Breaking into the endless stream of #Sandy updates Tuesday afternoon was a tweet from Yoda capturing the oddness of the day’s entertainment news:
A part of the family belonging to Disney I now am. Expect me to mingle with Mickey and Minnie I hope they do not. Hrrrrm.”
With the hastily inked and announced $4.05 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm (a figure 10 percent less than the lifetime box-office gross of all Star Wars movies), Disney is adding to its trophy room of highly marketable, vertically integrated, multibillion-dollar global entertainment franchises–the kinds of franchises where the feature films are simply expensive ads for the toothbrushes (see Pixar, Marvel, & Muppets). In fact, Disney’s relationship with Lucasfilm started at the theme park: there are “Star Tours”-themed rides at Disney parks on three continents.
In the webcast announcing the deal, CEO Bob Iger laid out plans to release the seventh Star Wars film as the company’s “tentpole” for 2015–and more, continuously, every two to three years, thereafter. CTO Jay Rasulo mentioned building the Star Wars brand internationally, and beyond just toys into broader consumer products. “We’d be better off as a company releasing a sequel to Star Wars than most other ‘not yet determined’ films,” Iger said in response to a question.
Old-school Star Wars fans, and others wistful about the place of movies at the center of the cultural scene, might despair at the prospect of an endless, Disneyfied extension of the interplanetary saga accompanied by ever-more mountains of plastic crap to buy.
But the business logic is inexorable: teens are more into games these days, and the middlebrow cultural energy (and much of the acting talent) is going into TV dramas like Mad Men.
Box-office receipts are down, and so are DVD sales. But as long as kids are still making light saber videos, the Force will still be with the tchotchke business.
[Mouse Wars: Mandalee Mankins]