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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Thursday, November 01, 2012

PRINCESS LEIA

"Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?"

News that Disney purchased Lucasfilms for $5 billion has reached most people by now.  The takeover was initially attacked by many as "killing their childhood" and so on, but the truth is, the more George Lucas is involved in any of his films, the worse they tend to be.  The best movie of the entire series is Empire Strikes Back and the worst are the first three which he wrote, directed, and produced.
Lucas has a brilliant vision and ideas, and his story concepts are often effective entertainment.  I can see the skeleton of a good story in parts I-III of the Star Wars series, but the acting, plotting, video game-type sequences, and overuse of CGI basically ruined them.  Not to mention the blatant violation of Star Wars canon as established to that point.
With Lucas out of the picture and other creators able to build on those ideas, that's only good news for Star Wars fans.  Just look at the content put out by other people than George Lucas in the Star Wars universe, from Knights of the Old Republic to the many books written by other authors.  The truth is, Lucas gone from Star Wars except as a sort of adviser is just good for the property.
And Disney isn't dumb about their property either.  You might not care for their version of historical tales, and you might be annoyed at how Disney presents its material, but you can't fault their quality.  However, there are some other concerns to consider.
George Lucas was very protective of his movies, and wanted to own all copies of the original trilogy, to control them.  However, he was at the same time very willing for fans to create their own fun Star Wars content, and had no problem with comics, fan-based Youtube movies, costumes, pictures, and so on being done by individuals.  In fact, George Lucas has always been very supportive of all of this, because he thinks the Star Wars films belong in part to the fans.
Disney is not of that opinion.  Disney will show up at your house with a batch of lawyers if you dress your kid as one of their characters.  They've turned intellectual property and copyright protection into a tyrannical operation, going to extremes at times to make sure nobody anywhere, under any circumstances, enjoys their property without them getting paid. And that's a pretty stark difference in approach.
Lego Star Wars movies, online comics like  Darths & Droids or Blue Milk Special, and fan fiction all might face the wrath of the mouse and its army of lawyers eager to stand out and get noticed by the company.  A Robot Chicken Star Wars special takes no one by surprise and got no legal attacks.  But a Robot Chicken Pocahontas or Lion King special would get hit harder than one showing Muhammad.
Another aspect of this buyout is the comic book licensing.  At present, Dark Horse Comics is putting out Star Wars comic books and owns the rights to publish these.  Dark Horse is the go-to house for movie adaptations and comic book serials of film properties, like Aliens and Predator.  They put out very good stuff with great artists and writers and have even influenced later film making by their efforts.  As a result Dark Horse went from a little Portland Oregon comic book startup in the early 90s to the third biggest comic book publisher in America.
Disney owns Marvel Comics, and that means they will not be using any other house to put out any comic book adaptations or materials for Star Wars. Mike Richardson, CEO of Dark Horse responded on Facebook:
Dark Horse and LucasFilm have a strong partnership which spans over 20 years, and has produced multiple characters and story lines which are now part of the Star Wars lore. Star Wars will be with us for the near future. Obviously, this deal changes the landscape, so we'll all have to see what it means for the future.
What it means is that Disney will end the Star Wars comics as soon as the contract is up and shift it to Marvel Comics, along with all characters and concepts.  Hopefully Dark Horse will be well paid for all this, but they won't be doing Star Wars any longer.
So with 3 more films on the way starting in 2015 with part VII of the Star Wars series, there's going to be a lot more Star Wars content for people to enjoy, and that's good because I suspect they'll be better than the last 3.  But the era of freely enjoying the property is probably coming to an end.

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