I have you now, for another issue of Around the Galaxy! Big things are happening in the world of Star Wars. We’re getting all sorts of activity and while it’s not all thrilling in the short term, there is a ton of it as the Disney/Lucasfim bus moves forward. This week we’ve got some George Lucas and Episode VII news, a Billy Dee Williams sighting, news on a video game called Star Wars: First Assault and lastly a bit on the end of a Star Wars era, namely the cancellation of The Clone Wars animated TV show.
George Lucas Makes a Deal and Spills the Beans – Sort Of
Last week Bloomberg Businessweek ran an extensive article with a lot of detail on just how the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney transpired. In the article, we get a fascinating peek into the secret negotiations and the mindset of the the principle players as well as a look at just how George Lucas prepared Lucasfilm for the process of him exiting the building which at age 67 he knew was a certain eventuality.
“Lucas replied that he’d recently celebrated his 67th birthday and was starting to think seriously about retiring. So perhaps the sale of his company was inevitable.“
It’s also interesting to see how Disney Chairman Bob Iger viewed Lucasfilm as a “mini-Disney” with a huge stockpile of intellectual property that Disney could use for more films and to drive its other businesses. Ultimately, Iger needed to make a deal that would fit into Disney’s expansive business model while Lucas felt like he was ready to hand over the keys to the Star Wars kingdom but didn’t want to hand them to just anybody and watch them tear it apart.
Part of Iger’s strategy is to acquire companies that could be described as mini-Disneys such as Pixar and Marvel—reservoirs of franchise-worthy characters that can drive all of Disney’s businesses, from movies and television shows to theme parks, toys, and beyond. Lucas’s needs were more emotional. At 68, he was ready to retire and escape from the imaginary world he created—but he didn’t want anybody to desecrate it.
The article goes on to describe events like the hiring of Kathleen Kennedy as part of Lucas’s exit strategy, Iger and Lucas’s first broaching of the subject at the opening of Disney’s Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Lucas’s insistence that Disney keep Lucasfilm mostly intact and the eventual signing of J.J. Abrams to direct Episode VII.
There are some interesting tidbits buried in this article, including a statement by Lucas that the “big three” original Star Wars trilogy actors are on board for the new movie in some capacity.
Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’
Amusingly, almost as soon as Lucas makes this statement he begins a soft backpedal:
He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”
It’s apparent that everyone involved is excited to talk about new Star Wars but you have to wonder what Disney thinks every time this happens. Remember last weeks AtG where I talked about how Carrie Fisher stated unequivocally that she is reprising her role as Princess Leia in Episode VII? The very next day her publicist claimed that Fisher’s comments “were a joke”. I have to wonder if every time one of these folks blurts out something like this, execs and PR people at Disney start pulling their hair out and screaming about spoilers.
One last tidbit that I think sort of flew under the radar because of related goings-on with Disney/Star Wars/Lucasfilm, was the almost casual mention of a TV show:
Iger is busy readying the machinery that will crank out Star Wars-related toys and theme park attractions and whatever Disney deems as appropriate franchise exploitation. He says he’s looking to expand sales of Star Wars merchandise overseas and that ABC and Lucasfilm are discussing a live-action TV series.
It’s no secret that Lucas and company have been talking about a live-action television series for quite some time – several years in fact. Discussions have always ended with the refrain “it’s too expensive right now, maybe later”. I’m actually surprised and encouraged that Iger has plainly stated here that they’re moving beyond the “thinking about it” stage to actually talking to a network about doing this show. Based on what we’ve heard previously from people like Rick McCallum, the idea of a TV show on a network like ABC opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms but that’s a discussion we’ll save for another day…
The entire Bloomberg Businessweek article is a lengthy read but well worth it if you’re interested in the inner workings of the Disney/Lucasfilm deal. You can read the article here.
Hello, What Have We Here?
Undoubtedly the smoothest character to ever grace the Star Wars screen, Billy Dee Williams has been fairly quiet about any possible involvement in Episode VII. Over at Film Buff Online they recently ran a short piece about this very subject. A friend of the site who attended New Jersey’s Monster Mania convention had a chance to ask Billy Dee what, if anything he thought about coming back as Lando Calrissian.
Via Film Buff Online:
“Well, friend of the site Henry R. had a chance to talk to Williams briefly at the Monster Mania convention in New Jersey this past weekend and asked him just that. He reports -
Billy Dee said, he has been asked, but hasn’t decided if he is going to do it or not yet.”
That’s actually a startling answer considering that Mr. Williams has stayed close to the Lando character in other projects like Fanboys and Robot Chicken. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see him in another Star Wars film, possibly as an elder statesman or maybe even a sort of robber-baron with a heart of gold. It remains to be seen what, if any, role he’ll play in any new Star Wars projects but I’ll be keeping an eye on things and let you know as events warrant.
The Star Wars Shooter That Wasn’t
In October 2012 gaming site Kotaku stumbled across a previously unknown Star Wars Xbox Live Arcade title called Star Wars: First Assault. At the time there had been no word, official or otherwise from LucasArts about this project so it was left to fans to speculate on what this might be.
Earlier this week Kotaku was able to provide some new information on this title. All of this information appears to be coming from insider sources as LucasArts has still not announced this game, much less acknowledged its existence. Currently all LucasArts games are in a sort of purgatory while Disney decides what they want to do with LucasArts and what direction they want to go with Star Wars video games in general.
“Today, Kotaku can reveal that Star Wars: First Assault is a downloadable multiplayer shooter that was originally slated for release this spring. The game supports up to 16 players—one eight-person team of rebels and one eight-person team of Stormtroopers—as they face off on Star Wars worlds like Bespin and Tatooine.”
