Will Disney Destroy The Star Wars Universe?

Disney paying a cool $4 billion for Lucasfilm -- which essentially means Mickey Mouse now owns Star Wars -- is stupidly big news. Disney's record with Marvel suggests it won't automatically wreck a beloved cult property, but do we need more Star Wars movies anyway? And what does it mean for Star Wars gaming? Kotaku's Mark Serrels and Lifehacker's Angus Kidman debate the issue.

Main picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

ANGUS KIDMAN: My relationship with Star Wars is odd. As I've pointed out before, I'm not really a fan. I didn't even watch the movies until I was a teenager, and I don't think any of them are great pieces of work. Not even A New Hope. But I'm strangely fascinated by the phenomena that is Star Wars. I enjoy checking out Wookiepedia. I love the fact that George Lucas is in denial about the Christmas Special. And Lucas' continued tinkering with the movies and the outraged reaction that generates reminds me that obsessive fanboys exist in areas other than operating systems and mobile phones.

Given all that, I can't claim to be waiting in eager anticipation for Episode 7. The movie industry is already stupidly dominated by sequels, and this is only going to make matters worse. That said, when it comes to making big dumb shiny sequels, Disney is the main player these days. So it could be a lot worse for the fans.

I was very struck by a comment doing the rounds on Twitter this morning: that at $4 billion, the entire Star Wars universe is worth only four Instagrams. So let's ask a man more invested than I: Mark, do you think it's a good deal?

MARK SERRELS: I'm torn on this. Part of me finds it strange that people are losing their minds about this deal, when perspective -- courtesy of Hurricane Sandy -- is being shoved down everyone's throats. The other part is split further: one half says: 'Oooh, another Star Wars movie' with a 'squee', the other is cynical, jaded, and a little bit fearful of more damage to a respected brand.

Honestly, I think it may end up being a good thing. As Kanye West once rapped: 'no one man should have all that power'. In the last 20 years or so George Lucas has made poor decision after poor decision, and really has dulled the impact the Star Wars universe could possibly have with new generations. You get the sense that fans, and the folks that grew up with Star Wars, have an infinitely broader respect for Star Wars than Lucas himself does.

In a strange sense Lucas is the only person who could flippantly mess up the Star Wars universe. His attitude is 'it's my creation, so I can do whatever I want'. At this stage I feel as though only an outside party could treat the franchise with the respect it deserves, so I'm actually quite confident that Disney will handle things well.

ANGUS KIDMAN: On reflection, part of me wishes that the whole thing died with Lucas. Something we haven't learned with popular culture is that it isn't permanent. Because audiences for everything are so fragmented these days, if you're a big traditional media player (like Disney) the only way to get big numbers often seems to be to revive old franchises. But popular culture has a shelf life. I Love Lucy scored bigger numbers than any TV show being produced today will ever enjoy, but that doesn't mean reviving it is a good idea. Rather than passing on stuff we liked to a new generation, we should let them find their own new thing.

It's easy for me to say that, though; I didn't just spend $4 billion. And while a lot of the headlines (and fanticipation/fan dread) are around Episode 7 -- I imagine speculation will soon start on whether or not Kim Kardashian should be cast as Leia -- Star Wars is a lot bigger than just the movies. There are all those toys, and all those games. It's evident Disney is pretty good at flogging plastic toys, but does it have any respect in the gaming world?

MARK SERRELS: Well, that's the thing. Back in the day Lucasfilm (and later, Lucasarts) had as good a reputation as any. Disney? Not so much, not in video games.

There was a time when a Lucasarts Star Wars game could be depended upon, but that time has truly come and gone and I think it will be interesting to see precisely how Lucasarts is handled from this point forward.

Lucasarts has put out a statement claiming that it's "business as usual" for now, but that it's excited for what's coming next. At the moment Lucasarts has a massively big budget Star Wars game based on the world of Bounty Hunters, the Boba Fetts of the Star Wars universe. We're talking about a game that has the future hopes of Star Wars games as a whole riding upon its shoulders. That game would be my first concern, but I suspect Disney will just allow those studios to run themselves, especially with regards to games that are already deep into production.

I'm interested in the future. Lucasarts has a number of incredible games licences, and I hold a little bit of hope that some might be revived -- or possibly even transformed into cross media franchises. First on my list would be Grim Fandango!

But yeah, I'd imagine Disney's first priority would be toys! And Star Wars.

What are your thoughts on the new Star Wars movie itself -- good idea? Bad idea?

