Star Wars Episode 7
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Disney buying 'Star Wars' maker Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion
Vowing to breathe new life into filmmaker George Lucas's beloved "Star Wars" franchise, The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that it will pay $4.05 billion to buy San Francisco-based Lucasfilm and the rights to produce future installments in one of the world's most lucrative film sagas.
Disney CEO Robert Iger, who called the series "one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time," said his company plans to release the first of at least three more "Star Wars" films in 2015, with an additional sequel coming every two to three years after that.
Lucas had previously said he would make no more "Star Wars" films, and he recently announced plans to ease into retirement after naming a successor to run his production company. Disney said he will serve as "creative consultant" on the upcoming films.
"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 68-year-old film pioneer said in a statement released by both companies.
The deal will add to Burbank-based Disney's already significant presence in the Bay Area, where the media conglomerate also owns Emeryville-based Pixar Studios -- itself an early spinoff from Lucas' company. Disney said it has no plans to move employees of Lucasfilm or its subsidiaries, including the celebrated special-effects division known as Industrial Light & Magic, from their current locations.
Lucasfilm has been headquartered at San Francisco's Letterman Digital Arts Center since 2005, but the company also has operations in Singapore and at two campuses in Marin County, where Lucas moved from Hollywood to the property he renamed Skywalker Ranch in 1978.
The privately held Lucasfilm employed about 1,700 people as of last year, according to an analysis by the research firm PrivCo, which estimates it had $1.5 billion in revenue in 2011.
In addition to new films, Disney plans to create new toys, consumer products, TV spinoffs and theme park tie-ins from the "Star Wars" series, which the company will add to a growing stable of iconic characters that already includes Disney's Snow White and the Little Mermaid, Pixar's Buzz Lightyear and Nemo, and Marvel's Iron Man and the Mighty Thor.
"If you look at the films that work these days, it's these big-branded characters that do really well," said Michael Corty, who follows Disney for Morningstar. "So this is in their wheelhouse."
Lucas also produced such hits as the Indiana Jones films starring Harrison Ford, but Iger told analysts Tuesday that Paramount has certain rights to that series that make it unlikely Disney would seek to revive it.
"We're going to concentrate on the 'Star Wars' franchise," said Iger, who added that as part of the deal, Disney is acquiring an "extensive and detailed treatment" or story outline for the next three films in the series.
While the later "Star Wars" installments were panned by some critics and fans, the last sequel in the series ranked as the top-grossing film of 2005. "We believe there is substantial pent-up demand" for more installments, Iger told analysts.
The six "Star Wars" feature films produced by Lucas have earned a combined $4.4 billion in box office revenue. Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said he estimated each of the last three films could have averaged $1.5 billion after adjusting for inflation and the increase in potential for revenue from overseas and other sources.
Toys and other products tied to the "Star Wars" brand will bring Lucasfilm about $215 million in revenue this year, Rasulo added, but he said Disney believes it can make even more money in foreign markets and through additional tie-ins at theme parks and elsewhere.
"We like Star Wars' potential on television, as well," Iger told analysts, adding that Disney may create a related series for its new cable channel aimed at boys.
Though best known for its films, Disney is a diverse conglomerate that also owns television networks ESPN and ABC, vacation resorts and retail stores. It reported $1.8 billion in profit for its most recent quarter, up 30 percent from a year earlier.
Some analysts trace the current strength of Disney's film division to its $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar, which was an early spinout from Lucasfilm before it was taken over by Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs.
"Their movie business before Pixar was kind of struggling," said Morningstar's Corty. "Disney needed an injection of creativity and Pixar helped with that."
Disney's latest deal will mean additional wealth for Lucas, whose personal fortune was estimated at $3.3 billion by Forbes earlier this year.
As sole owner of Lucasfilm, he will receive slightly more than $2 billion in cash and about $2 billion worth of stock in Disney -- making him the second-largest individual shareholder in the company.
