In an announcement that surprised just about everyone Disney announced today that they would be purchasing Lucasfilm the baby of George Lucas and the birthplace of the entire Star Wars franchise for a mere 4 billion dollars. This news shocked three particularly large groups in no particular order:
Industry insiders are shocked because no one saw this coming. Disney kept this real quiet, unlike in 2009 when word was out for months that the big bad mouse was out to purchase Marvel Comics.
Pop culture nerds are IN shock because Star Wars has always been Lucas’ baby and no one believed he would ever sell the franchise, let alone to Disney.
Movie fans in general are shocked because on the same day this deal was announced Disney casually mentioned that the NEXT Star Wars movie is slated for release in 2015. WHAT?
First, in general I’m not a huge fan of increasingly hegemonic corporations that manufacture and influence our culture. With the purchase of Lucasfilm and all of the zillions of characters and action figures associated with the franchise (Not just all of the Star Wars characters but that includes Indiana Jones too!) Disney owns just about 50% of all known childhood characters in America and most of the world. They own all the Disney characters of course not to mention the Muppets (acquired in 2004), and the Marvel Comics characters (acquired in 2009). Which means that the only popular fictional characters left in American consciousness are owned by Time Warner (which owns D.C. comics, and all of the Hanna Barbara cartoons like Scooby Doo). As someone who has always had a soft spot for independent characters and ideas taking the world by storm (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come to mind) I find it problematic all of this creativity is gobbled up by two corporations.
Next, as much as I don’t like Disney owning everything it is clear that Disney is a good steward of these properties. After languishing in cultural limbo for almost a decade the Muppets had a major resurrection since being purchased by Disney culminating in the hit Muppet movie in 2011. The Marvel Avengers movie speaks for itself and that had Mickey’s fingers all over it and the movie still did gangbusters. PIXAR has not skipped a beat since moving from independent to the Disney stable either.
However I think the biggest result of this purchase though is that is fundamentally changes the dynamic of Hollywood and the film industry for the next decade. With Disney’s cross-promotional powers, since they own ABC, ESPN, LIFETIME, E! Network and a slew of newspapers, magazines and websites they could essentially dominate the summer movie season for a decade. The network says they plan on releasing Star Wars films every two years or so, on top of running through another 7 Marvel and Avengers films. An industry already dominated by huge tent-pole movies in the summer is now going to be dominated by only one company’s tent-pole movies. Not a good thing for business, nor is that a good thing for any attempt to fostering or encouraging an independent film industry revival in America.
Ultimately this appears to be the new normal. Smaller companies getting gobbled up by larger ones with independence and creativity lost to the big corporation machine. If this is our inevitable reality at least we can cling to the hope that with Disney now owning Star Wars we never have to worry about George Lucas direction and ruining another Star Wars movie.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.