Hello everyone, and welcome to The Sarlacc Pit. This week I am going to discuss Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, and why I believe that this was a great thing for Star Wars fans. The way I am going to present this is by bringing up some aspects of the Star Wars franchise that have changed sense the Disney purchase, and explain my opinion on them. I understand that this may be a little controversial, but hopefully I can present a decent argument for my point. So, let’s get started.
“For the past 35 year, oneof my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a generation of filmmakers.” – George Lucas
In 2012, Disney purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas for about $4.1 billion (half in cash and half in shares of Disney). George Lucas had been considering retirement for sometime, but wanted to sell his company to someone who would keep his employees working, good on him. Disney announced their intentions to rapidly expand the number of Star Wars movies, starting with “Star Wars Episode VII” which was released in 2015.
“I sold them to white slavers who take these things, and…” – George Lucas
Obviously one of the biggest changes in the new Star Wars content to come out after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm would be the decreasing input that George Lucas would have. It had been stated that Lucas would serve as a sort of “Star Wars encyclopedia,” someone who the filmmakers and authors could talk to to get ideas about different topics in the Star Wars universe. However, he would not be directing or writing any of the new movies. A somewhat large issue came up between Lucas and Disney, however, when Disney decided to not use Lucas’ ideas for episodes VII-IX. As part of Lucas’ deals with Disney, Lucas handed over script treatments for the sequel trilogy (ST) to Disney, with the expectation that they would use at least some of the ideas he had come up with.
My understanding is that they used almost none of Lucas’ ideas. The phrase you find most is that Disney wanted to make a movie “for the fans.” People who have seen Lucas’ ideas have said that Lucas wanted yet another movie focused on a very young character (similar to “The Phantom Menace”) which did not work out well the first time. Disney’s desire to do things differently caused a large rift between the company and Lucas, who is reported to have said “They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. … They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway — but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And I said OK, I will go my way and I’ll let them go their way.” Implying that Lucas had almost nothing to do with “The Force Awakens.”
Why is this a good thing? First of all I want to say that I have deep respect for George Lucas. I mean, he gave us Star Wars! While he may have made some mistakes in his career they were the mistakes of a man trying to chase a dream and he does not deserve the disrespect he often gets when he makes appearances (don’t boo the man off stage, jerks). However, George Lucas was notoriously hard to work with. He owned 100% of Lucasfilm and was known to not take kindly to people who disagreed with his ideas (as is evidenced by how he handled Disney). He was also admittedly not a great director. Actors from the prequel trilogy (PT) often said that he gave very little direction, which can be seen by the stiff acting of some of the less-experienced actors in that movie. Furthermore, if you look at any information about early ideas for some of the Star Wars movies (like “The Phantom Menace,” or “Return of the Jedi”) a lot of these are filled with great ideas that didn’t make it to the final cut either in an attempt to appeal to (much) younger audiences, or in attempt to sell more toys. The man had great ideas, but could not always handle them properly, and I believe that a lot of these shortcomings are due to his unwillingness to hear differing opinions. I believe transition of Star Wars from just George Lucas to a team of people with new ideas and more general freedom has worked out very well for the franchise so far.
This difference is another obvious one. Starting with “The Force Awakens,” Disney has announced that they will be making one Star Wars movie a year until 2020! Before this, our last Star Wars live action movie was released in 2005. This is a huge change from George Lucas’ inconsistent spurts of movie-making that were often at the mercy of his moods at the time. For example, when “A New Hope” first came out, he had the idea for a 12 movie saga. However, by the time he got to “Return of the Jedi,” he was going through a tough divorce and was soured on movie making. This was until over a decade late when he returned with the PT, and plans to film the ST afterwards. However, with less-than-positive reactions to the PT, Lucas was once again put off of filmmaking. Now, I can’t really blame the man, divorces are rough, and your fans turning into a bunch of assholes is hard too. However, Disney is less at the mercy of one man’s emotions than Lucasfilm was, meaning that we can most likely trust Disney when it says it will continue making movies.