The filmmaker had announced plans to retire earlier this year, when he named veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy as co-chair and his eventual successor as head of Lucasfilm. Disney said Kennedy will now run the operation as a division of Walt Disney Studios.
Lucas had recently abandoned plans to build a new studio on a third Marin property known as Grady Ranch, after neighbors opposed the project. A spokeswoman for Lucas said he will retain ownership of the current Lucasfilm campuses, including the sites in San Francisco and Marin, with the understanding that Lucasfilm will continue operating on the sites.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.
1971: George Lucas founds company as he releases "THX 1138," his first feature film.
1975: Special-effects studio Industrial Light & Magic and sound-effects company Sprocket Systems, which later becomes Skywalker Sound, founded.
1977: "Star Wars," the first film in a blockbuster trilogy, released.
1978: Lucas purchases 2,500-acre ranch in Marin County that later becomes Skywalker Ranch, home of some of Lucasfilm's production studios.
1979: Lucas hires Ed Catmull to head Lucasfilm's new computer division, which later creates the Pixar Image Computer.
1982: New video game division, Lucasfilm Games, later renamed LucasArts, launched.
1983: THX division, focusing on in-theater sound, founded.
1984: Computer division, using new Pixar Image Computer, releases first short film, which featured contributions from John Lasseter.
1985: Lucasfilm moves to Skywalker Ranch.
1986: Lucas sells Pixar to Steve Jobs.
1997: Original "Star Wars" trilogy re-released.
1999: Release of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," kicking off new trilogy.
2003: Lucasfilm Animation established.
2005: Lucasfilm moves into new offices in the former Presidio military base in San Francisco.
2006: Disney buys Pixar from Jobs.
2008: "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," first full-length animated film, released. TV series of the same name debuts.
2012: Disney buys Lucasfilm.
Source: Lucasfilm, Pixar, staff research
George Lucas Says Disney's 'Star Wars' Could Last 100 Years
Lucas says talks are already underway with writers for the upcoming 2015 seventh film, with two more planned after that.
Oct 31 2012
At this point, we don't know much about what the seventh "Star Wars" film will be about, but we certainly have some ideas about what we do and don't? want to see.
Along with fans, we were thrown into a frenzy on Tuesday when it was announced that Disney had purchased George Lucas' Lucasfilm for more than $4 billion. The deal will not only bring Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Han and the gang into the Mouse house, but it will also serve to re-boot one of the most popular and highest-grossing film franchises of all time.
After five-decade career in filmmaking, in a YouTube video explaining the deal, Lucas said he's been contemplating retirement for a while and now seemed like the right time to hand over the keys to the Jedi kingdom.
"Obviously I've been talking about retiring for several years now," he said. "I wanted to get into sort of another stage of life where I'm not in the film business anymore, where I don't have to run a corporation. It occurred to me one day that the perfect person to run the company was [Lucasfilm co-chair] Kathy [Kennedy]. It's just such a perfect fit, and I felt that I really wanted to put the company somewhere in a larger entity that would protect it. Disney is a huge corporation; they have all kinds of capabilities and facilities. There's a lot of strength to be gained by this."
Pointing to the success Disney has had with Marvel and Pixar, Kennedy said the family-friendly company with its legendary theme parks and merchandising power was the logical choice for Lucasfilm.
The good news for fans is that they will not only get an episode seven, but, in fact, an entire new trilogy. "I always said I wasn't going to do any more, and that's true, I'm not going to do any more," said Lucas, who will not write or direct the upcoming films, but whose iconic imprint will be all over them. "But that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy [Kennedy] to do more. I have story treatments of 7, 8 and 9 and a bunch of other movies, and obviously, we have hundreds of books and comics and everything you could possibly imagine. So I sort of moved that treasure trove of stories and various things to Kathy, and I have complete confidence that she's gonna take them and make great movies."
Kennedy revealed that meetings have already begun with prospective writers for the new movies. "I'm doing this so that the films will have a longer life," Lucas said. "So more fans and people can enjoy them in the future. It's a very big universe I've created and there's a lot of stories sitting in there."
