The Internet cracked in half Tuesday afternoon when the Walt Disney Company announced it would be spending $4.05 billion on the acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. lock, stock, and blaster barrel. Compared to the $4.24 billion that Disney paid for Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Lucasfilm was quite the sweetheart deal. Though many legal approvals and compliance processes are still underway, Disney sweetened the deal by announcing plans to have Star Wars Episode VII in theaters by 2015, just in case government officials needed more incentive to permit the existence of a Disney/Marvel/Pixar/Lucasfilm supercorporation.
The Internet has already spent hours brainstorming the potential ramifications of this creative business arrangement. The usual social networks instantly lost interest in the upcoming election and any major death-related news events. Any long-dormant Star Wars message boards just received a massive defibrillator shock they never saw coming. Within a month or so, expect the mainstream media to hop on the bandwagon and regurgitate all our online blurbs.
Alas, without further elaboration from the parties involved, all we have as of today is unfounded speculation and a long list of questions. So many random thoughts, so little confirmation of what to expect:
* Star Wars: Episode VII? Really? So far no creative personnel have been attached. At this point all we have is half a title. We have no idea which of our twenty favorite characters will be in it, when it will take place, how exaggerated Boba Fett’s role will be, whether or not Harrison Ford needs the money, or how much better it will be than Revenge of the Sith.
* What about all those hundreds of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels? If Episode VII follows numerical expectations and takes place after Return of the Jedi, don’t expect a faithful adaptation of any of the scores of Star Wars novels already written in that era. Granted, all those preexisting post-ROTJ stories would be the easiest starting point for a big-screen relaunch, but the new filmmakers would be under no obligation to take them into consideration, any more than the staff of Star Wars: the Clone Wars cared when they wiped out several Karen Traviss novels’ worth of Mandalorian culture in favor of their own blander interpretation. (That’s how my wife describes the results to me, anyway.) Fan of the Star Wars six-movie canon should be pleased no matter what happens. Fans of the novels’ tightly run continuity have reason for grave concern.
As far as the actual publishing arrangement for the Star Wars Expanded Universe: no idea. Theoretically, one could imagine Disney yanking the license from Del Rey and transferring it in-house to Hyperion Books. I don’t see a need for upheaval, but who knows.
* Can the long-awaited Star Wars live-action show be far behind? Not so fast, young Padawan. Disney may have billions to spend on acquisitions, but not on movies or TV shows. No doubt someone will find a use for all those finished scripts, but once they’re unearthed from their mothballs, Step One would probably be extensive rewrites to scale back the special-effects demands…or, quite possibly, a simple rereading and a dumbstruck realization that everything on those printed pages really could be filmed as-is for 1/100th the price that Lucas had severely overprojected.
* What about Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars line? Star Wars comic books have been an integral part of Dark Horse’s publishing plans for years, second only to their Buffy/Angel line. Marvel already took a turn with the Star Wars license two decades ago, and relations between Lucasfilm and Dark Horse usually seem strong. On the other hand, when Disney and Marvel united in 2009, within six months the Disney comics that had been published through BOOM! Studios had all been shuttered or relocated to Marvel. Dark Horse is larger than BOOM!, but if I were Dark Horse, I’d start calling Joss Whedon’s people, Mike Mignola, Paul Chadwick, or any other longtime contributors and see if anyone’s interested in creating eight or ten new titles for them, preferably now-ish.
* Will this affect Star Wars: the Clone Wars? Cartoon Network doesn’t carry Disney product in any form. Depending on how long they’re contracted to air the show, look for swift relocation if it lives beyond season five. If you ask me, the show would fit much better alongside Disney XD’s block of Marvel animated programming than next to, say, The Amazing World of Gumball.
* Does this mean no more “special editions” of the same films over and over again with extra scenes and fussy tinkering? If George Lucas is serious about his intent to retire, sooner or later he’ll have to let go. One can only hope that all versions may at long last be considered officially locked in, no further editing allowed. However, endless remastering and re-releases will continue unabated in perpetuity.
* How will this affect Star Wars ancillary merchandise? Presumably there will be much more, especially when Episode VII introduces forty new main characters and seven thousand new background characters, each with its own name and product design. Your toys, limited-edition plates, and Underoos are in no danger of being discontinued.
* Will they still be merely “The Walt Disney Company”? Disney has contained multitudes of littler companies and studios for years. “Misney” was a common term during the 2009 Marvel event, but the resulting conglomerate doesn’t lend itself easily to streamlined renaming. Remember how “AOL Time-Warner” never rolled easily off the tongue? Ever notice that they quietly dropped the “AOL” part a while back? The safe bet is on Disney remaining solo-billing diva of the corporation.
* We want crossovers! We want crossovers! We want crossovers! Pondering the possibilities of this item alone could consume entire weeks, and 90% of my results would mirror everyone else’s efforts. It’ll likely be years before the corporate culture is ready to give serious consideration to the Rebel Alliance crossing paths with the Avengers, Buzz Lightyear’s Star Command, the citizens of Storybrooke, or Zack and Cody. But keep those letters and postcards coming, kids. You never know where the Skywalker family might turn up next.
* Can Disney fix the “Han shot first” thing now? If Steven Spielberg can allow guns to be restored to their rightful place in E.T.: the Extra-Terestrial, then this retcon of a retcon shouldn’t be too much to ask. In fact, can we reedit the scene so that Han shot Greedo several times like he’s Sonny Corleone? That would be the greatest new movie scene ever. Remember, Disney: you now wield that power. Please wield it wisely.