In a deal that seemed to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, Disney announced that it had agreed to purchase Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion on Tuesday. In the terms of the deal Disney will acquire the pop cultural juggernaut Star Wars property, as well as Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. As for George Lucas’s side of this stellar deal, he will receive 40 million shares of Disney stock and the rest in cash. The news also came with the almost immediate announcement that Disney was going to be going ahead with filming the seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise with an expected 2015 release date.
The move sent a disturbance in the force across the net almost immediately with fans falling in both the excited and the upset camps. Those who are upset about the sale are concerned that the vaunted franchise will fall victim to a studio that has become known as much for altering and candy-coating stories and lack-luster sequels than it has for producing quality films. The fans that are excited about this new move look forward to seeing the last part of the Star Wars trilogy which Lucas had insisted would not be made. They also answer those critical of Disney’s ability to effectively produce the next installment, by pointing to the recent successes of The Avengers and Toy Story 3 as well as Lucas’s own tendency to make suspect decisions about the franchise in the years prior to the sale.
According to industry insiders, Lucas was never really part of Hollywood, was always an outlier and had never really intended to expand his company. This sale to Disney mixes his extremely viable brand with some of the most creative and innovative minds in the business. Lucas himself seems to weigh in on this saying: “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.” Disney CEO Robert Iger is prepared for the challenge. “This is one of the great entertainment properties of all time, one of the best branded and one of the most valuable, and it’s just fantastic for us to have the opportunity to both buy it, run it and grow it.” he said. And this growth doesn’t just include the multiplex near you; this merger could bring Star Wars to a smaller screen near you. “We really like Star Wars‘ potential on TV as well,” Iger proclaimed, “and we think (cable-satellite channel) Disney XD will be a great home for that.”
As impressive as this acquisition is, it only ranks fourth on the list of Disney purchases as far as the size of the deal is concerned. Previous lofty purchases included Capitol City/ABC in 1995 ($19.7 billion), Pixar in 2006 ($7.6 billion), and Fox Family in 2001 ($5.2 billion). It’s also the second time that they’ve invested billions for a geek-rich property. Disney paid just under $4 billion for Marvel in 2009 and their first release The Avengers pulled an acceptable $1.3 billion net return. If that track record is anything to base a projection on, Disney appears to have the Force on their side.