With Lucasfilm firmly ensconced in Disney land, production has begun the next animated Star Wars TV series. Two months after The Clone Wars was forced to surrender following a five-year run on Cartoon Network, Star Wars Rebels is massing its forces for a fall 2014 attack. It will premiere as an hourlong special before the series kicks off on Disney XD outlets worldwide. Produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the action series is set during the nearly two-decade span between Episode III and IV of the Star Wars films — a time frame never chronicled onscreen. The Empire is fortifying its hold on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion is taking shape, but plot details are in the vault (though check out a behind-the-scenes chat with executive producer Dave Filoni below).
A week after layoffs at Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm was hit this week with pink slips of its own. More than two dozen staff members were laid off, I have learned. The cuts came primarily in the company’s financing, licensing and distribution divisions and were not all together unexpected. In an email to employees earlier this month, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said all significant organization changes at company would be completed by the end of April. Sources tell me that this latest round of cuts is presumed to be the last as Lucasfilm fully integrates into its new owner Disney, which bought the Star Wars creators for $4.05 billion in October. The cuts come after LucasArts, the company’s video game division, shut down production April 3 and laid off about 150 employees. There were also layoffs in Lucasfilm’s animation department after Disney said March 11 that it was discontinuing production of Star Wars: The Clone Wars for Cartoon Network and pursing “ a new direction in animated programming.”
About 150 employees in several divisions of Disney Studios were let go last week after a company internal review ordered late last year by CEO Bob Iger and CFO Jay Rasulo to identify superfluous positions and increase efficiency.
‘Star Wars’ On TV Headed In “New Direction”, Disney And Lucasfilm Say; ‘Clone Wars’ Ending On Cartoon Network
With three new Star Wars movies in the pipeline, Lucasfilm and Disney today turned its attention to the power of the Force on TV. “Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programing,” the company announced online. Lucasfilm said that it’s “exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or TV programming.” What that new direction will actually be beyond “stay tuned” and will it see Star Wars on Disney XD is yet to be known — though that is where the boss is leaning. “We really like Star Wars‘ potential on TV, and Disney XD would be a great home for that,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said when the $4.06 billion deal to buy Lucasfilm was announced on October 30.
However, what is known is that the new direction for Star Wars on TV includes no longer producing more Star Wars: The Clone Wars for Cartoon Network, as it has since 2008. “We feel the time has come to wind down the series,” said Lucasfim today. Also the company is postponing the release of the Seth Green-Todd Grimes-Matthew Sereich-produced animated Star Wars comedy series Detours, which was first announced last year.
EXCLUSIVE: I learned of this decision just now from Lucasfilm‘s promotional partners who are telling me the studio now owned by Disney wants to focus only on “rebooting the franchise” with three new Star Wars films. This surprising decision follows the underwhelming box office performance of Episode I: The Phantom Menace re-released in 3D in February 2012. It debuted to only $23M domestically but maybe even more importantly hardcore fans felt it was yet another craven cash grab by George Lucas. Back in September 2010, Lucasfilm and then-distributor Fox announced that all 6 films in the Star Wars franchise would be converted to 3D. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (first released on May 16, 2002) was to hit theaters in 3D on September 20th, 2013, while Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (first released on May 19, 2005) was to play in 3D on October 11, 2013. This news comes just days after Disney confirmed that J.J. Abrams will direct the new Star Wars: Episode VII scheduled to be released in 2015. It’s the first new Star Wars movie since 2005. Michael Arndt is writing the script. Disney bought Lucasfilm in October 2012 for $4 billion, with the Star Wars franchise obviously the jewel in the crown. At the time, Disney CEO Bob Iger said three more Star Wars films were in the pipeline.
When volunteers dressed as Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers helped build a house on an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition special a month after Disney‘s acquisition of Lucasfilm was announced, the Mouse House dismissed the corporate synergy as a coincidence as the ABC special had been filmed a year prior. But that cannot be said about tonight’s episode of ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon A Time, which featured the Star Wars music theme. Incorporating Star Wars into the show is tricky as it takes place almost exlusively in fairytale world — past and present. But the first chance the producers had to introduce Star Wars since the Lucasfilm acquisition — when a guy from Pennsylvania drives into fairytale Storybrooke — they took it: When the stranger’s cell phone rang, its ringtone was the Star Wars theme. The homage shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Once Upon A Time creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are self-professed “massive Star Wars fans.”
The FTC gave Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise — originally announced October 30 — a green light earlier this month, clearing a typical 30-day regulatory waiting period and therefore any regulatory hurdles. The just-released announcement says that based on today’s closing price of Disney shares ($50), the deal has a total value of about $4.06B, slightly higher than when the first numbers came out. Here’s the release:
BURBANK, Calif., December 21, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) announced today that Disney has completed its acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC.
