When you wish upon a Death Star
News that Walt Disney has acquired the Star Wars franchise has split film fans, with some welcoming the move and others rather less sure
For years, it seemed like another "Star Wars" movie was just a dream, languishing in a galaxy far, far away.
But down on earth, the Walt Disney movie studio had different ideas.
It announced yesterday that it had paid US$4.05 billion for George Lucas's Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, and planned not one but at least three new Star Wars movies, starting in three years' time.
Disney's announcement surprised investors and drew mixed reactions among film fans .
Facebook user Chris Goodson said: "The series had stagnated creatively. This could go well … or not."
Another user, Peter Campbell, voiced his disbelief, asking: "Is this for real? Oh please, enough with the Star Wars movies."
Lucas, whose imagination gave us Princess Leia and her cinnamon-bun hairstyle, Darth Vader, and the catch phrase "May the Force be With You", has insisted for years that he would make no more than the three original films and three prequels.
Lucas has often expressed frustration with criticism from many avid Star Wars fans who have taken issue with his director's cuts of the films. The prequels have been the subject of widespread scorn.
"Why would I make any more," Lucas told The New York Times in January, "when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?"
But seven years after the last picture, Revenge of the Sith, Disney said yesterday that it saw room for Star Wars Episode 7 in 2015, with Episodes 8 and 9 to follow at two or three-year intervals.
Lucas, 68, said in a video posted on the StarWars.com website on Tuesday that he had story treatments for Episodes 7, 8 and 9 that he would hand over to producer Kathleen Kennedy to develop in partnership with Disney.
In the same video, Kennedy said Disney was the "best company possible to take Star Wars into the future," and assured Lucas that she would adhere to his creations.
"The main thing is to protect these characters to make sure they continue to live in the way you created them," Kennedy said.
Some fans welcomed the prospect of new films, which would pick up where Return of the Jedi left off.
On the Facebook "Star Wars" page, user David Schmoyer said "it brings dreaming back to the place where many of us began to dream."
Others were less happy. Andreas Pedersen called it "the worst April Fools' joke ever," while another fan, Brandan Sullivan, said "this might be the death of Star Wars."
"People don't seem to be recognising that taking Star Wars out of George Lucas's hands is the best possible thing for the franchise," Jesse Taylor countered on Twitter.
In addition to new films, characters like Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi may find a home on the Disney XD cable TV channel, targeted at young boys.
Disney chief executive Robert Iger told reporters on a conference call that there was "ample opportunity" to extend the franchise in Disney's global theme parks, cementing the place of R2-D2 and Han Solo alongside Mickey Mouse and the Little Mermaid.
"Cool for another Star Wars but not sure I like Disney backing it," commented Janel Halstead on Facebook.
The Star Wars franchise has earned some US$4.4 billion at the global box office since the first film was released in 1977, making it the third most successful movie property after Harry Potter and the James Bond series.
Star Wars has also spawned an empire of books, games and toys so large that it is often dubbed the "Expanded Universe."
Fans have fun with Disney's Star Wars plans
Movie nerds went into overdrive when they heard Disney had bought the Star Wars franchise and was planning at least three new films. Many had fun thinking up what might come out of the Disney and Lucasfilm empires, flooding Twitter feeds with the hashtag "#DisneyStarWars". Among the more amusing mixes:
When You Wish Upon a Death Star
Song of the Sith
Lando and the Tramp
Snow White and the Seven Droids
The Princess Leia Diaries
Emperor Palpatine's New Groove
Beauty and the Boba Fett
Lilo & Sith
The Fox and the Han Solo
Bambi Wan Kenobi
That's So Vader