I have always been a fan of George Lucas and looked up to him for his entrepreneurial efforts to keep hold of every percent of his multibillion-pound company, Lucasfilm. In a nutshell, every single piece of Star Wars merchandise sold contributes to Lucas’ already substantial money pot. That is why, when I first heard the rumour of Disney’s attempt to buy Lucasfilm, I was a little surprised to say the least.
At a glance, Disney’s decision to buy Lucasfilm, the production company behind Stars Wars and Indiana Jones, may seem random. Yet, a brief look into Lucasfilm’s history and it could be said that this decision was always inevitable. Few people may know that Disney’s animation arm, Pixar, is a company founded by George Lucas and originally a sub company of Lucasfilm. However, Lucasfilm’s relationship with Disney reaches back to the 1970s. Disney’s success with the relatively unexploited children and family market had driven the company forward, however, its films in the 1970s had been a flop in comparison to its earlier work in the 30s and 50s. George Lucas, and his habitual partner in crime, Steven Spielberg, became the defining filmmakers of the age, and arguably showed Disney the way back to its earlier success by the 1980s.
The move makes sense for Disney on a number of levels. The two companies have been getting closer in the recent decades and Disney World has even been running regular Star Wars weekends. Lucasfilm has also started to produce products for a younger audience, such as the Clone Wars television series. As for Disney, acquiring Lucasfilm allows them to reach a further demographic in the audience – to target males of all ages. Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for the exact figure that Lucasfilm was purchased for, $4bn (£2.5bn), so their catalogue is consistently expanding.
Lucasfilm is worth $5.2bn, whereas Disney are only paying $4bn. However, many critics and analysts are claiming that George Lucas has reached the peak with the Star Wars franchise, and needs to hand it over to a larger force to continue to grow the brand. Lucas claimed himself that it is ‘time to pass it over to a new generation of filmmakers.’ Interestingly, George Lucas will receive half of the company purchase price in cash and the other half in Disney stock, making him the second highest shareholder behind the late Steve Jobs. Lucas will act as a creative consultant for the new movies.
What next? I was a little sceptical about the effect that Disney would have over the franchise, being bought up with the likes of Anakin Skywalker and C-3PO. However, analysts, such as Paul Dergarabedian, an expert in box office analysis and tracking, has identified that the prospective of fresh creative talent will invigorate the franchise, and has avid fans excited about the new owner and products.
Fans should fear not, the force that is Disney, as Disney’s CEO, Mr. Iger, reported that “Disney respects and understands, probably better than just about anyone else, the importance of iconic characters and what it takes to protect and leverage them effectively”. Disney has a reputation to allow creative freedom to new entities.
The relationship between Disney and its ‘independent divisions’, which now include Lucasfilm, is really synergetic, analysts said, ‘with the Disney prized underlings providing the valuable products and the company taking care of marketing, distributing and all the dirty jobs of bringing the movies nearer to audiences worldwide’. So do not fear, Star Wars fans, the Disney imprint will not reach Star Wars yet.