In a separate video announcing the deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger had nothing but praise for Lucas' vision for the "Star Wars" universe, which he noted now includes 17,000 characters inhabiting several thousand planets spanning 20,000 years. "George Lucas is a true visionary and an innovative, epic storyteller who has defined modern filmmaking with unforgettable characters and amazing stories," said Iger.
The pact will also spin off new TV shows, games and theme park attractions and Iger said the company fully understands the responsibility that comes with stewardship of such iconic, beloved characters. In the same video, Lucas said he's been a fan of Disney all his life and that the deal will allow him to move into more philanthropic efforts as well as work on more experimental films that don't fit into the Lucasfilm universe.
"It was a perfect match of two companies that are constructed similarly," Lucas said. "It will give me a chance to go off and explore my own interests [and] at the same time feel completely confident that Disney will take good care of the franchise that I've built."
The best news of all? "We have a large group of ideas and characters and books and all kinds of things," Lucas said. "We could go on making 'Star Wars' for the next 100 years."
The Long, Winding, and Shapeshifting Trail to Episodes VII, VIII & IX
J.W. Rinzler | October 30, 2012
The long conjectured third Star Wars trilogy has kept fans guessing for decades, and may even have a few numerologists working on their mysteries. George Lucas' shifting feelings about future Star Wars trilogies have consistently clouded the picture. Given the difficulties associated with the birth of Star Wars in 1977, it's no wonder that Lucas's ideas kaleidoscoped. When trying to get such a big undertaking up and running and out the door, visions of the future are understandably hazy. But, as of October 30, 2012, Episodes VII, VIII and IX have been announced as real and soon to be tangible but they've existed as gossamer spirits for nearly 40 years.
On December 29, 1975, in conversation with Alan Dean Foster per the novelization of Star Wars, Lucas mentioned the prequel trilogy along with what would become Episodes V and VI: "I want to have Luke kiss the Princess in the second book. In the third book, I want the story just about the soap opera of the Skywalker family, which ends with the destruction of the Empire. Then someday I want to do the back story of Kenobi as a young man a story of the Jedi and how the Emperor eventually takes over and turns the whole thing from a Republic into an Empire, and tricks all the Jedi and kills them. The whole battle where Luke's father gets killed. That would be impossible to do, but it's great to dream about."
As Lucas came to terms with Twentieth Century-Fox during the making of Star Wars, he secured the legal rights to his sequels, though they remained undefined at the time. On location for the first phase of principal photography in Tunisia in March 1976, Lucas began a long tradition of talking with close collaborators, voicing his ideas for these other episodes and trilogies, much as Walt Disney would do of his projects.
"You know, when I first did this, it was four trilogies," Mark Hamill recalled in 2004, speaking of their conversation in 1976. "Twelve movies! Out on the desert, any time between setups lots of free time. And George was talking about this whole thing `Um, how'd you like to be in Episode IX?' `When is that going to be?' `2011.' [ ] I said, `Well, what do you want me to do?' He said, `You'll just be like a cameo. You'll be like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope.'"
In 1978, a Time magazine article reported that the Star Wars Corporation (a subsidiary Lucas had formed for Star Wars) would be producing "Star Wars II [Empire], and then, count them, 10 other planned sequels." At that time Lucas consistently mentioned 12 films and even created a barebones outline to that effect.
In it, the original trilogy occupied Episodes VI, VII, and VIII; a Clone Wars trilogy took up Episodes II, III, and IV, while Episode I was a "prelude," Episodes IX through XI were simply left blank and Episode XII was the "conclusion."
In 1979, however, Lucas said in an interview on the set of Empire, "The first script was one of six original stories I had written in the form of two trilogies. After the success of Star Wars, I added another trilogy. So now there are nine stories. The original two trilogies were conceived of as six films of which the first film was number four."
