In 2012 Disney bought Lucasfilm lock, stock and barrel from George Lucas for an eye-watering $4.06bn, and it still remains an astonishing piece of business.
For that Death Star-sized chunk of change the House of Mouse acquired the movie studio, its visual effects offshoot ILM, industry-leading audio pioneers Skywalker Sound, but most importantly the studio got their hands on all Lucasfilm IP (intellectual property) including the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ franchises.
Some hardcore fans expressed their concern over the commodification of their beloved ‘Star Wars’, but little could have prepared them for the true extent of Disney’s plans for the brand. There truly has never been a better time to be a ‘Star Wars’ fan.
The plans Disney has for the brand are breathtaking in their depth and ambition as demonstrated by announcements made at D23, the official Disney fan convention, over the weekend. And who can blame them? They have $4.06bn to recoup.
As you can see from the image above, Disney and Lucasfilm currently have 5 ‘Star Wars’ films in development. ‘Star Trek’ movie rebooter JJ Abrams is at the helm for ‘The Force Awakens’ that arrives in cinemas later this year. Episodes VIII will be written and directed by Rian Johnson of ‘Looper’ fame for release in 2017, while ‘Jurassic World’ director Colin Trevorrow is in the saddle for Episode IX in 2019.
Alongside the Saga films, Disney has plans for spin-off films to fill the scheduling gaps caused by a 2-year production cycle. First up from ‘Godzilla’ director Gareth Edwards is ‘Rogue One’.
The standalone movie about a team of resistance fighters who steal the Death Star Plans will hit cinemas in December 2016 starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, and Riz Ahmed.
Beyond that, there’s a Han Solo solo film coming from ’21 Jump Street’ writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and another rumoured to feature Boba Fett, but it’s not yet been confirmed which spin-off will fill the 2018 or 2020 slots.
The first new piece of ‘Star Wars’ to be released by Disney after it purchased Lucasfilm was ‘Star Wars Rebels’. The 3D CGI animated series set between ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’ debuted in 2014 on Disney XD to huge critical and fan acclaim.
The series features occasional cameos from original and prequel trilogy characters alongside a crew of rebels hunted by Inquisitors and it really captures the spirit of the Original Trilogy. A second season will start later this year featuring none other than Darth Vader himself.
Elsewhere, it looks like the long-gestating live action ‘Star Wars’ series may find a home on Netflix. Cinelinx reported back in June that Disney may be looking to partner with the VOD platform to produce 3 different live action shows, but that’s yet to be confirmed by Disney.
Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm brought the ‘Star Wars’ brand under the same roof as Marvel. This meant the two brands could rekindle a relationship that began in 1977 when the then-struggling comics imprint agreed to license ‘Star Wars’ tie-in comics.
The unprecedented success of the films actually saved Marvel financially, but they ended the arrangement in 1987 after the buzz around the films died down, passing the comics rights to indie publisher Dark Horse.
In 2014, it was announced that the license would revert back to Marvel and it has since launched 9 different comic lines including solo series for Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca, and titles that promise to fill in the blanks between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens’.
One decision Disney wisely made after taking over the ‘Star Wars’ brand was to effectively cancel the vast and unwieldy “Expanded Universe” that had proliferated unchecked over the years. A newly-formed Lucasfilm Story Team announced that only the films and TV series (‘The Clone Wars’ and ‘Rebels’) would now be considered canon and that everything else would be binned and classed under the “Legends” banner.
This meant the hundreds of EU books published over the years were no longer considered to be part of the story, however Disney has since begun to publish a series of officially sanctioned books overseen by the Story Team who ensure continuity is closely monitored.
Again, these books feature characters from the films and TV shows, with 20 books planned to fill the gaps between Episodes VI and VII.
Games based on the ‘Star Wars’ brand have been mixed over the years. For every ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ and ‘Battlefront’ there were countless turkeys like ‘Star Wars Kinect’ and ‘Masters of Teras Kasi’.
Since the Disney takeover, EA has been given the rights to make all games based on the series for consoles and PC, while Disney will make the mobile titles.
An updated ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ will be the first AAA title of the Disney era and early signs are promising. Check out a gameplay video below to see it in action.
Produced by the team behind ‘Battlefield’, ‘Battlefront’ throws players into iconic battles seen in the movies where they can assume control of classic vehicles and characters like Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett, and will be in shops a month before the release of ‘The Force Awakens’.
Expect many expansions and titles to be announced in the future.
The first ‘Star Wars’ ride ‘Star Tours’ made its debut in 1987 at Disneyland, California and continues to operate at Disneyland Paris today. Now though, with Lucasfilm under their roof, Disney has decided to take ‘Star Wars’ park presence to the next level.
It was announced at D23 2015 that two enormous ‘Star Wars’-themed lands would be build in Anaheim and Orlando in what was described as “the largest single themed expansion in the company’s history”.
The new areas would include a ride that allows you to take control of the Millennium Falcon on a “secret mission” and another attraction set in the ‘Force Awakens’ era that puts visitors a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. It’ll be populated by characters from the film and will feature many locations from the movies, including a cantina.
A Disney rep told Buzzfeed it plans to have the California Star Wars Land open by the end of 2017.
Friday the 4th of September. Mark that date in your diaries as that’s the date when the next generation of ‘Star Wars’ merchandising will hit shops.
Dubbed Force Friday, the retail push will see stores opening a midnight around the globe for eager fans to get their hands on all the new toys, collectibles, books, and clothing bearing the ‘Force Awakens’ logo.
Along with the new toys, the new mobile apps, fan conventions, and promotional partners, ‘Star Wars’ is going to be pretty unavoidable for the next few years.
The Force is strong with the Disneyfication of ‘Star Wars’.
Image credits: StarWars.com/Disney