The Federal Trade Commission today gave Disney’s $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise the green light. The FTC posted an “early termination” to its typical 30-day regulatory waiting period online Tueday. That clears any merger and antitrust issues for Disney. Announced October 30, the company’s acquisition of Lucasfilm can now formally move forward. No date of when the deal will actually close has been given by either Disney or Lucas. The year 2015 was given, however, as the date for the new Star Wars movie by Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger when the deal was announced. At least two more Star Wars movies will follow in the next few years. Lucas himself has handed over the running of Lucasfilm to Kathleen Kennedy but is serving as a consultant and brand manager. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire scribe Michael Arndt was announced on November 9 as the screenplay writer for Episode VII.
2ND UPDATE: I always thought reversing fanboy disgust over George Lucas’ unbridled filmmaking greed and turgid storylines and stilted direction would be the most difficult job facing Kathleen Kennedy and Bob Iger after their deal bringing Lucasfilm to Disney was announced a month ago. Ah, silly me. Because it’s oh-so-apparent that the truly Herculean task ahead will be assuring fanboys that Disney and Luscasfilm don’t further eff up the Star Wars franchise through unnecessary synergy. Disney doesn’t even technically own Lucasfilm yet. But already ABC ensnared Star Wars characters a year ago into last night’s treacly Christmas-themed special episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “I just saw the opening two minutes and they had Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers helping build a new house!” one Star Wars fanboy complained to me. “This is disgusting and it’s exactly what people were afraid of with Disney buying Star Wars. They are ruining the franchise by using it for trivial bullshit. Please write about this. It’s outrageous and it’s totally wrong.” I’m ubercynical, but hear the details and see this photo from the taping and judge for yourself (contd):
Maybe someone at Disney and ABC might have thought better of angering the already put-upon Star Wars fanboys with this episode. (They still recall with disgust that Star Wars Holiday Special back in 1978…) But noooooooo. According to my intel, host Ty Pennington visited the Zdroj family after the female firefighter volunteer’s own home was destroyed by the largest wildfire in Texas history. The episode featured an appearance by BMX biker Matt Hoffman, Oprah-famed chef Art Smith and “some special guests from Star Wars“. Turns out a handful of Star Wars re-enactors “including an Imperial Officer, Storm, Sand, Snow, and Clone Troopers” showed up for the taping a year ago. They were from the Central Texas 501st Legion, also known as Vader’s Fist, which is a Lucasfilm-pproved organization that coordinates do-good visits and events. “All of the Legion’s members
Rick McCallum won’t be working on Disney’s upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. The longtime producer is leaving Lucasfilm, the company announced this weekend. “Rick is a close friend as well as an extremely talented producer. No matter how impossible I made the task, Rick was able to overcome the challenges, “ said George Lucas on a statement on Starwars.com. “In addition to putting together crew crews and working miracles with the budget, he was instrumental in helping to push filmmaking into the 21st century. He has a larger-than-life personality and made this amazing 20-year journey with him a fun one.” McCallum, who joined Lucasfilm in 1992 to work on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, is going to make independent films. Based out of Prague, the Star Wars and Red Tails producer has a movie on the 1941 Babi Yar Massacre in development and another on the boy soldiers of Sierra Leone.
Reactions to the transaction, which includes at least three new Star Wars films, are so lopsidedly enthusiastic that I’m hoping to see at least one analyst offer a contrarian view. Someone could start by addressing a question that was posed yesterday to Disney CEO Bob Iger, but that he mostly sidestepped: To paraphrase, he was asked whether there’s a risk that Hollywood may run into trouble by feeding audiences too many superhero/sci-fi/fantasy films. Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov made a case last year that as theaters become inundated with these computer-animated extravaganzas — especially featuring comic book superheroes — “risk of underperformance increases and upside surprises become progressively less likely.” His view of Disney’s new deal is that we’ll have to wait to see how the next Star Wars film performs in 2015 to determine whether Iger made a smart move. “Until then, bulls will point to the success of The Avengers and bears will say that no franchise lasts forever,” he says. (Those interested in the subject of a superhero glut should also check out critic David Denby’s powerful cultural critique, “Has Hollywood Murdered The Movies?”, that ran last month in The New Republic.)
Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger and George Lucas break down their new deal.
UPDATE: BREAKING: ‘Star Wars’ Returns – ‘Episode 7′ Slated For 2015 And More Movies Planned As Disney Buys Lucasfilm
BREAKING…. Disney has just confirmed that it has agreed to acquire George Lucas‘ Lucasfilm Ltd, and that includes rights to the Star Wars franchise that will now continue on. The companies have targeted a 2015 release for Star Wars: Episode 7, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 to follow as the the long-term plan is to release a new feature every two or three years. “The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith – and we believe there’s substantial pent-up demand”, Disney said. The deal also includes rights to the Indiana Jones franchise.
The stock and cash transaction is worth an estimated $4.05 billion, and the companies have scheduled a conference call in a half-hour to discuss the deal, which was approved by the Disney board and Lucas, the sole Lucasfilm shareholder. (UPDATE: Disney’s Iger: Three New ‘Star Wars’ Movies Mapped Out; TV Plans Too)
As for the new Star Wars installments, the companies said Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy would be executive producer on Episode 7 and any additional Star Wars movies, and Lucas would serve as creative consultant. There was no indication about where the story would pick up, though technically in the franchise’s chronology it would follow Star Wars: Episode 6 — Return Of The Jedi, the third film in the initial trilogy that came out in 1983.
