After purchasing Pixar and Marvel, The Walt Disney Co. has now bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, and will make Star Wars Episode VII for release in 2015 followed by two more in the next trilogy every two to three years . Plus Disney has acquired the rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, but Star Wars will be the primary focus, so expect plenty of movies, series, and theme park attractions.
Now we know why Kathleen Kennedy was brought in to succeed retiring George Lucas, who will stay on as creative consultant while pursuing smaller projects, and why Alan Horn left Warner Bros. to become chairman of Disney. Continuing the Star Wars franchise is a major coup for Disney. But who will they get to direct Episode VII, which already being written, and where will the saga go next?
Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm (paying half in cash and issue approximately 40 million shares), including the Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.
Kennedy, current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become president of Lucasfilm, reporting to Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Kennedy will serve as exec producer on new Star Wars feature films, with Lucas serving as creative consultant and more films expected.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas, chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box office to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise is well suited for new business models, including digital platforms.