When Disney purchased LucasFilm in October of 2012, Star Wars fans everywhere let out a collective groan. Images of Mickey making a cameo in a Michael Bay film flashed in the minds of every Star Wars fan. With crossed fingers, fans hoped that Disney would not run the franchise into the ground – and then it began.
Disney shut down the internal production of the Star Wars gaming division known as LucasArts. The company was quickly losing money on games that were never best sellers. One of the last games that LucasArts produced, ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ cost $200 Million to create and wound up being a free-to-play game after disappointing sales.
Turning LucasArts into a licensed-based division was a fast way for Disney to chop employment numbers and cut losses. While not necessarily the end of all LucasArts games (Disney issued a statement letting the public know that games may be developed externally), it was the end of internally developed LucasArts games.
Essentially, any third-party developer can now build games using the LucasArts license. So far, no major developers have stepped forward to take up the task. While the end of LucasArts was upsetting for many, Disney had other plans for the Star Wars franchise.
LucasFilm was always known as a renegade company that served one direct purpose: to create content that appealed to Star Wars fans. George Lucas was great at keeping his audience in suspense, and that meant releasing a film every three or so years with just enough space between films to keep fans guessing.
When Disney announced that a new Star Wars film would be released every year starting in 2015, fans let out another massive groan. A new yearly film may generate a return on investment for Disney (after all, the company spent $4.05 Billion on Lucas’ company), but many fear fans will quickly tire of back-stories and spin-offs.
On the other hand, Lucas has been building thousands of Star Wars characters for decades. He created a catalogue database called ‘The Holocron’ that contained more than 17,000 different Star Wars characters years ago. This massive collection of imagined characters left Disney execs so stunned they had to hire a Star Wars fanboy, Pablo Hidalgo, to understand how all the characters were related to one another. So, if Disney sticks to Lucas’ original character developments, it certainly has enough material to go on for all those future films.
After the acquisition, Lucas told Rolling Stone that he sold the franchise “…so that the films will have a longer life, so that more fans and people can enjoy them in the future.” Lucas also told the magazine that LucasFilms is “…absolutely going to make [more] Star Wars movies…the main thing is to protect these characters.”
Lucas ensured this by making his brand manager (and long time friend), Kathleen Kennedy, part of the Disney deal. He also appointed Hidalgo ‘Brand Communication Manager’ of LucasFilm.
What’s next for LucasFilms? All we know for sure is that Star Wars Episode VII has been announced with a 2015 release date. This film will feature some members from the original Star Wars cast including Carrie Fisher as an older Princess Leia. George Lucas may have sold the Star Wars franchise, but he left the Star Wars characters well protected in the hands of fanboys and trusted friends.