As part of the deal, Kennedy will become president of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Kennedy, who was made Lucasfilm co-chairman June 1 as heir apparent to Lucas, will also serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, whose feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date. That doesn’t take into account the franchise’s massive merchandising clout that Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said will generate in 2012 close to the $215 million in consumer product revenue Marvel had when Disney bought that comics business in 2009.
Disney has built its business under chairman and CEO Bob Iger around such major acquisitions as Marvel, Pixar, ABC and ESPN.
BREAKING… Kathleen Kennedy has been named co-chair of Lucasfilm. Founder George Lucas will become co-chair of the company’s board and stay on as CEO. As part of the deal, seven-time Oscar nominee Kennedy will step down from her post as co-head of the Kennedy/Marshall Co production company, leaving it to Frank Marshall to run.
The move seems a bit bizarre. Kennedy/Marshall days ago made an overall TV deal at CBS, and Kennedy has produced big Steven Spielberg films while Marshall has The Bourne Legacy coming. Lucas, by comparison, seems to mostly continue to find ways to squeeze revenue out of his tired Star Wars films. He excutive produced the passion project Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway directed), which was not a box office hit and seems to be veering toward retirement or making personal films the way his pal Francis Ford Coppola does now. Lucas has all the money he needs, but it seems unclear exactly what Kennedy will be running. We were unable to get clarity on what will happen to Lucasfilm or Kennedy/Marshall, as we were told Kennedy would be unavailable to speak with Deadline. Kennedy/Marshall has a first-look deal with Spielberg at DreamWorks and sources have said they expect it to be business as usual under Marshall. But Kennedy used to be one of the smarter producers in town though her recent movies have underperformed at the box office to the detriment of her reputation: nevertheless, the loss may have an impact.
“We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities,” Lucasfilm said in a statement. Today’s decision by George Lucas to back out of the Grady Ranch project reportedly caught Marin County officials by surprise, according to the AP. The filmmaker long planned to build a digital studio near his Skywalker Ranch but the project ran into many years of objections and legal action from neighborhood groups. Local homeowners had voiced opposition to the project, which they said was inappropriate for their suburban community. The studio was going to house production facilities for Lucasfilm’s advanced media projects and now will find a new location instead.
Lucasfilm has spend more than 25 years trying to get the so-called Grady Ranch project underway, long before most of the digital technologies that would be employed at the studio were even conceived. But it always faced objections from local homeowners.
Fox’s Red Tails, the Lucasfilm World War II action film inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen — the first African-American aerial combat unit — will be released Jan. 20, 2012, the companies announced today. The cast includes Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Bryan Cranston and David Oyelowo. Anthony Hemingway is directing; Rick McCallum and Charles Floyd Johnson produce, and George Lucas is executive producing. Here’s the teaser trailer unveiled this morning:
Fox said earlier this month that the 3D Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is due to be released Feb. 10, 2012. Today’s release:
LOS ANGELES (March 29, 2011) — Lucasfilm, one of the world’s leading film and entertainment companies, and Prime Focus, the global visual entertainment services company, are proud to announce their collaboration on the 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace for theatrical release, heralding an exciting new era in Star Wars entertainment. Prime Focus was selected by Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) following an exhaustive testing process.
“It was incredibly important to me that we have the technology, the resources and the time to do this right,” said Star Wars creator George Lucas. “I’m very happy with the results I’ve been seeing on Episode I.”
Lucasfilm settled civil charges that were brought against the company and rival Pixar Animation by the U.S. Justice Department for stifling competition for digital animation workers. Pixar had already settled its end of the situation in September, one of six companies in the technology sector to do so. Lucasfilm and Pixar developed a system where they agreed not to approach employees of the rival company. They contacted each other when they were planning to make an offer and would not bidding against one another. This was an effective way to hold down salaries, but it was done at the expense of the digital animators and is illegal.
This new animated series is going to be comedic and involve the creators of Robot Chicken, including Seth Green, who did the successful Star Wars parody specials. will now be involved. No network is lined up yet but the Cartoon Network airs Star Wars: The Clone Wars , while Robot Chicken runs on the Adult Swim block:
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. April 5, 2010) – Lucasfilm Animation is currently developing an all-new animated Star Wars series, focusing its efforts on the comedic aspects of the “galaxy far, far away.” Featuring creative involvement from Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, creators and executive producers of the Emmy and Annie Award-winning Robot Chicken, as well as writing from The Daily Show’s Brendan Hay, the series will look at the Saga’s characters with a playful and irreverent tone. The series will be produced by Daytime Emmy and Gemini Award-winner Jennifer Hill (The Backyardigans), and directed by Emmy-nominated Todd Grimes (Back at the Barnyard).
“There are so many stories taking place in the Star Wars universe, and they don’t all have to focus on the fate of the galaxy,” said Grimes. “We’re looking at Star Wars from a new perspective; this will be a glimpse at how the rest of the galaxy is affected by the events of the Saga. There’s a lot of humor to be mined from that.”
“The Star Wars universe is so dense and rich; it’s crazy to think that there aren’t normal, mundane everyday