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).
The Force is strong today as Star Wars fans turn May 4 into a viral plug for the 36-year-old brand. The annual “holiday” known as Intergalactic Star Wars Day scored major pick-up on broadcast and online media for Lucasfilm and new owner Disney. The punny “#maythefourthbewithyou” and “Happy Star Wars Day” celebration/branding blitz was trending worldwide on Twitter today – not bad for a catchphrase that’s three decades old. Even the White House joined in, Tweeting to 3.4M followers: “Happy Star Wars Day! #maythefourthbewithyou (We’re still not building a Death Star)”. Disney/Lucasfilm also got a bump from the month-old geek photo meme known as “Vadering”, which picked up again in popularity leading into May 4.
Disney CEO Bob Iger seemed torn this evening between wanting to hype the spinoff Star Wars films he just announced and wanting to keep expectations under control. They are still in the very early stages, he told analysts: “I don’t have details or specifics about the films themselves,” he says. The concept is simply “becoming more real” with scripts now in development. “We’re not saying how many although I did mention two creators [Larry Kasdan and Simon Kinberg] who are working on two different films.” He and producer George Lucas spoke about the idea of having additional films when they negotiated Disney’s $4.1B agreement to buy Lucasfilm, which closed in December. But “we did not place a value on this activity.” The deal “was about the three saga films [Star Wars VII, VIII and IX] and all of the businesses that flow from those.” To that end, at a meeting a few weeks ago, he and Lucas agreed to focus their energies for now on the next Star Wars film due in 2015. They plan to investigate strategies to squeeze as much money from it as they can, including initiatives involving online, mobile apps, television, and parks and resorts. He wouldn’t discuss when they’ll appear, saying that “time will start exposing that to the outside world.”
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 …
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.”
Here’s episode 15 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. This week, Deadline Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom look at some of 2012’s biggest stories and trends and what they’ve meant for the business of entertainment and media, including: growing conflicts over rising pay-TV costs; the resurgence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Comcast’s NBCUniversal; Disney’s big bet on superhero franchises with its LucasFilm purchase; and Chinese giant Wanda’s acquisition of AMC Entertainment.
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.
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.
UPDATE, 5:57 PM: LucasFilm confirmed today that Michael Arndt will be writing the next Star Wars movie. In a brief post on Starwars.com, the company said that Arndt, who wrote the screenplay for Hunger Games: Catching Fire and won an Oscar for writing Little Miss Sunshine, will be the only screenwriter on the first Star Wars movie since 2005′s Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. Previously it looked like Arndt would be one of a number of writers on Star Wars Episode VII.
PREVIOUSLY, NOV. 8, 2:06 PM: Michael Arndt has written a treatment for not just one but the next three Star Wars films coming from Disney, Deadline has learned. The Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter, who also penned Toy Story 3 and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is also in line to work on the script for Star Wars Episode VII next year.
Listen to the latest episode of Deadline Big Media with David Lieberman podcast here. This week, Deadline Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom discuss the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on New York’s entertainment companies; whether big media stocks will take advantage of low expectations for Q3 earnings to “kitchen sink” lots of expenses into their reports; Disney’s stunning purchase of LucasFilm and what Disney will have to do to make its money back; and the latest Netflix stumble, followed by Carl Icahn’s announcement that he has rights to a significant stake in the online streaming company.
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 plans to bring not just one but three new Star Wars films to the big screen, and the companies “have a pretty extensive treatment of the next three movies,” chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call announcing its deal to acquire Lucasfilm. “Episode 7 will be released in 2015, the first under the Disney/Lucas banner,” he said, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 to follow. Disney plans to release a new Star Wars movie “every two to three years.” Disney also intends to pursue the Star Wars brand in their parks, with games and, “other initiatives,” CFO Jay Rasulo said. “Being that there hasn’t been a Star Wars film since 2005, a lot of the value we attribute to the deal is to come, added Rasulo. ”This gives us a great footprint in the consumer market, and we already had a good one,” said Iger of the licensing possibilities that the Star Wars franchise could represent for Disney.