Disney Buys LucasFilm…What’s Next?
In the fall of 2009, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion dollars, transferring control of Marvel’s comic book and movie library to Disney, along with a library of 5,000 characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Daredevil, and Captain America.
This summer, Disney released the blockbuster megahit, Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), which grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide, and the studio has several more Marvel films in production, including Iron Man 3 (2013), sequels to Thor (2013), Captain America (2014), and The Avengers (2015), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), a film starring that OTHER team of Marvel superheros: Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Gamora. Never heard of them? Me either!
But now the entertainment world is buzzing with speculation, worry and excitement over the Walt Disney Company’s newest $4 billion cash-and-stock purchase of another mega-successful entertainment company: George Lucas’s LucasFilm, creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.
Disney has had a partnership with LucasFilms for years, which included the rights to the Star Wars-inspired Star Tours motion simulator rides at Disney Parks worldwide, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the thrilling dark ride Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland and its sister ride, Temple of the Crystal Skull at Tokyo DisneySea.
Every spring, Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts Star Wars Weekends, four consecutive weekends in May and June dedicated to Star Wars fandom and featuring special events, panels, and guest star appearances from the franchise’s most esteemed writers, producers, and celebrities.
When the acquisition of LucasFilm was announced on October 30th, a figurative storm of anxiety started brewing in the geek community, rivaling the ferver of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. Many fans are concerned by Disney’s acquisition, fearing the “Disneyfication” of their favorite franchise, continuing a trend that led Star Wars from the much-loved original trilogy to the more kid-friendly prequels and animated series which have failed to live up to fan expectations.
The wildly successful Marvel’s The Avengers should assuage fears somewhat, but many fans are still bitter over the sub-par Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and are concerned the quality of the series may further fall under control of the House of Mouse.
George Lucas isn’t concerned and has expressed excitement over the future of his Star Wars franchise:
For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. 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.
Disney and Star Wars fans will have to wait more than two years to find out if the studio’s purchase was the right move for the franchise. Disney has scheduled the seventh chapter in the Star Wars franchise (Star Wars Episode VII) for release in 2015 and has announced plans to produce a new Star Wars film every two to three years.
What Else Does Disney Own?
In addition to Marvel Entertainment and LucasFilm, the Walt Disney Company owns a heck-of-a-lot of other entertainment companies that produce media for TV, film, print, and more. A partial list of their most significant holdings are below. (List of Assets Owned by Disney)
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios
The Muppets Studio
It’s a Laugh Productions
Walt Disney Records
Media Networks & TV:
ESPN (80% ownership)
A+E Networks (50% ownership)
The Baby Einstein Company
Hulu (27% ownership)