple times. I feel like every time I’ve gone into a Target, Walmart, or Toys R Us over the past two years the exact same figures have been hanging in the exact same spots on the pegs. It seems like the line has been floundering for a while.

Granted, the kid-oriented offerings seem to do fine. The cheaper lines do all right and the stuff like the Squinkie equivalents and Fisher Price offerings do fine and sell out regularly. Maybe once Disney steps in things could change a bit. Granted, once a new movie hits in 2015 it will all be revitalized. We’ll see. I would love to see an online subscription service for new figures and characters. If Hasbro would offer a line of guaranteed new characters/costumes I would subscribe in a second. I understand that probably couldn’t ever work with the volume Hasbro would need to move, but how awesome would it be?

Anyway, I think the toy line will be affected least of all. We might see a little more streamlining, but who knows? Honestly, I think the main culprit killing every toy line in the country is fucking Walmart. But I just realized that’s a whole other post.

BREAKING NEWS (Not by the time you read this or anything, but breaking for me): Mark Hamill states in this interview that he and Carrie Fisher were told of plans for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX at a lunch with George Lucas last August. Now, some people’s usage of the term differs, but to me “last August” means a year ago, not a couple of months ago. That would be “in August”. So if I am correct that means Lucas and new Grand Moff of Star Wars Kathleen Kennedy were probably already in the early stages of development on these things last year. And maybe Lucas realized he just didn’t have it in him to do it again. I think this is good news, as it means this is all a part of Lucas’ vision and not just a crass cash grab.

At this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, but the Prequels were also part of Lucas’ vision. And, well…” But consider this – and be honest about it – there was an awful lot of really awesome stuff in the Prequels. And if there had been a different hand guiding them, they could have been every bit as great as the Original Trilogy. The story itself is actually quite brilliant. The problems come in with the pacing and the amount of time spent on characters and storylines that basically sucked. And with Hayden Christensen. Let’s just go ahead and admit that if Lucas decided he wanted to digitally replace that whiny jackass with Anakin from The Clone Wars the Prequels would be at least 50% better.

So anyway, my point is that between Lucas’ vision and all of the incredible creative talent available at Disney, we could really be in for something amazing in 2015.


  1. Also Disney is considering to buy Hasbro. Just thought you should know...

  2. From what I've been hearing, Carrie Fischer, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are all on board at this point. They are signed to a contract or anything, but all would be willing to be in the future movies. I was up in arms when Disney purchased Marvel, but I think they can make some quality movies for Star Wars, as long as they don't money around too much.

    And I really hope that Hasbro does not sell to Disney. Because then they would practically own my life!

  3. *aren't* signed

    *monkey* around

  4. You called it, Phantom.

    I still wish that at least Mara Jade, Ben Skywalker, and the Solo children (Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin) were part of this new Star Wars canon.

    It is what it is.

    1. I'm okay with them jettisoning everything too close to the Skywalkers and Solos. If they used the characters we'd have expectations.
      As far as my calling it - you know what they say about the sun shining on a dog's ass...