Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney and Star Wars: You don't know the power of the Mouse House

There was some big news yesterday for Star Wars and Disney fans.

George Lucas has sold Lucasfilms LTD to the Disney corporation.  I've looked over a lot of forums and social media channels, and the reaction seems to be mixed, those that are fans of Disney, like the move, those that don't like Disney, don't like the move.

I happen to be someone that likes Disney, so that means I like the move; however I'm going to tell you why this is a great thing for big Star Wars fans. (I'm one of those too)

George Lucas lost his touch and held things way too tight with such an imaginative property.  In order for me to clarify this, let's look at the good and bad things of how Star Wars has been treated over the years.

The good:

1. Merchandising, no toy sells like Star Wars toys, every character that's ever appeared in a movie on or on the TV show gets an action figure.  There are times when you are convinced in watching the new movies that whole plot lines and characters were introduced, just so they could make the toys for it.

2. Novels, Star Wars novels have been plentiful and broadened the story in a ton of ways, allowing creative writers to broaden the world in ways that one person would not have been able to do.

3.  The first 3 movies, they were great.  (As they were released).

The bad:

1. 6 movies in 40 years, even if the prequels weren't what most fans wanted, that's entirely too few.

2. George Lucas' CGI infatuation.  From 'updating' the old movies to what I think is the biggest problem with the new movies.  Lucas became obsessed with CGI to the point where it affected the ability to tell a story.  My suggestion to Lucas would have been if he wanted to experiment with CGI so much, go do it with some other movies and take a hard look at what really worked.  Another suggestion would have been for him to go direct some other movies as well, since some aspects of movie making have advanced so much since he was directing the movies and it was painfully obvious that there were things he missed in putting the prequels together.

3. The reach of the Star Wars universe wasn't enough, a small previous partnership with Disney and some other companies isn't enough to meet the demand that is out there for Star Wars related things.  While there are those that think it protects the brand, it also means things are severely disappointing when they aren't excellent.

Disney is going to take care of the bad.  The fact is, there isn't a better company that's better equipped to handle the Star Wars franchise and legacy.  Putting everything (eventually) under one company that is best in class at providing experiences is the best thing imaginable for a Star Wars fan.

I know there are those that do not like Disney, and the company has it's share of problems, but you'd be hard pressed to come up with a large company who handles content, brand protection, and allows artists to produce things that are special. This isn't to say they are the best place an artist could work, but if you factor in the size and goals of a corporation, I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find one that is better to work for then Disney, that also is able to deliver those results to its fans.

Lucasfilms could never get away from being a company that made 3 special movies, 3 ok ones, and a lot of breakthroughs in CGI and sound.  George's shadow loomed heavy over the franchise and his reluctance to let go of the reigns risked making the franchise obsolete.

That's all about to change in the coming years.  Not everyone will like all of the directions that Disney will take it, but at least there will be some directions, think of your favorite nerd style conversations, would you rather rehash whether Jar Jar Binks should have been included in the prequels or discuss what's new that's coming out?  Even if the new stuff doesn't meet the level of special that the originals did (sorry to say, but they likely won't).  I'm confident that you'll see something good and at the end of the day, good is much better then nothing.

For a comparative nerd example, take a look at Dungeons and Dragons and TSR their original company, management wasn't able to sustain the product and it was in danger of dying out in the 90's, Wizards of the Coast came in and breathed new life into it.  While it might not have been the direction that fans wanted, at least it survived and has a very nice run since they purchased it.  George hasn't had incentive to produce something special for the past 25 years, at least Disney has the incentive to try and appease their shareholders and given how they need to succeed to do so, there should be something there for diehard fans too.