On October 30th, 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion dollars, half of which was given in cash, the other in shares of Disney stock. Along with Lucasfilm, Disney also got the coveted Star Wars franchise which, through its films, video game licensing, television series, and merchandise makes hundreds of millions a year in revenue. Through this acquisition, the House of Mouse became looked upon as something of an Evil Empire, though fans had long bemoaned what Star Wars creator George Lucas had already done to their beloved space opera. The saga of the Skywalker family dramas had already been muddied with the prequel films and for some, the franchise would never recover.
In that way, Disney could be looked upon as a savior. Taking the creative reins from Lucas, the future of Star Wars now rested in the hands of other creative teams, with different perspectives on its evolution. But as with its Marvel films, Disney had a specific way in which the Star Wars movies were to be created and executed, and that process has been successful in some areas and not in others. From how many Star Wars movies will be released, to what actors are allowed to say about them, Disney has complete control. Since the release of the last of the Star Wars Episodes, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Disney has attempted to listen to the concerns of Star Wars fans, while still delivering what their audiences have come to expect in their intellectual property. Sometimes the two coincide, and sometimes they contradict one another. We can only hope the might of Disney ensures the level of quality and excellence that the Star Wars franchise deserves.
15. ONLY CERTAIN THEATERS CAN SHOW STAR WARS FILMS
If you live out in the middle of nowhere like a certain daydreaming moisture farmer, you probably won’t be getting to see the latest Star Wars movie anytime soon. Why? Because Disney only lets select theaters show Star Wars releases.
What goes into the final decision? Well, beginning with the final trilogy installment of the Star Wars Episodes, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, all theaters that screened a Star Wars release had to do so in their biggest auditoriums. Makes sense. Now, however, following The Last Jedi, only theaters with giant auditoriums need apply, because the House of Mouse is only letting Star Wars films be seen in the grandest manner possible.
14. THEY TAKE 65 PERCENT OF THE TICKET REVENUE
It’s common practice for big movie studios to take a majority of the revenue for their opening releases within the first four weeks of their run. After that, the percentage that the theaters themselves receives gradually increases. That’s one of the reasons why your popcorn, soda, and candy are so expensive — it’s how the movie theaters make their money.
Starting with The Last Jedi, Disney jumped from claiming 60 percent of the revenue from a Star Wars release to 65 percent. This can only go into effect if the film grosses over $500 million dollars, which is all but guaranteed with a Star Wars movie. It’s the new standard with any future films in the franchise, and the most any studio has received.
13. STAR WARS MOVIES MUST BE STREAMED ON THEIR SERVICE
For the past several years, Disney has been on amicable terms with Netflix and Hulu, giving them access to stream their live action and animated movies. That all comes to an end next year, when Disney creates its own streaming service and pulls the plug on all the content featured on services that can now be considered rivals.
This means that all of the Star Wars titles like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Last Jedi will leave Netflix and only be available on Disney’s new subscription streaming service (this goes for Marvel titles too). As it only wants family friendly material, however, anything rated R would stay on Netflix (which lets face it, isn’t going to be a Star Wars film).
12. STAR WARS FILMS CAN’T CONFLICT WITH MCU RELEASES
Beginning roughly ten years ago, Disney has been expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe at a pace of leaps and bounds, with a new MCU release happening just about every other summer. Since each Marvel character introduced almost inevitably gets its own trilogy of films, there’s a lot of Marvel superhero competition at the box office.
What Disney doesn’t want to do is shoot itself in the foot by pitting one of its Marvel superhero movies against one of its Star Wars films. Marvel films are slated to come out until at least 2020, and thus any Star Wars films released between now and then need to be carefully situated amidst the continuous stream of Marvel franchises
11. THEY CAN NEVER BE RATED R
Disney has always presented itself as an accessible, family-friendly company that wants the largest demographic possible to be able to see its films. Because of that, you probably won’t see an R-rated Star Wars film any time soon.
This isn’t exactly surprising news, as the original creator of Star Wars, director George Lucas has said that the films were always made for children. Their tropes of Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark, and the concept of the Hero’s Journey contain themes that children can respond to and gain principles from. For any other content that’s rated R (such as Marvel’s Deadpool), Disney has other production companies.
10. ACTORS ARE SWORN TO SECRECY
Star Wars films, like Marvel films, are some of the most hotly anticipated movies in the world. Hundreds of thousands of fans eagerly scour the internet for any piece of information they can about their cast, their plots, the characters that will be featured, and the locations where they will be filmed.
With this much amateur detective work going on, Disney makes all of its actors and actresses sign non-disclosure agreements stating that they won’t reveal anything about the projects they’re currently working on. This goes for the rest of the crew as well, but the on screen talent are the ones being interviewed the most. Disney wants the content of every Star Wars film to be as much of a surprise to audiences as possible.
9. A NEW STAR WARS MOVIE MUST BE RELEASED ANNUALLY
The original trilogy of Star Wars films came out in 1977, beginning with A New Hope, and continued in 1980 with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in 1983. The prequel films were released in 1999, beginning with The Phantom Menace, and continued with Attack of the Clones in 2002, and Revenge of the Sith in 2005. All of the Episodes had been three years apart, until The Force Awakens changed all that.
