Earlier this week, on October 30, 2012, there was news (see http://usat.ly/VfNkEK or http://buswk.co/SsTQ6v for details) that the Walt Disney Co. would acquire George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion. Talks between Disney and Lucas reportedly began a year and a half ago, Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger told investors on a conference call.
Mr. Lucas, who owns 100% of the film production company named after himself, will get half the purchase price in cash and the rest in Disney stock. At the time of the announcement, we learned that Mr. Lucas would receive about 40 million Disney shares, making him the second-largest non-institutional shareholder with about 2.2% of Disney shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg (the largest is the trust of late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who sold Pixar to Disney in 2006). Mr. Lucas will officially remain on staff as a "creative consultant" on future "Star Wars" films. Perhaps not coincidentally, both parties simultaneously announced a new, seventh "Star Wars" film, to be called "Star Wars: Episode VII," with a targeted theatrical release sometime in 2015.
Many Star Wars geeks were frightened about the prospect of having Disney somehow ruin the "Star Wars" film franchise (although truth be told, Mr. Lucas learned very early that the movie was but a tiny piece of the overall "franchise" or money machine which began with toy lightsabers, action figures, etc. and morphed into video games, trading cards, and countless other things that could be sold to fans), perhaps by inserting the company's iconic cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Tinkerbell, and various other Disney characters together with Lucas' C3PO and R2D2 in some kind of odd combination.
The Associated Press ran an article on October 31, 2012 entitled "Disney's recent acquisitions of Marvel, Pixar show a successful hands-off approach" indicating The Walt Disney Co. had earned credibility with die-hard fans of other film franchises such as Marvel Comics and Pixar by keeping its fingerprints off them.
The article also featured a quote from a Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger, who told the AP:
"They've been pretty clearly hands-off in terms of letting the creative minds of those companies do what they do best. Universally, people think they pulled it off."
We've also learned that Mr. Lucas himself sought a buyer like Disney in order "to protect" the "Star Wars" franchise and keep it going long into the future. After all, Mr. Lucas, who was age 68 at the time of the announcement, wants to retire! Who can blame him, and with a rich payout like the one he'll receive, he can probably afford to retire "in a galaxy far, far away"! However, he spoke with Kathleen Kennedy in the following video (alternatively, you may watch it by visiting http://youtu.be/YyqlTi7lkhY):
Perhaps that was an effort to allay the concerns of fans, or maybe it was to protect the value of his Disney shares. However, for those who weren't aware of it, "Star Wars" was THE iconic science fiction film that originally premiered in 1977, but spawned a host of sequels, prequels, and even an embarrassing television Christmas special in 1978 that has remained in circulation thanks to crude videocassette recordings and nerds copying the odd holiday special. Authors Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont accurately wrote in "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops: The Lost Toys, Tastes, and Trends of the 70s and 80s" (catch my post on that HERE or http://goo.gl/jAIF0):
THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL
The Star Wars Holiday Special THE prospect of 1978's Star Wars Holiday Special was enough to make our light sabers tingle with glee—a bonus chapter of the tale as we eagerly waited for the Empire to strike back. In practice, though, it was a disaster of intergalactic proportions.
The plot, such as it was, focused on Chewbacca's family—his wife Malla, son Lumpy, and freakish (and, no doubt, flea-ridden and stinky) father Itchy—as they waited for Chewie to return home.
The original Star Wars gang made perfunctory appearances, including an overly made-up Mark Hamill and a stumbly Carrie Fisher. And it all spiraled even further into surreal territory when Bea Arthur, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman showed up. The special was so embarrassing that it only aired once.
Thank the Force someone was forward-thinking enough to record it so that future generations could revel in this pile of Wookiee poo.
At least it didn't start a trend of other ill-advised holiday specials based on '70s movies. Who would have tuned in to The Jaws Memorial Day Picnic Special or Rocky's Arbor Day Punching Extravaganza? Oh, right: We would have.
X-TINCTION RATING: Still going strong.
FUN FACT: The TV special found a second life passed around from nerd to nerd on videotape, and now it's being terrible on an ongoing basis on the Internet.
Now, thanks to the internet, that weird piece of Star Wars history remains in circulation and could for years to come, although knowing Disney, they're likely to start selling it for themselves. That holiday special offshoot featured Harvey Corman ("The Carol Burnett Show"), Art Carney ("The Honeymooners") and Bea Arthur ("Maude" and "The Golden Girls") among the guest stars (which really of made the Paul Lynde Halloween Special which I covered HERE or at http://goo.gl/ZCbtT look positively normal by comparison).
What About The Other LucasFilm Franchise: Indiana Jones? It Will Also Continue
Without getting too far off topic, however, the Disney acquisition may also help to preserve another successful LucasFilm franchise, the Indiana Jones movies which starred Harrison Ford (the original Hans Solo from "Star Wars") although Mr. Ford has suggested he's done with playing Indy (he's older than Mr. Lucas, at age 70) but the Young Indiana Jones offshoot-series is likely be continued under Disney ownership.
We already know that Harrison Ford went on to become an even bigger Hollywood star with "Raiders of the Lost Arc" and 3 sequels to the Indiana Jones franchise, but what about the others (although truth be told, but the total number of characters in the collective "Star Wars" franchise exceeded 1,300, so aside from Chewbacca which is a character that could theoretically be played by almost anyone and a host of others, the other main actors in the film have surfaced in various capacities.
Notably, actress Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in the original film, has acted mostly on stage, although she appeared on a TV roast for Mr. Lucas and more recently, as a Jenny Craig weight loss system spokesperson.
What about the boy-wonder who played Luke Skywalker who gave up a recurring television series job in "Eight Is Enough" back in the seventies to do "Star Wars", specifically Mark Hamill?
Well, after 3 "Star Wars" films, he found himself completely typecast (it makes you wonder if, as an actor, he might have been better off taking the TV role on "Eight is Enough" which he was the first choice to play ... that role that went to Willie Ames instead ... OK, maybe Mark Hamill's decision was the right one after all!). However, typecasting aside, Mr. Hamill found meaningful employment as a voice artist doing cartoon voices. Sure, Mel Blanc he isn't, but it pays the bills, right?!
Anyway, this clip is also from Australia's 7 network (the same show I noted in my posts on the $6 Million Dollar Man's Lee Majors or http://goo.gl/QkLm9 or The Partridge Family's Shirley Jones or http://goo.gl/uVxDi), but this one happens to be on what's kept Mark Hamill busy in the last 35 years (although he has attended Comic-Con in the past). He also comments on how his knowledge of the film he starred in is nowhere near as detailed as some of the fans when it comes to trivia. In all, a pretty interesting update. That YouTube clip can be seen below, or by visiting http://youtu.be/396q-orFPzo: