Wednesday, November 28, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 29 - Lucasfilm

Everybody has the attitude of 'no one has ever done it, but let's do it.' Why not?  If there's going to be a first, let's be the first.
Doug Chiang, Lucasfilm

This was a great opportunity: when you look at the world of entertainment, there is almost nothing like this.

This is one of the most iconic, one of the most successful, one of the highest-quality entertainment brands that exist in the world.

And we thought it was a wonderful opportunity for this company to bring it into Disney and continue the great legacy that George created over 35 years ago.
Bob Iger

Lucasfilm was founded in 1971 by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971.  Beyond serving as a production company for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, Lucasfilm served as a place for George to continuously push the science of filmmaking further.  Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound became industry standards for special effects and sound effects.  On October 30, 2012, Disney announced a deal to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion.

Lucasfilm had many earlier ties to Disney than one would imagine.  It had previously collaborated with Disney on two theme park rides in Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Adventure, as well as an Indiana Jones stunt show.  George Lucas had even shopped Star Wars to Disney in 1973 thinking Disney would be the perfect home for his style of film.  Disney chose to focus instead on its own properties like The Black Hole.  PIXAR even grew out of Industrial Light & Magic.  It's fitting that everything has come full circle.

The goals for Lucasfilm include diversification and a focus on its core competency.

Primary Goals for the Division:
  • Move Beyond Star Wars - There is no question that Star Wars is a cash cow, but Disney has access to many other Lucasfilm properties, including ones that tie into other Disney properties (such as Labyrinth and Howard the Duck).  They are expanding into Indiana Jones, but it is time to look at all options.
  • Pull Back on the Star Wars Releases - This one ties into the above, but it's time to move the Star Wars pictures back to at least every other year, not one a year.  There are a lot of options for how to move Star Wars forward, but one thing is clear that there is no need to milk the cash cow dry.
  • Don't Reboot Indiana Jones, Continue It - There is no need to reboot Indiana Jones.  Recast yes, reboot no.  There have already been five actors who have played Indiana Jones throughout his life and the canon as it exists has perfect opportunities to insert new adventures into the mythology.  Keep expanding the story-line, not redoing it.
  • Long Live the Serial - Lucasfilm's strengths have always been modern versions of the old movie serials.  This should inform how additional Lucasfilm movies are selected.  A Lucasfilm movie should be part of a continuing serial under the Lucasfilm banner.   Different pieces of continuing stories from different genres.
  • Have John Williams Create a Fanfare for the Lucasfilm Banner - The new Star Wars films have felt like there was something missing without the 20th Century Fox fanfare.  And though Disney now owns 20th Century Fox, I do not want that fanfare placed back in front.  I want John Williams to create a Lucasfilm specific fanfare, perhaps reminiscent of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores, to accompany the Lucasfilm Logo at the beginning of the film.  Disney, Marvel, PIXAR, and 20th Century Fox all have instantly recognizable fanfares and intros.  Lucasfilm should as well.
  • Add a Lucasfilm Short Film Department - This is a recurring theme among the Disney Studios.  I want most of the the studios to have a thriving short film department.  These are great training grounds for new talent and great compliments to the feature film offering.  Lucasfilm shorts can be their own serials cutting across the various Lucasfilm properties, could be Star Wars Detours-esque films like a Tag and Bink story, animated or live-action additions to the universes.  Shorts would be the place where Lucasfilm can experiment.
  • Push the Science Forward - Beyond anything else, Lucasfilm should be the studio pushing the science of moving making forward.  It should be a mission statement that Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker sound should live by.  This should never determine the films, but it should affect the films.
With that, I want to now turn to a small specific film slate I envision for Lucasfilm.

Star Wars:
  • Star Wars IX - Let's close out the Skywalker series well, without undoing everything that The Last Jedi set up.
  • Obi-Wan on Tatooine - a bit of a more direct throwback to Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven in the Star Wars universe with Obi-Wan protecting the young Luke Skywalker without making his presence known
  • Agent of the Empire - James Bond in the Star Wars Universe working for the Empire.  That's a cool concept.
  • The Adventures of Tag and Bink - Two bumbling stormtroopers who fumble through the greatest hits of the Star Wars movies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern style.
  • William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope - Alternate take - I would love to see the plays adapted into a new series of movie.  Parchment scrolls or a town crier replacing the opening crawl.  A very theatrical style of filmmaking for this alternate universe.
  • Knights of the Old Republic - let's go way back and look at the founding of the Jedi. 
  • Beyond the films above, I'm ready to just explore the vast wilds of the created universe, with a similar approach to the way Marvel differentiates its films. A war film, a spaghetti western, a heist film, a period drama, etc. all set against the Star Wars backdrop.  Imagine for a minute what the Star Wars version of Casablanca would be.
Indiana Jones:
  • Indiana Jones 5 - Let's finish out Harrison Fords involvement in Indiana Jones strong.  More 1 and 3 than 2 or 4.
  • Indiana Jones 6 - New actor, moving the time period back to the early 1930s, perhaps covering the time period between the Young Indiana Jones television show and Temple of Doom.  This would start the new continuing arc of films.
  • Willow 2, 3, and 4 - If the original Willow is the Hobbit of this series, it's time to make its Lord of the Rings.  Willow is now our Gandalf and Elora is our protagonist.  Ron Howard, Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer all back.  Improved special effects, a more epic story-line.  This opens Lucasfilm to a fantasy serial and a great world to expand and explore.

American Graffiti:
  • American Graffiti 1977
  • American Graffiti 1984
  • American Graffiti 1993
American Graffiti should be a series of films with a simple concept - a single night in the lives of teenagers in small-ish town America married with a great soundtrack of the greatest hits of the era.  Each film would be a new cast, a new setting, and a new year, with the films only connected in spirit.  The reason to make the films is the soundtrack. These could also be great films for visionary directors under the Lucasfilm banner. I'm picturing Richard Linklater's American Graffiti 1984.  (And we'll all pretend like American Graffiti 2 never happened)

A 1950s/1960s B-Movie Series:
I would want to create a 1950s/1960s B-movie serial, centered around the odd happenings of a college town in the 1950s with alien invasions, nuclear testing, giant monsters, and scientific experiments gone wrong.  Movies with coeds, greasers, beach bums, bikers, big-men on campus, G-men, and straight-laced professors.  What Mutt Williams movies could have been if he wasn't shoe-horned into the wrong genre in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or played by Shia LeBouf.

Dick Tracy or similar:
If Disney could get the rights back to Dick Tracy, Lucasfilm would be a perfect home for a series of movies.  If not, the one serial category Lucasfilm is really missing is a lawman/detective pulp.  If would be great to see Lucasfilm lean into a colorful noir style for a new pulp crime serial.

These are just a few of the ideas and films I would propose Lucasfilm create.  This kind of film slate would help Lucasfilm create a very specific film niche that is not solely limited to Star Wars, as well as help round out the film offerings from the Disney Studios.


As always, thank you for reading.  A few more studios to go for this part of the series.  Next up, 20th Century Fox, Disney's newest acquisition.

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