While in postproduction in early 1980, Lucas used to kick back from time to time with ILM manager Jim Bloom and muse about the bigger story. "The first trilogy is about the young Ben Kenobi and the early life of Luke's father when Luke is a little boy," Lucas said. "This trilogy takes place some 20 years before the second trilogy, which includes Star Wars and Empire. About a year or two passes between each story of the trilogy and about 20 years between the trilogies. The entire saga spans about 55 years. I'm still left with three trilogies of nine films. At two hours each, that's about eighteen hours of film!"
While Empire was originally part of a 12-film plan, by the time it was released, the number had clearly been reduced to nine. "The prequel stories exist where Darth Vader came from, the whole story about Darth and Ben Kenobi and it all takes place before Luke was born," Lucas explained at the time. "The other one what happens to Luke afterward is much more ethereal. I have a tiny notebook full of notes on that. If I'm really ambitious, I could proceed to figure out what would have happened to Luke."
Lucas mentioned these notebooks or one big book to me, a few years ago. I asked if I could see it, but he declined. My feeling is that this big book or these notebooks are private, though Lucas has occasionally sent me via an assistant miscellaneous handwritten notes from the period 1976-1983 to help in the writing of the making-of books.
But two years later while filming Jedi, for many reasons, Lucas was burning out, tired of the whole enterprise: "I'm only doing this because I started it and now I have to finish it," he adds. "The next trilogy will be all someone else's vision."
As of today, Lucas has given his new co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy several ideas and is really going into semi-retirement. Now, in a relatively short time, compared to the decades of speculation, fans will learn the secrets of Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Star Wars has risen again!
Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler is the author of The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. He is now writing The Making of Return of the Jedi (and really looking forward to finishing it) for a fall 2013 release. You can visit jwrinzler.com for more info.
15 Potential Directors for the New 'Star Wars' Films
Could it be J.J. Abrams? Matthew Vaughn? "Harry Potter" helmer David Yates? With all of Hollywood likely to want the job, here are some real choice options.
10/31/2012 by Jordan Zakarin
Now that the shock that Disney is buying Lucasfilm and producing three new Star Wars films -- news that froze some megafans like Han Solo in carbonite -- has worn off, it's time to look at the future of the franchise with clear eyes. The fact that creator George Lucas will not direct the films and that Kathleen Kennedy will produce them opens up a wide world of possibilities.
Those possibilities, of course, all depend on who takes the helm for the films. Will they be family-friendly? Gritty? Extra nerdy? Hard to say, but here are some potential leading contenders (in our fanboy imaginations, anyway) to take over the legendary sci-fi canon.
He's already revived one iconic space-based franchise, in Star Trek, and is wrapping work on its sequel. Would he do another? Well, he always was more of a Star Wars fan growing up. Abrams is the current king of TV sci-fi, having launched such shows as Alias and Lost, and has had other big-screen successes as director of Mission: Impossible III and producer of Cloverfield and Mission: Impossible IV -- Ghost Protocol. He also has worked with Kennedy's longtime partner, Steven Spielberg, on their '80s-style monster film, Super 8, which came out in summer 2011.
A lifelong fan of the force who had a voice role in the Clone Wars animated series, Favreau has major cred with Disney and geeks for his work in launching the critically beloved Iron Man franchise. Mixing grit with humor and gadgets, the series helped launch the current Marvel cinematic universe; there would be no Avengers without Iron Man. Oh, and he produced Avengers, too. Although Cowboys & Aliens didn't really hit, it did provide him with the chance to work with a Star Wars legend in Harrison Ford. He's set to direct an adaptation of Jersey Boys, though, presumably, a chance to direct Star Wars films would be too good to pass up.
Another Marvel vet, Johnston directed its Captain America to strong critical and commercial success. He has worked with Kennedy on Jurassic Park III, which he directed, and has had a career-long relationship Lucas, as he provided character designs and special effects to the original Star Wars films. He did the same for Raiders of the Lost Ark, winning an Oscar. He's also written a Star Wars book.
