The Walt Disney Company announced today that it is acquiring Lucasfilm, George Lucas’ company responsible for the Star Wars franchise, Indiana Jones, and numerous other properties, for $4.05 billion. As part of the deal, Disney also acquires all of Lucasfilm’s subsidiaries and businesses, including Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound, which are widely used in the film industry. Disney’s board of directors as well as LucasFilm’s have approved of the transaction, which is now subject to antitrust scrutiny before being finalized.
Regarding the acquisition, Disney’s official corporate blog states, “Fans can expect a new feature film, Star Wars Episode 7, in theaters worldwide in 2015. George Lucas will serve as creative consultant on the film and Kathleen Kennedy, the filmmaker George handpicked to lead Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the rest of Lucasfilm into the future will be the executive producer (she’s also joining Disney as president of Lucasfilm)…Disney plans to release a new Star Wars feature film every two or three years for the foreseeable future.”
Here’s a video Disney released regarding the acquisition:
Wow. Did anyone see this coming? Obviously this has sweeping implications for the film side of Disney’s business, but those are better left to be discussed by experts in that area. Instead, let’s consider the theme park implications, of which there are also many.
Disney theme park insiders have said for years that Disney has wanted to do more with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises in the parks, but has had a difficult time due to collaborative difficulties in working with George Lucas. This transaction obviously eliminates any such obstacles, and without contracts with competing theme parks (as was the case with Marvel and Universal Orlando), there is nothing stopping Disney from aggressively utilizing the Star Wars and Indiana Jones properties in its parks.
And Disney should do exactly that. Unlike other properties that Disney could license or has licensed, Star Wars will not wane in popularity anytime soon, and it is already present to varying degrees in Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A dedicated LucasFilm Land, as we suggested months ago in our article concerning expansion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. An aggressive expansion of the area surrounding Star Tours would potentially negate the need to add Cars Land to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, thus allowing Disney California Adventure to retain its unique draw. It might also supplement a Cars Land addition as part of a wholesale makeover of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars would certainly prove a worthy rival to the similarly timeless Wizarding World of Harry Potter, if Disney chooses to utilize Star Warsit in a similar fashion. Star Wars is likely the only property that has fans more devoted than Harry Potter fans.
The purchase of LucasFilm also allows Disneyland to rethink its strongly-rumored overhaul of Tomorrowland with properties from the Star Wars universe rather than from the Marvel universe. I know I’d much rather see something based upon Star Wars characters than Stark Expo in the Innoventions building.
As for other implications, I can see this having a sweeping impact on other plans that have been gaining momentum for Disney. Last week AVATAR Land plans leaked, but you have to wonder if Disney might shelve the AVATAR idea if it has the ultimate juggernaut with Star Wars. Although it’s unlikely that Star Wars will resolve any problems with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it seems possible that Disney will want to allocate its theme park resources towards Star Wars, a property that it now owns, rather than a licensed property. Unless Disney massively expands its capital expenditures, it seems like an either or proposition–at least until more money is freed up when AVATAR Land and other projects conclude in 2015 or 2016. Of course, with as slow as Disney often moves in theme park development, it may take that long before Disney is ready to go with plans for more Star Wars content in the parks.
It may take a little while, but I can’t see Disney wanting to wait that long to aggressively expand the presence of Star Wars in the parks. Bob Iger’s tenure as CEO already has an expiration date on it, and I think he wants to establish his legacy as the man who brought Pixar, Marvel, and LucasFilm into the fold, and oversaw massive expansion that involved these properties. This is great for Disney theme park fans, and we all should be excited to see what’s to come! (In celebration of the acquisition, might I suggest dressing up your Facebook page with a Disney/Star Wars Facebook Cover?)
Universal might have started the theme park wars in Orlando, but I think Disney’s actions in the last several weeks have made things really, really interesting. It’s a good time to be a fan of either resort!
What do you think of Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm? How would you like to see Star Wars and Indiana Jones’ presence expanded in the parks (or wouldn’t you)? Share your thoughts in the comments!