Disney decided after acquiring the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas, a new Star Wars film was needed every year so fans would have more to look forward to. With the dismal figures of Solo: A Star Wars Story’s release, they may rethink this plan in favor of higher quality films released further apart.
8. EXPANDED UNIVERSE IS NEVER CONSIDERED CANON
After the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, many fans thought George Lucas was done fleshing out the rich Universe he had created. Many authors and artists sought to do this for him, and for a time there were many novels and comic books devoted to expanding the headcanon of his stories. They were dubbed the “Expanded Universe”, and continued even when he made the prequels beginning in the late ‘90s.
The EU was slightly fragmented, however, so when Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise, they swept that clean in favor of the more streamlined and linear “Extended Universe”, which only applies now to Disney created video games, television shows, and comic books they approve.
7. ALL STAR WARS FILMS MUST TIE IN TO OTHER MEDIA
There’s been a long history of Star Wars being attached to other media — board games, video games, novels, comic books, etc. In the last decade, animated television shows like Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars have broadened the stories of both old and new characters in the Star Wars Universe, a trend which Disney wants to continue.
These days, fans get an entirely different picture of Star Wars characters when they see them in a variety of different media than simply with the film releases alone. Disney has specifically sanctioned certain tie-ins between other media and the films so that Star Wars fans have to explore other media to get the whole vision.
6. ALL STAR WARS COMICS MUST BE RELEASED THROUGH MARVEL
Given that Disney owns Marvel now, it makes sense that any Star Wars comics released should be through Marvel as well. Once upon a time, Dark Horse was the only publishing house releasing Star Wars comics, and throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s was a driving force in continuing Star Wars stories outside of the novels and video games of the Expanded Universe.
But back in 1977, when A New Hope was first released, it was Marvel that was given the rights to produced Star Wars comics. So in some ways, it’s a bit of a homecoming for Marvel once again to be the publishing house responsible for continuing the stories of beloved Star Wars characters (and introducing new ones).
5. ANTHOLOGY MOVIES MUST STAND ALONE FROM EPISODES’
Under George Lucas’s stewardship, Lucasfilm only released Star Wars films that were a part of his nine-part saga that followed the dramatic stories surrounding the Skywalker family. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, it decided that there were other stories that needed to be told through separate movies.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the first of the anthology films, standalone films that would be independent of the storylines in the Episodes. They would feature some new characters, some old characters, and a variety of locations. They were a way for directors, writers, and actors to explore and expand the Star Wars Universe with different creative visions. The lukewarm reception to the second anthology film, Solo: A Star Wars Story may alter Disney’s plans.
4. NO SINGLE PERSON WILL OVERSEE CREATIVE CHOICES
When George Lucas was in charge of Lucasfilm, he had the ultimate say on anything and everything to do with Star Wars, for better or for worse. As the original creator of the franchise, most of the content fans know and love from that galaxy far, far away came from his head. Naturally, he had the input of producers, writers, artists, etc, but the ultimate decisions were up to him.
This all changed when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, and George Lucas no longer had creative control. Even before Disney bought Lucasfilm, he had given over most of his authority to Kathleen Kennedy, now the president of Lucasfilm, but not even she has as much sway over the creative future of Star Wars as her predecessor.
3. EACH NEW DIRECTOR MUST WORK WITH DISNEY CREATIVE TEAM
Given that Star Wars films are released under Disney at a rate of a movie a year, it can be difficult to keep a cohesive group of writers and producers attached. As each project evolves, the creative teams and even the directors can change dramatically before the film ever hits theaters.
What doesn’t change, however, is the core group of the Disney Star Wars Creative Team that consists of a half dozen members whose job it is to assist each new director and crop of writers that comes on to make a Star Wars film happen. Should they be unfamiliar, the Creative Team has the lore knowledge ready to provide them with information on everything in the Star Wars Universe.
2. FORCE FRIDAY IS THE ANNUAL LAUNCH DAY FOR NEW MERCH
Several years ago, Disney decided to launch “Force Friday”, a special merchandising event just for Star Wars paraphernalia. Like “Black Friday”, the annual shopping extravaganza that happens the day after Thanksgiving, it began on September 4th to coincide with the release of The Force Awakens. It is now the only time of the year when new Star Wars merchandise is debuted.
A Force Friday was held for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as well as for The Last Jedi. Everything from the latest action figure lines, to new novels and visual dictionaries premiers on Force Friday. Retailers across the country hold special contests and activities, have special hours, and give away special prizes to fans that attend the event.
1. CURRENT PROJECTS MUST BE INCORPORATED INTO GALAXY’S EDGE
For the last several years, there have been rumors of a “Star Wars theme park” now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise. Star Tours, a Star Wars themed ride at Disneyland parks already existed, but it wasn’t that immersive and hardly contained the latest technology.
Set to open in 2019, “Galaxy’s Edge” is the name of the Star Wars theme park that will open in Disneyland, Disney World, and other Disney global resorts. It will be set on an entirely new planet in the Star Wars Universe, but all current Star Wars projects will tie into it in some way. Visitors will be able to walk aboard a life size Millennium Falcon, visit a real space cantina, and ride on several new attractions.
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