Later in the week, Kotaku presented more information about Star Wars: First Assault:
“Today Kotaku can reveal gameplay footage from the Star Wars shooter, which has not been announced and may never actually make it out of the studio, even though it’s almost finished.
Star Wars: First Assault was meant to be a “predecessor” to Battlefront III, we learned this week. LucasArts planned to release it this spring as a downloadable game, but Disney’s acquisition of the company put all games on freeze as executives try to figure out what to do with the Star Wars property.”
These two items taken together are pretty interesting, regardless of the current murkiness at Disney regarding the various Lucas properties. Fans have been clamoring for the third installment of the Battlefront franchise for awhile now and that project has a very checkered past. Even though this isn’t exactly Battlefront III, I think fans would be pretty happy to get something like this as a prelude to a possible larger project down the road. With everything under the Disney/Lucasfilm umbrella currently in transition it’s pretty tough for fans to see projects like this sitting on the sidelines and be left thinking that they may never see the light of day. The fact is that until Disney firms up their plans for various projects it’s going to be a bit of a rough ride. I suspect though, that we won’t have too long of a wait on some of this stuff as they move forward.
The End of an Era
This week brought us the disappointing news that Disney would not be renewing The Clone Wars animated series for a sixth season. In a press release Lucasfilm stated that they have decided to take Star Wars animation in a different direction.
As we enter into an exciting new era focused on the next Star Wars trilogy, Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming. We are exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or television programming. You can expect more details in the months to come.
As part of this shift, we have also made some key decisions affecting Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Detours.
After five highly successful and critically acclaimed seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we feel the time has come to wind down the series. While the studio is no longer producing new episodes for Cartoon Network, we’re continuing production on new Clone Wars story arcs that promise to be some of the most thrilling adventures ever seen. Stay tuned for more information on where fans can soon find this bonus content. In the video below, Supervising Director Dave Filoni offers a peek of what is to come in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
At Star Wars Celebration VI last year, George Lucas gave fans a glimpse at the animated comedy series Star Wars Detours from Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, and Todd Grimes. Detours was conceived and produced before we decided to move forward with the new Star Wars trilogy, and in the wake of that decision, Lucasfilm has reconsidered whether launching an animated comedy prior to the launch of Episode VII makes sense. As a result, we’ve decided to postpone the release of Detours until a later date.
We are incredibly proud of the teams at Lucasfilm Animation for creating some of the most amazing animation ever produced for TV. Keep checking StarWars.com for new developments on these and future projects.
Interestingly, we also learned via a statement from TCW Supervising Director Dave Filoni that while there won’t be a sixth season there is still more story to tell and that progress is moving forward on resolving some of the Clone Wars story arcs. Just how these will be delivered is unknown at this time and there is lots of speculation on this. The Clone Wars has been delivering story arcs in four episode packages so it’s possible that we might see these packaged together for a theater release or two that takes this format to the big screen. It’s also been speculated that we might see a direct to Blu-ray release or possibly even a web series. While we don’t currently know how more Clone Wars is going to be delivered (do you see a pattern here?) the good news is that we have not seen the end of the story.
Additionally, in the same release Lucasfilm stated that the Star Wars Detours project, first announced last summer has been put on hold while they decide where and when it would be appropriate to launch a Star Wars comedy animation. This news wasn’t met with much enthusiasm by fans either but I found it interesting that Detours creator Seth Green didn’t seem overly upset about the postponement.
“As you may know, Detours is on hold while Lucasfilm focuses on the new Star Wars films. Don’t fear, you’ll see it when the timing’s right.”
While Seth Green may have just been playing the diplomat, he seems fairly outspoken at times and I suspect that if he really felt like he’d been unfairly sandbagged by the temporary change in plans that we would have heard that by now, either from him or one of his associates. It’ll be interesting to see how Disney thinks a project like Star Wars Detours fits in to the overall scheme of things going forward.
It wasn’t all depressing news however, in the same announcement Lucasfilm let slip that an entirely new animated project set in a Star Wars era previously unexplored in films or television is in development. That’s a pretty vague statement that leaves us all wondering just where they might be headed. The fan consensus seems to be that we may finally see something set in the Old Republic era. I would love to see a project like this. Much like Star Wars: The Old Republic, setting a series in that era would give the creators a fairly free hand to develop some new stories and characters. It could also be a win-win for Disney, Lucasfilm and EA/BioWare as any series set in that era would undoubtedly have a positive impact on SW:TOR in the long run.
While we don’t yet know what we’re going to get with a new animated series, I think the really big takeaway here is that we’re getting even more new Star Wars. The last time that happened we got the prequels and regardless of how you feel about the individual films, they drastically expanded the range and scope of the Star Wars universe. Don’t forget that the prequels led us to five seasons – 108 episodes – of excellent Star Wars storytelling via The Clone Wars animated series. While news like this can be a little nebulous (and painful) in the short term, the truth is that there is a boatload of Star Wars in the works right now, more than ever before in its 30+ year history. Eventually we are going to see what currently feels like a trickle turn in to a flood of Star Wars goodness. I can’t wait!
Around the Galaxy is a regular feature where we make a slight detour from Star Wars: The Old Republic and offer up news and opinion about all things Star Wars. In addition to news about development of official Star Wars projects we curate related news and items of interest from the community. I’m always looking for interesting things to share with the community so if you see something that you’d like me to share here don’t hesitate to contact me via TORWars or on Twitter @HolyCrapItsLate.
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