Disney has bought out Lucasfilm in a $4.05bn deal and announced a new trilogy of Star Wars films under the leadership of the entertainment behemoth.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, CEO of Lucasfilm in a canned 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."
The deal is for 100 per cent of the company, which Lucas founded in 1971 for the release of the much-underrated film THX 1138, and includes the rights to the entire Star Wars canon and the Indiana Jones franchise. Half of the buyout is for cash and the rest in Disney shares, with Lucas remaining as a creative consultant; albeit one who's difficult to boss around since he has a personal worth of well over $3bn and change.
Fairly high on his to-do list will be Star Wars Episode 7, which is due for release in 2015, with the next two films in the series to follow. It's highly unlikely that will be the end of it; when it comes to getting the value out of a franchise, Disney is the industry expert, capable for milking harder than a starving Mongolian reindeer herder.
Disney buys your childhood dreams for $4.05bn
Disney being what it is, it's within the realm of possibility that the new films will include lots of easily-marketable collectables, film reissues, and remastering to an extent that even George Lucas would be ashamed of. Disney's purchase of the Marvel universe has paid off handsomely, and there's no reason to believe it can't do the same for Star Wars.
The executive producer of the new story arc will be Kathleen Kennedy, who shifts from co-chairman of Lucasfilm to the presidency as well. Kennedy only joined the company in June, but cut her teeth as a protégée of Steve Spielberg and has produced films such as War Horse, War of the Worlds, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The latter film is well-known for the idiom "nuking the fridge"; an update from jumping the shark to signify going too far over the top. It was inspired by a scene where Indy survives an atomic blast by sheltering in a lead-lined fridge and defies the laws of physics by stepping, rather than slopping, out of it upon landing.
Thankfully Star Wars' setting in a galaxy far, far, away makes such improbabilities much easier to get away with. After all, the entire franchise began by selling the audience on the idea that an engineer would build a Death Star capable of destroying a planet that could be knocked out with a single shot in one relatively unprotected weak spot.
According to the press release, the Star Wars films have collected over $4.4bn in global box office revenues to date, making them one of the most successful franchise operations of all time. However, due to the oddities of Hollywood, some of the films have never actually made a profit.
Return of the Jedi grossed nearly half a billion dollars in revenues, but is still technically a loss-making production, since the movie company paid the bulk of proceeds back to the studio in massive distribution fees. Actors such as David Prowse, the body of the original Darth Vader, signed contracts for a share of profits and have yet to see a penny of residuals.
Prowse got increasingly vocal about the issue in a couple of years ago and gave some interviews to the press on the subject. Lucas was reportedly angered by this and banned Prowse from any Lucasfilm-associated events. Maybe with his new lucre Lucas can share the wealth – or is he saving up for his own Death Star? ®