Lucasfilm has appointed Teresa Cheng as General Manager for Lucasfilm Singapore. She joins the company from DreamWorks Animation where she was senior production executive for the joint venture between DWA and Oriental DreamWorks. Cheng has also held senior positions at Warner Bros, Rhytym & Hues and Digital Domain. Feature credits include Shrek Forever After, Madagascar, Batman & Robin and True Lies. In January, George Lucas unveiled Lucasfilm’s new digital production headquarters in the Southeast Asian city-state, replete with the Sandcrawler building that sits on a 22,500 square meter campus. Industrial Light & Magic Singapore is currently working on Transformers: Age of Extinction, Star Wars Episode VII and Agent 47. Colin Brown, who has served as Lucasfilm Singapore’s interim GM for the past seven months, will remain with the company through the summer to help transition Cheng into her new post. She will report to Lynwen Brennan, President and GM of ILM.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Teresa Cheng Joins Lucasfilm Singapore; ‘Sherlock’s Stubbs In BBC Artist Hunt; Dusk! TV Dawns; More
Disney Studios EVP Production Tony To is crossing over to Lucasfilm, which said today the veteran is joining the company as Head of Production and Development. He will report to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy after a three-year stint at Disney and will be tasked with overseeing all live-action and animation production. That includes six new projects on the studio’s slate including Star Wars: Episode VII, the upcoming Star Wars Rebels animated series, and two recently announced stand-alone Star Wars films from directors Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank.
As part of the deal, To will continue to oversee Disney’s recently announced co-development deal with China’s Shanghai Media Group, a multi-year partnership to co-develop Disney-branded movies for U.S.-China co-productions. As part of that initiative, U.S.-based writers team with locally based Chinese writers and filmmakers to develop scripts that combine Disney’s storytelling and Chinese elements.
It is the second big hire of a hot young director for the franchise. After the monster Godzilla opening, director Gareth Edwards was set for an untitled Star Wars 3D stand-alone film, which Disney has dated for a December 16, 2016 release. Going young like this makes me more bullish on what is happening here, because I felt that Lucas steered the last three films to a sense of complacency that I felt hobbled the franchise. Lucasfilm is lucky these directors grew up with the original groundbreaking trilogy, making these hot young shooters desperate to be involved here.
George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled Lucasfilm‘s new regional headquarters today in the Southeast Asian city-state. The Sandcrawler building sits on a 22,500 square meter campus, which features a Yoda fountain, a 100-seat theater and state-of-the-art digital production capabilities, CNBC reported locally. Lucasfilm originally set up shop in Singapore in 2005 to produce digital animated content for film and television, VFX for feature films and multi-platform games. The studio houses the local divisions for Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts and Lucasfilm Animation. The Sandcrawler will also be Disney and ESPN’s new regional HQ. According to The Straits Times, Kennedy said the facility is working on such films as Avengers 2, Jurassic World and Transformers: Age Of Extinction, among others. She noted, “When we first opened our Singapore studio in 2005, the local digital production landscape looked very different. It was relatively small, with a limited talent pool and virtually no visual effects work being done. By investing in local talent, we’ve been able to significantly grow our Singapore studio into a world-class digital production facility.” (Other digital media companies with a base in the growing hub include Electronic Arts, Double Negative and Ubisoft.) There are about 360 employees now at Lucasfilm Singapore, which also operates …
Global Showbiz Briefs: New Vision For BBC Worldwide’s Future; UK Culture Secretary Meets With U.S. Execs; More
CEO Tim Davie Reveals Vision For Future Of BBC Worldwide
In an address to employees, BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie today unveiled a new vision to build the BBC’s brands, audiences and commercial returns around the globe. It includes a £200M investment in premium content, the launch of three new core consumer brands propositions – spanning the genres of premium factual, factual entertainment and drama — and a greater focus on digital innovation to extend the company’s reach and routes to market. “BBC Worldwide has a good track record of taking British content to the world, benefiting international audiences, license fee payers and the wider industry alike,” he said. “But the time has come for a step-change, reflecting the rapid development in our markets.”
UK Culture Secretary Spends The Week Meeting With U.S. Showbiz Execs
During a visit to the U.S. this week, UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller met with senior executives at Disney, Warner Bros and other showbiz companies to discuss collaboration and hear suggestions on how UK filming conditions could be made more attractive to American productions. She also sought reaction to the UK’s recent extension of tax credits and talked with HBO about its Game of Thrones production model and with Lucasfilm about its plan to shoot the new Star Wars film in the UK and whether there could be other ways to help support the local film industry.
