Disney to acquire Lucasfilm, plan to release new STAR WARS trilogy starting with EPISODE 7 in 2015

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No, you are not dreaming. That headline is real. But that certainly doesn’t make it any less shocking. In the very definition of a surprise move, the Walt Disney Company has revealed that it will not only be acquiring Lucasfilm , but already has plans in place to release the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, with a follow-up every other year.

Please excuse me, but my geeky brain just needs to have a quick lie down. Phew.

The announcement came via press release from Disney in which the House of Mouse revealed that they would be acquiring George Lucas’ company for a whopping $4,05 billion. That’s a whole lot of flannel check shirts and beard trimmers! Brace yourself for a wall of text.

Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”

“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, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “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.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.

Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.

The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney’s very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney’s portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company’s ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world’s highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.

This acquisition is clearly only the latest step in Disney’s plans for world domination, one geek at a time, with the company having acquired Marvel Comics in 2009 and acclaimed animation house Pixar in 2006. Here’s a newly released video to go along with the press release, with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy revealing why they chose to have the company be sold to Disney, and also how they promise to continue making Star Wars movies.

While the actual business implications of this news is huge, it’s that added announcement of not only another Star Wars film in a mere 3 years time, but that it will be the start of a new trilogy with the 2nd and 3rd chapters released every second year after that, that has me all excited. As Kathleen states in the video, they’ve only just begun sitting down with writers, but I’ve already got a few ideas of my own.

The title of Episode 7 would of course imply that chronologically it would take place after Return of the Jedi, smack dab in what is known as the Expanded Universe, the stories beyond the films’ timelines that was explored in novels, comics and videogames. Since the original cast would be too old to return, this would mean that they either have to skip ahead quite a bit to after the principal cast has passed on (Lucas did end that interview on a mysterious “Well, well, well into the future”), or look for a new story that somehow exists in between the gaps of existing ones. The latter will be a bit of a difficult job, because unlike the time period that was eventually covered by the prequel Episodes 1-3, no moratorium was placed on writers to avoid that later era, thus they’ve mined it pretty extensively.

The New Jedi Order stories could be decent source material to adapt, with Luke and friends now being much older and taking a bit more of a backseat to the younger generation, as the Galactic Empire encounters and goes to war with a new alien species called the Yuuzhan Vong.

But if you want to – pardon my French – see me lose my shit though, then have the new movie be set in the Legacy Era, where Luke Skywalker’s descendant Cade, a Jedi who abandoned his training while young and is now a morally ambiguous pirate who is dangerously close to falling into the Dark Side, has to battle a newly resurgent Sith Empire that has overthrown the Galactic Alliance and is ruled by the powerful Darth Krayt.

Now George did say in the video that he had treatments for Episodes 7-9 done already, so it could be that his story completely ignores the EU stuff and does it’s own thing (which would really anger a lot of fans) or that he has managed to find that epic story hidden in between the hundreds of others.

Whatever story direction they head into, at least we know two things: 1) It shouldn’t be too long before we start getting some news as 2015 is not too far off and pre-production would probably have to start soon, and 2) With George Lucas’ role diminished down to just creative consultant there’s a pretty good chance he won’t be allowed to sexually molest our memories tamper with the existing films any more than he already has.

Last Updated: October 31, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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