Now, I will say this: Disney’s ability to consistently make movies could turn into a negative. A good example of this would be the trend Marvel movies have taken lately, where an overabundant amount of movies has made each one a little less special. However, Marvel has also been putting out something like three movies that are all super similar each year, while Lucasfilm will be putting one movie out a year, that seems to promise some variability with the introduction of anthology films such as “Rogue One” and the upcoming Han Solo movie. Plus, with how good “The Force Awakens” was, I have confidence that Disney can put out some good Star Wars movies.
All right, here’s where we get to the real controversial part of the Disney purchase: the Great Canon Purge. In 2014, Disney announced that they would be redefining what counted as “canon” for the Star Wars franchise. What is considered current Star Wars canon is:
- All Star Wars live action movies (PT,OT, ST, and anthology movies)
- “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” television series and film (as well as the tie-in comic Star Wars: Darth Maul-Son of Dathomir)
- “Star Wars: Rebels” television series and supplementary material
- Star Wars Insider fiction, beginning with “Blade Squadron” in Star Wars Insider 149
- Information in the StarWars.com databank
- Information previously found in the now-defunct StarWars.com encyclopedia
- All officially-licensed source material including and following Star Wars: A New Dawn, released in September 2, 2014. This includes novels published by Del-Ray and comics published by Marvel.
Now, there is some material that is currently undetermined (such as the tabletop RPG’s “Edge of Empire,” “Age of Rebellion,” and “Force and Destiny”) but for the most part every other Star Wars comic, novel, story, video game, and holiday special are no longer canon, being designated as “Legends.” These stories are, for the most part, still being published and released, so for those who enjoyed this timeline you can still go and enjoy it. However, upcoming movies, shows, novels, and comics will not be consistent with Legends.
Why did Disney do this? Well by the time Disney bought Lucasfilm there was a ton of extended universe content. To the point where, since not all of it was consistent, there were six levels of “canon hierarchy.” This abundance of Star Wars stories would hamper any attempt by Disney to make new stories (and honestly, would hamper their attempt to make more money). So, in the spirit of allowing creative control to go to the new filmmakers instead of authors who worked on books decades ago, they redefined canon. This has led to what is called the “Bring Back Legends Movement,” a group that, as far as I can tell, was created for the sole purpose of being total jerks to canon content makers. Their official goal is for Disney to re-canonize and continue making stories in the now-Legends timeline, but considering that “The Force Awakens” was a huge success, I think we can assume that this will not happen.
So why is this good? I will admit that I had absolutely zero stake in the extended universe before the canon change, as I did not get into Star Wars extended canon until after the Disney purchase, so I was not one of the numerous people who found themselves with hundreds of dollars worth of de-canonized stories. However, I believe that making room for new stories will allow for some great new movies, and has already allowed for some great canon stories. Furthermore, Disney seems committed to keeping all the new canon consistent, thus getting rid of any need for the earlier “canon hierarchy” system that Lucasfilm was forced to apply in the past. Finally, while there are some fantastic stories in Legends (a notable one being the Thrawn trilogy), there is also a lot of poodoo. Now I’m not saying that Disney will never make a crappy Star Wars story, but do we really want Skippy the Jedi Droid to be canon? I sure don’t. What I’m trying to say is this: if you like Legends, than keep reading Legends, no one is stopping you, but Disney freeing up room for creativity is going to allow for some really cool stories to come through. I have loved what they’ve done so far and I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for the future.
So this is just a short summary of how Disney has changed the Star Wars franchise so far. I’m sure that many people who read this may have an opinion, and I would love to hear it! Scroll on down to the comments section and leave your thoughts on Disney’s purchase of Star Wars and I can promise you that I will read and respond to it. However, since many people are passionate about this topic, I will request that you keep all comments civil.
Speaking of new canon: next week I am going to go through some of the Star Wars comic series that have come out of Marvel since the canon change up. I am going to do spoiler-free reviews and rate the comic series that have already been finished. So, as always, thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!