ANGUS KIDMAN: The notion that Star Wars was always supposed to be a nine-part sequence that just happened to begin with Part IV is a well-embedded notion in fandom. The problem with the way the sequence has been produced is that it is now literally going to be impossible for the cast from Episodes IV-VI to replay their roles. Even with performance capture suits, I can't see that working for a 2015 release date. That means new actors, and I'm not sure dedicated fans will be any happier with recasting than they have been with endless digital tinkering.

Most big-ticket cult franchises that have been revived successfully in recent years have gone down the reboot path (I'm particularly thinking of Star Trek, which was one of Lucas' own initial inspiration). A movie called Episode 7 clearly isn't going down the reboot path, especially with Lucas still employed as a consultant.That said, maybe Disney will be brave and jump 600 years into the future, keeping the universe but giving us entirely fresh characters. That might be more interesting.

One current online push is for Joss Whedon to take over the movies as a director. Not gonna happen, I reckon. Disney has a healthy cash cow with the Avengers franchise, and that's not going to get disrupted.

Ultimately, a big part of being a Star Wars fan (or a Star Wars fan observer) is arguing endlessly over minutae. With a new movie in the works -- the first proper Star Wars movie of the Twitter/Facebook era -- there will be plenty for people to obsess over. I'm not sure the movie will be any good, but it's going to make for interesting times.

MARK SERRELS: The Star Wars universe is an incredible one. It's rich, massive in scale and many aspects remain unfurrowed. Some of my favourite stories set in that universe exist outside of the traditional Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader arc, and I'd like to see something along those lines.

There's no way Han Solo could be played by anyone other than Harrison Ford, and I'd be mightily pissed if they tried. But if Disney is smart enough to tell a story outside of those parameters, with the right creative minds, and builds something that stays true to the Star Wars mythology? Man, I would absolutely watch that movie. I would buy into it completely.

Star Wars was never really a character-driven franchise. It was spectacle-driven, image-driven, universe-driven. If they built on top of the foundation that already exists, and they do it correctly, I genuinely think we could be in for something interesting.

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    Lucas was milking Star Wars ever since it lost any artistic credibility it might have had. That Disney now owns the franchise (note I didn't say "copyright") who cares?

    Personally think it's great news. Hopefully we will see the return of Dark Forces and the X-Wing games among other LucasArts owned properties. The Dig, Full Throttle etc.
    And as for the movies they could do either the Thrawn story or The Old Republic. Would be happy with both.

    I think the whole reason behind a new movie is because Lego were running out of sets to produce.

      Hey! Leave Lego out of this, completely uncalled for!

        I think you mistake my intent. I love Lego (I am saving up for a trip to legoland).

        Lego recently said they would be producing Star Wars sets for at least another 10 years. At the time everybody joked that they were going to run out of sets to make before then.

        New content will resolve that issue.

        (I personally don't buy Star Wars sets, but I am glad they exist).

    Disney will do a better job than Lucas did on Episodes 1-3.

      +1 there is no way that anything could be worse then Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen.

      They could always fast forward to the next generation of Jedi's learning at Luke's academy.
      Allowing the original cast to reprise their roles while handing over to a younger cast to continue the story.
      Sir Alec Guiness was in his 60's when the original films were made so there is no reason why Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford couldn't make a return in supporting roles.

        The only thing worse than Jar Jar Binks is the senator that he handed the republic to.
        Luke will die within the first 30 mins of episode 7, looking forward to a Harrison Ford cameo and shoots first. :D

      this is a logical fallacy based on deductive reasoning. Disney will not automatically do a better job than Lucas' recent triology. It is likely though, given Disney's overall tendency to treat its acquired IPs with respect.

    Not a raving fan, but I enjoyed them all the same. What could have been better is having George finish them a long time ago. Once a year for the last so many, it gets a bump; a new game, a cartoon, an animated show, etc. But this is the first time in a long time they can say "We are going to make an movie". It will have a to be a full recast if they finish the story, and I don't care, I will watch it. As for gaming, it won't do bugger all. Those games suck. Well, I'll hold my toung there, one of the first (or only) PS1 games was totally awesome.

    George already did, I cant see them doing a worse job. I think Disney did a pretty good job with the recent series of Marvel movies and seemed to "get" the franchises they're working with more than many comic book based movies before them. George's recent efforts didn't even have that, he'd spent too long in his own la la land surrounding himself with sycophants and as a result has produced nothing but rubbish.

    Good Read.

    "maybe Disney will be brave and jump 600 years into the future".