D23: Alan Horn Jeered For Keeping Mum On ‘Star Wars’, ‘Maleficent’s Angelina Jolie Makes Surprise Appearance, Marvel Teases ‘Avengers 2′
Anthony D’Alessandro contributes to Deadline’s D23 coverage.
Disney’s live action panel today at D23 started off with Alan Horn being heckled by disappointed Star Wars fans and pretty much turned into a clipfest afterwards. Only a surprise appearance by Maleficent star Angelina Jolie at the Anaheim event raised the temperature anywhere near Friday’s news filled Animation panel. The newest jewel in Disney’s crown, Star Wars was dealt with by the studio boss with a list of old announcements of approximate release dates, JJ Abrams being on board and spinoff films. “I really wish I could tell you more. It will come soon,” Horn told the crowd as a big “awww” and boos emanated from around the convention center from fans expecting a bone to be thrown their way today.
That was in sharp contrast to Jolie’s sudden walk-on later in the two-hour panel. Then it was cheers not jeers. “Since I was a little girl, I was drawn to her. But I was also terrified by her, but she had this elegance and grace,” said Jolie about playing in the upcoming backstory to the Sleeping Beauty character. “When I heard Disney was making the film, my brother encouraged me to take the role.” Jolie’s appearance in front of the audience of 7,500, came after Walt Disney live action production head Sean Bailey spoke about casting her for Maleficent. “You can pencil out a list of all the amazing actresses in the world and for us this list only had one name for the role, Angelina Jolie,” exclaimed Bailey over as sketches from the film played on the big screen. After Jolie’s brief turn on stage, Bailey showed the audience exclusive footage from Maleficent. In the clip, Jolie’s British-accented wicked Queen appeared amidst CGI fairies and green steam rising to curse the baby Sleeping Beauty. “Without a doubt, Maleficent will be a powerful movie experience when it comes to theaters next summer,” Bailey told the crowd. Maleficent is set to be release on July 2, 2014.
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).
Like its six predecessors, Star Wars: Episode VII will be filmed in the United Kingdom, Lucasfilm announced today. “We’ve devoted serious time and attention to revisiting the origins of Star Wars as inspiration for our process on the new movie, and I’m thrilled that returning to the UK for production and utilizing the incredible talent there can be a part of that,” company president Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement posted on the official Star Wars website Friday. “Speaking from my own longstanding connection to the UK with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun and recently War Horse, it’s very exciting to be heading back.” Portions of the previous Star Wars films were shot at British studios such as Shepperton and Pinewood. Production should be starting soon on Episode VII as the J.J. Abrams-directed and Michael Arndt-scripted movie is expected out in 2015. In fact, Kennedy and the rest of the Jedi gang might be back in Britain for a while. Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in October and immediately announced that three new Stars Wars films would be coming in the next several years. The return to the UK also likely includes some sweet tax benefits for the hugely successful franchise. The online announcement noted that “earlier this year, representatives from Lucasfilm met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in London to establish an agreement to produce Star Wars in the UK” and had a gushing comment from the government minister …
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.
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.
Disney is moving forward with more Star Wars movies, but it won’t be making any more video games based on the franchise. Employees at LucasArts were notified this morning that the Disney-owned company is discontinuing production and that its games strategy will shift to a licensing model. The decision means that more than 150 employees will be laid off, which follows pink slips in the animation division after the announcement that the TV series Star Wars: Clone Wars would be coming to an end as the company heads in a new TV direction. “After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games”, a Lucas spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles”. Founded in 1982, the company was recently developing the games Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault, both of which had their plug pulled by today’s announcement. In an additional statement Disney said that “Disney Interactive looks forward to working with Lucasfilm on new games opportunities that leverage their incredible IP and brings it to life across gaming platforms.” Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion in a deal announced October 30.
‘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.
Disney CEO Bob Iger’s announcement Tuesday that the studio plans new Star Wars spinoff films has caused an avalanche of rumors online about which characters will star. Jedi master Yoda, bounty hunter Boba Fett, a young Han Solo are named the most. Deadline, however, has learned that nothing is written in stone yet. A source tells me: “Nobody knows when these movies are even coming out. Right now, people are just kicking around ideas. Which is why you hear it’s Yoda one day and a young Han Solo another. It’s all in early development right now.” Iger, whose Disney recently bought LucasFilm, himself said yesterday during an earnings call that the concept for the new films is simply “becoming more real”. He also confirmed that Simon Kinberg and Lawrence Kasdan are going to handle the screenplays. Right now the studio’s attention is on Star Wars: Episode VII which is expected out in 2015 with JJ Abrams directing and Michael Arndt scripting. Two more Star Wars movies, Episodes VIII and IX, are coming in the next few years.
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 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.”
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.
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.