The man that's redefining the modern comic book franchise, Nolan might be wary to get involved in another geeky venture with a classic predetermined story. But he will be out of his DC duties soon -- he's producing Man of Steel but not Justice League -- and aside from exec producing cinematographer Wally Pfister's directorial debut, he doesn't seem to have much on his docket.
His X-Men prequel First Class was adored by fans of the series (and did relatively well financially), and his genre-busting Kick-Ass was a fan favorite with a sequel on the way. He's shown he can do grit, with Layer Cake and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He was at one point in talks to direct Thor for Disney, so he at least knows its executives.
The man who took over and finished the Harry Potter series, Yates has proved that he can handle a beloved franchise, elevate its content and make big money in the process. His Potter films were at the same time dark and family-friendly enough, a difficult line to balance. Yates also has had considerable success in TV work, both in the U.K. and U.S.
Another Harry Potter director (Prisoner of Azkaban), Cuaron has his own space drama, Gravity, coming out next year. Sure, that's a bit different than Star Wars -- this film will have Sandra Bullock and George Clooney drifting through space -- but it's sci-fi nonetheless. He also produced Pan's Labyrinth, which had monsters galore, and his Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien proved he can add plenty of edginess to his scripts.
A bit of a polarizing figure in the fan community, Snyder made the hits 300 and remake of Dawn of the Dead but also the maligned Sucker Punch and the divisive Watchmen. He's behind the new Superman film, which will either send him to the next level or sink his bonafides. Like most directors of his generation, he's also a huge Star Wars fan.
An up-and-coming director, Trank had a surprise hit with last year's Chronicle, a fresh take on the sci-fi genre with a small budget and dark subject matter. Practical special effects in the film, about high school students who gain special powers from toxic waste, were strong, and the project won him the new Fantastic Four job. That might get in the way of the Star Wars project, however.
His breakout indie hit was, fittingly, titled Moon, so you know he's got a thing for space (also, having David Bowie -- Ziggy Stardust himself -- for a father probably helped nurture that). His second film, Source Code, showed a more Hollywood aesthetic though still dealt with high concepts and special effects. He obviously never has worked with a budget like the one Star Wars commanded, but he's young and talented and has been considered for genre work, including Man of Steel and Dredd.
A two-time Oscar winner for his work with Pixar, Bird made the transition to live action with aplomb as director of the megahit Mission: Impossible IV -- Ghost Protocol. His Pixar work means he's a trusted Disney hand, and his M:I creds means he can handle someone else's franchise. He's got preproduction on the period film 1906 under way, but hey, this is Star Wars.
Another lifetime Star Wars fan, Goddard co-wrote and directed the long-delayed hit Cabin in the Woods, showing he can helm a genre film with humor and serious monsters. His co-writer on that film just happens to be Joss Whedon, who is now the go-to guy at Disney/Marvel; he's long been a Whedon apprentice, having written on Buffy and other TV shows. He's also working with Spielberg, as writer of Robopocalypse, so he's got connections with some very influential people in the Disney-Kennedy spheres.
Yes, really. The Family Guy animation king is a lifelong Star Wars nut -- he has made several special Star Wars episodes of Family Guy -- and busted out into live-action film with the megahit Ted. Sure, he's raunchy, but one has to assume he'd respect the material. And being Oscar host can't hurt his recognition factor, right?
Guillermo del Toro
A man with his iron in many, many fires, del Toro is a master at monster films and sci-fi. But is he too offbeat for this mainstream franchise? He nearly directed The Hobbit, but that fell through because of scheduling. He produces a ton of films and has Pacific Rim on the way, but if he could strike a balance between his own interests and the franchise's requirements, he'd be a big hit with fans.
The oldest guy on this list but a real option. He's rebooting his own Mad Max film, was an option on Justice League for DC and directed both Happy Feet movies and the sequel to Babe, the film about the talking pig.