The major entertainment/business news of a day when there are many more important things going on than entertainment and business: Disney announced that it’s bought George Lucas’s Lucasfilm for “$4 billion in cash and stock.”
The press release is a little vague on what this means for the distribution rights to the most important Lucas cash cow – by which, of course, I mean Radioland Murders – but it does announce that there will be another Star Wars movie for us to complain about in 2015 (though it might actually cause a lot of excitement if the film is assigned to a director with a better reputation than Lucas, meaning just about anybody at this point). And if the Marvel movie franchise is any indication, these Star Wars sequels are likely to keep being made on and on and on for our lifetimes.
If nothing else, this purchase solidifies Disney as a sort of gigantic clearing-house for family-friendly entertainment brands: Pixar, Marvel, and now Lucasfilm. Though it still makes lots of money off its own characters and brands, they mostly belong to the past – there isn’t a lot of new Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck material coming our way, and “Princess” movies are one of the few things they still seem to specialize in.
Disney doesn’t exactly have an identity as an entertainment franchise now, at least not the way it used to. Instead it collects companies that do have their own identity (sort of) and folds them into a big cross-promoted entertainment experience. It’s a little unnerving to think what will happen to some of these companies when it’s no longer profitable for them to keep their own identities. But the lack of an identity for big entertainment companies is the new reality, and it’s been a long time coming. When a company like Disney or Warner Brothers pretends to have a “history,” it feels fake now; their history consists of the brands and catalogue material they bought up.
George Lucas has always claimed to be one of the last of the great independents, so this sale puts an end to that. It will be interesting to watch for the stories that will come out in the next few days about why he chose this time to take a less active role and take the route once followed by his former computer whiz-kid division, Pixar. He did announce in an interview earlier this year that he was tired of the big movie business, and that interview is already starting to be parsed as the first clue to what happened today.