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What Hell Hath Disney-Lucasfilm Wrought? ‘Star Wars’ Meets ‘Extreme Makeover’

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 Read More »

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Lucasfilm Producer Rick McCallum Leaving To Go Indie

By | Monday December 3, 2012 @ 8:13am PST

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. Read More »

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It’s Official: Oscar-Winner Michael Arndt To Pen ‘Star Wars Episode VII’

By | Friday November 9, 2012 @ 5:58pm PST

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.
Read More »

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Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman, Episode 8

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.

Deadline Big Media Episode 8 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media Episode 8 (M4A format)
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Analysts Cheer Disney’s $4B Lucasfilm Deal, But Could It Run Into A Fantasy Glut?

By | Wednesday October 31, 2012 @ 11:26am PDT

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.) Read More »

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Disney’s Iger: Three New ‘Star Wars’ Movies Mapped Out; TV Plans Too

By | Tuesday October 30, 2012 @ 2:30pm PDT

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.

Related: Disney Buys Lucasfilm; More ‘Star Wars’ Movies Planned Read More »

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UPDATE: BREAKING: ‘Star Wars’ Returns – ‘Episode 7′ Slated For 2015 And More Movies Planned As Disney Buys Lucasfilm

By | Tuesday October 30, 2012 @ 12:47pm PDT

BREAKING…. Disney has just confirmed that it has agreed to acquire George LucasLucasfilm 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.

Related: George Lucas On ‘Star Wars’ And Disney: Video

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. Read More »

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‘Star Wars’ George Lucas Says He’s Really Quitting Blockbusters

By | Thursday May 31, 2012 @ 11:47am PDT

George Lucas wants to make “experimental” movies, not blockbusters anymore. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator told UK publication Empire Magazine that “I’m moving away from all my businesses, I’m finishing all my obligations and I’m going to retire to my garage with my saw and hammer and build hobby movies,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to make movies that were more experimental in nature, and not have to worry about them showing in movie theatres.” Read More »

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Lucasfilm Won’t Build Marin Digital Studio

By | Tuesday April 10, 2012 @ 6:50pm PDT

“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.

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‘Star Wars 3D’: LucasFilm Bribing Moviegoers To See Jar Jar Binks Again

By | Wednesday February 8, 2012 @ 9:30am PST

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Hardcore Fans Call For Boycott Of George Lucas’ Altered ‘Star Wars Saga’ On Blu-Ray

By | Thursday September 1, 2011 @ 6:33pm PDT

LucasFilm has confirmed some very controversial changes in its upcoming 9-disc Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga with 40 hours of extras. To hardcore fans, even the concept of changes is hard to fathom. For instance, Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi specifically yells “Nooooo! Nooooo!” when the Emperor is trying to kill Luke. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Krayt Dragon howl is noticeably different in Star Wars aka A New Hope. (One Internet site said the new version “sounds like a pedophile getting his dick caught in a screen door”.) The Ewoks’ eyes have been CGI’ed and now blink. Yoda’s not quite the same Yoda of yore because of digitalized alterations. As you know, this isn’t the first time George Lucas has released special editions, adding new scenes and special effects. But there are widespread online campaigns cropping up to boycott this new Blu-ray collection when it goes on sale September 16th. As Deadline’s Mike Fleming summed up succinctly: “Nobody has found a way to squeeze more cash out of a film franchise than George Lucas has done with Star Wars, and he’s at it again.”

UPDATE: These hardcore fans, reacting to today’s news, are telling me this is ”about film preservation and our cultural heritage. Lucas has every right to make as many new versions of his films as he wants — fine, go crazy, George — but he has no right to replace the original versions of his films.” As … Read More »

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Lucasfilm’s ‘Red Tails’ Landing On Jan. 20

By | Friday July 29, 2011 @ 11:09am PDT

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:

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George Lucas Loses ‘Star Wars’ Copyright Case in UK That He Won In U.S.

By | Wednesday July 27, 2011 @ 10:22am PDT

The UK Supreme Court today upheld a 2009 appeals court ruling that Andrew Ainsworth, the engineer who designed the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets for George Lucas’ original Star Wars, didn’t violate British law by selling copies of the helmets. Lucasfilm had already won a $20 million judgment against Ainsworth and his Sheperton Design Studios in California back in 2006, arguing successfully that Lucas already had figured out the look of the helmets before coming to Ainsworth to design them. In the UK, Lucasfilm had to prove that the helmets were works of art to qualify for copyright protection under the law. “It was the Star Wars film that was the work of art that Mr. Lucas and his companies created,” the justices wrote. “The helmet was utilitarian, in the sense that it was an element in the process of production of the film.” Said Lucasfilm in a statement that the ruling “maintains an anomaly of British copyright law under which the creative and highly artistic works made for use in films — which are protected by the copyright laws of virtually every other country in the world — may not be entitled to copyright protection in the UK.”

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Will ‘Cars’ Move More Merchandise Than ‘Toy Story 3′? Either Way, Disney Will Remain The World’s No. 1 Licensor

Consumers worldwide spent $2.4 billion last year on merchandise related to Toy Story 3, helping Disney to easily reclaim the No. 1 position on License! Global magazine’s annual tally of the top sellers of stuff emblazoned with trademarked characters and logos. Disney accounted for about $28.6 billion in sales of T-shirts, caps, toys, lunch boxes and other consumer goods, which comes to 15.5% of the total for the top 125 companies. The results would have been even more lopsided if the magazine had attributed to Disney the $5.6 billion in merchandise sales for Marvel Entertainment, which ended the year in sixth place. Disney’s poised to move a lot more stuff this year: Consumers have spent more than $8 billion since 2006 on goods related Pixar’s Cars. The release of Cars 2 could propel “the largest licensed merchandise program of the year” and make Cars “a true classic,” the magazine says. Other entertainment companies also did well in 2010. Warner Bros came in fifth with $6 billion in sales, and should top that sales figure this year with stuff related to Harry Potter and Green Lantern. Nickelodeon came in seventh with $5.5 billion. DreamWorks Animation was 16th with $3 billion, closely followed by Lucasfilm, which also generated $3 billion mostly from Star Wars merchandise. Cartoon Network was 24th with $2.4 billion. And 20th Century Fox was 26th with $2 billion. One tidbit: Get ready to see a lot of stuff emblazoned with … Read More »

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Lucasfilm To Work With Prime Focus On 3D ‘Star Wars – Phantom Menace’ Conversion

By | Tuesday March 29, 2011 @ 5:10pm PDT

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.” 

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3D ‘Star Wars: Phantom Menace’ Coming February 10, 2012

By | Thursday March 3, 2011 @ 9:32am PST
Mike Fleming

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (March 3, 2011) – Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox announced today that the 3D theatrical launch of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace now has an official release date – February 10, 2012! Set against the thrilling and exotic backdrop of a “galaxy far, far away,” Star Wars is perfectly suited to the immersive 3D theatrical experience, and Episode I delivers some of the Saga’s most stunning and spectacular sequences – from the Naboo invasion to the Tatooine Podraces to the climactic lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and the Jedi. Supervised by Industrial Light & Magic, the meticulous conversion is being done with utmost respect for the source material, and with a keen eye for both technological considerations and artistic intentions.

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Lucasfilm Settles Justice Department Hiring Probe

By | Tuesday December 21, 2010 @ 2:00pm PST
Mike Fleming

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.

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