Walt Disney buying Lucasfilm makes perfect sense for both parties - but for Star Wars fans especially

It is the loyalty of Star Wars fans that Disney has spent big bucks to purchase

Share
Related Topics

The acquisitions and mergers types must be having sleepless nights. Having just got over the purchase of Penguin by Random House, they are now required to process the information that Walt Disney has bought Lucasfilm, home of the Star Wars franchise, for a cool $4.05bn (£2.5bn). It is official. The House of Mouse has become the Death Star. It is an eye-watering sum, but does it make any financial sense? Of course it does.

Disney is the obvious home for Star Wars, given that the franchise under George Lucas was steadily running out of creative steam. And it still generates enormous profits through sales of almost everything connected to the movies, from computer games to M&M dispensers.

For some time now, it has become apparent that Star Wars had become a bit of an albatross around Lucas’s bearded neck. Having altered the course of movie-making (or rather movie financing and merchandising) with his first Star Wars film, the series has seen diminishing returns. Artistically, they have suffered dreadfully. Commercially, they have been a solid prospect because of the size of the fanbase. Once a Stars Wars fan, always a Stars Wars fan. And it is this unswerving, unquestioning, unthinking loyalty that Disney has purchased.

Adroit

What Disney can do with the films themselves is a moot point – and they may well improve under their banner – but what they can do with the merchandise is beyond question. They are going to trouser countless millions.

While the Disney organisation has always been adroit at merchandising and marketing movie-based products from Donald Duck alarm clocks to plaster figurines of Snow White, Stars Wars was the first film to properly exploit the market beyond the film itself on an industrial scale. Stars Wars figurines, models and ephemera flew off the shelves with the speed of the Millennium Falcon. Early figures proved a wise investment and now command huge sums on internet auction sites.

Star Wars had become an albatross around Lucas's bearded neck

Then came the computer games and digital spin-offs where the big bucks lie. Once you’re past the opening weekend box-office figures, the profits from cinema exhibition are relatively negligible compared with the money that can be raked in through merchandising. And there is no smarter or more ruthless merchandising operation on the planet than Disney.

Having established a connection in 1987 with the Star Tours theme park ride at Disneyland, Lucas introduced Mickey Mouse and his friends to various Stars Wars characters in a variety of other merchandising conduits over the years. Lucas, it appears, has never been shy about playing a long game. But neither has Disney.

Perfect Timing

In many respects, Disney has bought a ready-to-exploit franchise. They don’t have to repair, reboot, reinvent or reinstate anything: the market exists and it isn’t going away any time soon. Their timing is perfect, too. The last Stars Wars film, Revenge Of The Sith, was released in 2005 and fans have been anxiously trawling the internet ever since for confirmation of a follow-up. Disney has announced that they will  release a new Stars Wars movie in 2015. The game plan, as far as I understand it, is to keep on making Stars Wars movies to infinity  and beyond.

Computer games and digital spin-offs are where the big bucks lie

They have the back catalogue of Lucas’s six movies and all the peripheral activities that they can keep pushing onto an ever hungry public. They now have carte blanche to make more movies for both cinema exhibition and the DVD market; a practice they have been operating for decades with “sequels” to hit movies that have never seen light of the public screen. They have announced their intention to create a Stars Wars television series for their Disney XD channel. And that doesn’t take into account the advances they are making into new digital platforms of distribution, including video on demand and interactive websites.

The self-evident fact is that Disney is now far better at making capital out of existing material than creating its own at source. The corporation is a branding monolith and in the past decade has gobbled up Pixar Studios (2006) and Marvel Comics (2009). The acquisition of Lucasfilm is another giant leap for Mousekind.

Buzz

Franchise has been the buzzword in Hollywood for some time. Every executive wants one. In the UK, the successful rethinking of the James Bond films has delivered a real shot in the arm to the industry and the rebooted Dr Who has given the BBC more leverage in the international television market than it has had for decades.

But even franchises have their sell-by date and sequels have operated in the past according to the law of diminishing returns. Aside from a clutch of horror and SF franchises (Elm Street, Halloween, Star Trek, Alien, Predator) most potential franchises don’t get past the second sequel before petering out. The Bourne films, for example, are unlikely to reach the pensionable age of 007.

Star Wars is different and Disney knows it. Lucas planned his original concept as a nine-film cycle, shifting back and forth in time to expand the universe of his creation like God using an iPad. Now that he has passed the baton to his fellow Masters of the Movie Universe after making six of them, there are likely to be many more than the allotted three to come.

The question is: How many more plastic lightsabers or Darth Vader voice-changer helmets can the planet support? And will our children’s children be starting the day on a bowl of C3PO cereal? We are about to find out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently  

Shia LaBeouf to Luis Suárez: Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015