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Walt Disney Company to acquire Lucasfilm, plans to make a new Star Wars trilogy

The Walt Disney Company, which is already the world’s largest media conglomerate (it owns ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Pixar, and a host of other properties) is about to get even biggerDeadline Hollywood Daily has the surprising news:

Disney has just confirmed that it has agreed to acquire George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Ltd., and that includes rights to the Star Wars franchise that will now continue on. The companies have targeted a 2015 release for Star Wars: Episode 7, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 to follow as the the long-term plan is to release a new feature every two or three years. “The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith – and we believe there’s substantial pent-up demand”, Disney said. The deal also includes rights to the Indiana Jones franchise.

Disney will reportedly pay $4 .05 billion for Lucasfilm – slightly more than it paid for Marvel a few years ago, and less than it paid for Pixar Animation Studios.

The surprising deal is Disney CEO Bob Iger’s third major acquisition. Iger has turned around the company after several disappointing years under Michael Eisner, partly by buying Pixar and Marvel. Now Disney will control Lucasfilm.

It’s worth noting that Lucas has given his blessing, encouragement, and support to Disney’s plans to release more Star Wars movies. This is interesting because Lucas has previously said he did not plan to make any more Star Wars movies, and would not be handing off the franchise to anyone else, either.

But evidently, he has changed his mind.

“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,” the filmmaker said in a statement. “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,” Lucas added. (Star Wars rides are already among the attractions at Disney theme parks like Disneyland and Walt Disney World).

This deal presumably means that Lucas’ relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is at an end. News Corporation’s Twentieth Century Fox has served as distributor for all six Star Wars movies to date, but Disney will no doubt distribute and market any future films going forward. Lucas always retained merchandising rights and creative control over the franchise, so Disney gains that as well.

There’s no question that Star Wars is a valuable property. From Disney’s perspective, there is a lot of money to be made by doing more movies. (And perhaps a live-action Star Wars television show, as well). In a roundtable discussion posted on starwars.com, Lucas noted that he has said in the past he doesn’t want to do any more Star Wars films. But apparently, he is perfectly content to let others make them. Kathleen Kennedy will henceforth be the custodian of the Star Wars franchise, with Lucas serving as a creative consultant.

Many Star Wars fans reacted with dismay or incredulity.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! posted quigonschuel on TheForce.Net, a popular message board for fans of Star Wars.

“All over the UK news. OMG this is the weirdest horriblest thing ever. More to say later!” wrote UK Sullustian.

Obi Wanandonly struck a more optimistic tone.

“I agree, GL [George Lucas] had to hand it off to someone eventually, and they [Disney/Marvel] did knock one out of the park with ‘The Avengers.’ I am optimistic. On whether or not it will be a continuation of the original storyline, I’d think they would do a brand new thing (no Luke, Han, etc.) Then again, it might not even actually be “Episode VII”. It’s not like they have the script written already (I’m assuming) so it could conceivably be a standalone story arc in the SW [Star Wars] universe. I think it would be awesome if they did a trilogy in the Old Republic timeline, it would be fresh and new.”

“Now, I don’t like this. I mean, I really, really, really don’t like this. But please: Tell me how Disney can screw up the EU [Expanded Universe] continuity any worse than what George Lucas himself is doing with Clone Wars these days?” asked Hogne.

JediTheSkyisBlue added, “I have a bad feeling about this as well. I just don’t see how they can make a Ep [Episode] 7 without Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. But I don’t want them to recast. And I also don’t want every few years there to be a new Star Wars. Until Star Wars is nothing but oh no they making another one of those type of movies.”

“I was so shocked by this my hands literally went numb for a second,” JediFireFly5 wrote. “Is GL [George Lucas] trying to kill us? I am thrilled and dismayed. Like if someone dear died and you accepted it and moved on then they are laive but of course not the same person anymore…”

The deal must survive regulatory scrutiny, but given Disney’s influence in the District of Columbia, getting the feds to sign off is probably just a formality.

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