    It's either that, or failure. Continuing the story based on Han/Luke/Leia will kill the movie.

      The original six movies should be left alone. No character continuances into new movies. Sure, use the star wars universe for brand new adventures, but leave the original alone.

    "Star Wars was never really a character-driven franchise"

    Disagree - it's why the original trilogy rocked and the prequels...didn't, despite having grander, more awesome scenery and spectacles.

    I don't think there's a need to recast new actors in the iconic roles of Episodes IV - VI - assuming they're available and interested. The last prequel (III) takes place at the time of Luke & Leia's birth - at least two decades before Episode IV. There's no reason (in terms of the story) that the sequel trilogy can't kick off a few decades after Episode VI; a few decades in which the Galaxy has experienced a renaissance of peace in the absence of the Sith.

      But does that follow the actual storey?

        Does it need to? I know that Star Wars now has an expansive canon but wouldn't new movies overwrite whatever has come before?

      Google recent images of Mark Hamill, he could play emperor Palpatine, without makeup!

    maybe Mark Hamill might get another chance to be on TV...

    How could anyone do a better job of destroying the Star Wars universe than George Lucas did? He completely screwed the pooch with all the garbage about midichlorians, reducing the central myth of the story to a science experiment.

    Did everyone forget how bad John Carter was?

      I liked it to be honest. It was pretty similar to the books, and the deviations were mostly interesting. It was not well marketed though.

        yeah i liked it too

          I also liked it. Though i knew nothing of the book prior to watching the movie. Nor after. I should check them out!

      Not a bad movie, but the target audience was all wrong. The general populace expect a certain something from a "Disney" movie. I don't think John Carter delivered the Disney "je ne sais quoi", even though it was decent movie in its own right.

    Maybe they could pull a MGS4. Old Luke, Old Han, Old Chewy.
    Old Snake was pummelled by fans when announced, however he is pretty kick-arse when you play the game. I mean, if done right - it could be awesome. Reboot? No thanks.

    Last edited 31/10/12 2:26 pm

      *Spoiler* Chewy didn't really get a chance to be old... Poor Chewy.

    I thought already Eps 1-3 were already made by disney?! MINDBLOWN.

    *runs away*

    Does this mean maybe we can play as Luke Skywalker in Kingdom Hearts 3? lol

    The funny thing is Lucas ended up caving in to the system which he opposed so much he made Lucasfilm

    I can't wait for the redlettermedia reviews and the fan outrage come 2014/2015 when the disney ones deviate even further from what we grew up with. I even wonder if Disney would allow a dark Starwars story to get made, they have a rep for taking the safe sunny road.

    The worst part is that Disney wants lucasarts to focus on social/mobile games instead of console
    They better not touch StarWars 1313 or there will be hell to pay

    Why can't we just be optimistic, I don't even want to read this just based on the title, I'm going to retain my excitement for another instalment and if I'm disappointed after I watch it so be it. I for one think disney's story telling has proven to be better than any thing George Lucas has done since The Last Crusade.

      You must be that guy that like John Carter lol

      totally agree, i was only saying the same thing to a workmate this morning

    I hope that this means they'll start looking at some of the stories from the many Star Wars books that are out there. So many good stories now have a chance to make it to the big screen again!

    I for one embrace our Disney Overlords.
    And for those who say their childhood is ruinied...really??? So, the direction that George Lucas has taken StarWars in recent years has gone back in time, tracked you down and then proceeded to ruin your memories for these movies? Did they sneak up on you whilst you were watching Episode IV and whisper in your ear "Hey Kid, Mr Lucas is going to make 3 more of these when you are an adult and they are going to suck. Oh and Darth Vader is Luke's father. Enjoy the movies kid!"

    How could they make it worse? Lucas did that three movies ago.

    Is Lucasfilm worth four instagrams? Well Instagram's 30 million users are worth $285m per annum to Facebook, Lucasfilm pulls in $200m+ per annum. If three quarters of instagram's users are already on Facebook, that'd be about right.

      Yeah but you forgot to factor in the fact their making new Star Wars films,even the phantom menace broke a billion dollars at the box office.Lucas arts have been somewhat dormant since Indy4.

    Kingdom Hearts!! What more can I say.

      +1. Cannot wait to summon Yoda.

    Now for Disney to "Re-do" Episodes 1,2,3. Edit them down to 2 movies that have punch.

    Check out the crawl text for "Episode VII - The Princess Trap" here:
    http://www.starwars.com/play/online-activities/crawl-creator/index.jsp?cs=82y7s285qa :)

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