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.


    George is doing his best to destroy it without anyone's assistance as it is.

      Beaten to it.

      I was going to say a better question would be "Will Disney Make It Worse?"

        or rather: "could Disney make it worse?"

          no they can't. Disney will actually make it better

    Get Seth McFarlane to write the script.. it would be AWESOME>@!

      Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge MacFarlane fan, but no.

      No no and no.
      I don't want McFarlane and his group of Manatees writing the script of Episode VII from "idea balls" plucked from a tank...

        Do you take all your witty quips from the Bible of Stone and Parker?

        Best reference ever

    I'm actually looking forward to seeing what Disney can do with the franchise. As a wise friend said, there's really not much they could do to make it worse. I'll be there, standing in line on the next films opening night.

      They've already made a massive improvement by prying Lucas out of the director's chair. With any luck they'll replace him with someone who can put together dialogue scenes that aren't blocked worse than a soap opera.

        This guy gets it!

        You guys are totally right. This is exactly what I've been saying all day :)

        Tell me about it. When they thaw out Walt Disney maybe they can work out how to bring Ivan Kershener back as well... More Empire Strikes Back, less Attack of the Clones!!!

          That would require necromancy unfortunately, since Kerschner died in 2010. :(

          Might not want to bring up the possibility in case George decides he can replace him with a CG model.

            Walt Disney is also dead; that is what I was alluding to.

    Well they've butchered the Marvel universe but they've made the butchered job an enjoyable experience so I'm gonna see what happens.

      It's not like any marvel movie that wasn't made under Disney's influence has been any less destructive.

    Also worth keeping in mind that there's a massive expanded universe set after the original trilogy. If Episode 7 isn't set significantly further into the future they'll either have to adapt one of the books or something from that material, or completely throw it away - stuff Lucasfilm and partners have been building out since the early 90s, mind you.

      This is what I'm worried about, Disney totally ignoring the EU and doing a story that is completely different from what has been established cannon for nearly 30 years in some cases. If they were going to use an already established EU story they'd either have to do the Thrawn series or something later like the Yuuzhan Vong stories which is workable as its based more around newer characters than the originals

        It's always been said though that the EU is non-canon, there are exceptions to the rule (which is where this whole issue gets messy as to what is and isn't canon), like the Clone Wars TV series.

        See - Dr Who. The new production completely ignores the continuity established by both the Virgin and BBC books. Indeed it even incorporated one of these books into the new series with a new doctor and companion. Doctor Who is going very strong - so don't be alarmed. :-)

      That's not really a problem. Most of the EU is mediocre at best, and that's being generous. Every single entry in it seems to be mandated to contradict at least one other piece of the EU. And the prequels came along and created massive problems with the EU that existed prior to them. They won't utilise any of it beyond references and homages, because of how bloated it's become and because it doesn't really 'count' anyway. Having said that it'd be nice to get an animated Thrawn trilogy, adjusted to account for the alterations to the mythos the prequels created. I also highly doubt these upcoming films are actually going to be Episode 7 etc in any real sense. If we're lucky they'll veer completely away from the known characters and tell a new story in the universe, or more likely we'll probably get a Ben Skywalker film series or the equivalent with some other descendant of the Skywalker clan not based much at all on the EU. That allows for cameos from, or the complete exclusion of, the original stars depending on factors like willingness to participate.

        The EU is basically fanfiction with a budget.

        I fully agree that the EU is mainly trash. The issue is how it would look to the few remaining Star Wars devotees to have the expanded universe they've been following for two decades unceremoniously thrown away on them.

        It's for that reason that I suspect they'll aim for a setting a century or two later and sidestep all that.

          It's just a moneymaking business, they really don't care. The few remaining fans don't account for enough of the profits to matter, and anyway they are the ones who buy anything and everything related even when they hate something about it. Just like any comic book film adaption, the bulk of the audience are not interested at all in the original version/format. I hope they really do make some movies/cartoons in different eras of Star Wars, but it's doubtful they'll remove that much of the brand recognition from whatever their main films are going to be.

            The expanded universe makes big money for Lucasfilm without much investment, no reason to kill it off.

            Although I guess if they make a new film and invalidate it all, maybe there will be a new EU to replace the old one and start fresh. Like Marvel and DC do periodically.

    Everyone asked the exact same question when Disney purchased Marvel and it seems to be stronger than ever, particularly the films under the Marvel Studios banner.

    This is probably one of the best moves for the Star Wars universe, provided that George's consultantcy is kept to a minimum. On a side note, his daughter Katie would be the best bet for writing the story for the next trilogy; she's written some of the better episode of Clone Wars and was key in bringing back Darth Maul who is finally getting a better share of the spotlight (and yes, he's pretty badarse).

      Darth Maul came back... wut?
      Wasn't he cut in half and dropped down a reactor shaft?

      I... don't think I need an answer.

        Yeah, without running to wookiepedia, I believe it's an android-ish sort of deal.

    I think what we all need to remember is Disney was behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. They can do badass, they can do violent and dark. So people worried about the new movie/s being too childish, probably have nothing to worry about.

      You and I have very different definitions of "violent", "badass" and "dark".

        They were lighthearted films for the most part but you can't deny, especially in the second and third films, things got darker and more violent.

      I liked the first Pirates movies but I feel the franchise quickly descended into self parody
      On Star Wars, I am optimistic about these turn of events
      god knows it needs some life breathed into it

      Well the first one was ok, the rest were pretty awful.

      More importantly they should now own Monkey Island since they've acquired Lucasarts, meaning that they own the franchise they ripped most of the Pirates ideas from as well.

    Disney = Great
    Star wars = Meh
    Lightsabers = Epic
    Disney+lightsabers=EPIC (what i wouldnt give to be able to hack my way through disney characters with a lightsaber.... only the shit ones tho, like Goofy, donald, mickey and that annoying main character from kingdom hearts)

      Well... what about the Kingdom Hearts games.
      They already cross over the Disney and Final Fantasy universes... now they can include lightsabres too.

        The kingdom hearts games are utter rubbish, i love disney im a full grown man and im not afraid to admit that i love almost all disney movies.
        But those games i'd rate them on the same scale of entertainment as justin bieber or big brother, which is the lowest form of entertainment possible IMO.... i would LITTERALLY rather watch paint dry.

          I've never played them... but a girl at work was trying to explain the story to me.
          Which is why I thought of it.

          Also, even by Final Fantasy standards... those stories make no sense.

    KotOR III kthxbai.

    I'm pretty sure they'll start churning out Lego Star Wars movies...

    ...oh wait! They've already done that!

    Alright, so everyone knows there's one of the Star Wars films that stands well above any others in in the franchise. The smartest way forward is pretty obvious - Get Genndy Tartakovsky on the line and put him at the head of a 2d animation team.

    Will Disney release the Christmas special???? I want to burn it.

    How do you kill that which has no life?

    Does this mean Disney owns Monkey Island now?

    Does that mean Disney could get Pixar to make a Monkey Island movie!?!?

    Cause that’s probably the best thing that could ever happen.

      Pirates of the Caribbean was originally the Curse of Monkey island. But deals fell through, nothing got done (bar the script) and they ended up basing it on their Disneyland Ride.

    First reaction: Thank god Lucas has finally squeezed the last milk out of the Star Wars teat. Four billion worth of full cream goodness. Have to hand it to the man, he's set up himself, and his next 10 generations, for life.

    Second reaction: Oh god, now Disney will be rendering the carcass down for glue. Let's hope it sticks.

    Kingdom hearts with lightsabers? Kingdom hearts with lightsabers.

    But really, I remember disney buying out marvel, and as far I'm concerned, that did nothing, and marvel has done pretty well these days.

    Joss Whedon + Firefly = Serenity
    Disney + Joss + Marvel = Avengers
    Disney + Joss + Star Wars = Nathan Fillon as Han Solo!!!

      Everyone seems to be forgetting that Indiana Jones is part of this deal, too. Nathan Fillon as Indy, now there's something I'd pay to see!

        I think Paramount Pictures get a say in Indy as well, so it might not be as clear cut...

          Ah, good point.

    get Lawrence (Raiders, Empire, Jedi) Kasdan to write it!

      This. The man is an accomplished screenwriter (outside the Lucas sphere as well)


    Last edited 19/06/15 9:36 am

    I find this thread's lack of Kyle Katarn mentions disturbing...

      So yes I'm saying it; Star Wars Episode VII: Dark Forces.

        Any room for Dash Rendar (:lol)?

        That could be pretty amazing.

    ...John Carter was pretty fucking awesome. How can Star Wars do anything but improve

      Disney FUCKED John Carter. The movie was OK but the entire production and subsequent promotion was a joke. A very expensive joke that killed off a great literary hero. :-(

    I predict a youthful rag tag cast of human/ewok/wookie, on an intergalactic "the goonies" style adventure

      intergalactic goonies..... Hell yeah!!!!

    Can anyone picture Lucas calling Disney in late 2014 and asking why no-one's "consulted" him about the next movie yet?

    The 'franchise' had been pretty comprehensively trashed by halfway through Attack of the Clones, so it's not as though there's anything left to say that if it's a Star Wars movie it must be worth seeing.

    I guess what I'm saying is 'wake me when there's a _worthy_ successor to KoToR2 or the Tartakovsky cartoon'.

    Once sentence:
    Dancing Stormtroopers at Disneyland.

    This alone has me scared.

    I've always said that the worst thing to happen to Star Wars was George Lucas.

    Now I feel I'm going to be proven wrong, if they bring back Jar Jar Binks I'm going to be dead inside.

    4.05 Billion dollars... 4/05... May the 4th... May the Force :O

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