Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wonderful World of Lucasfilm?

I had planned on continuing the TV Moms series today with a look at the title character in Grace Under Fire.

But then Disney bought Lucasfilm for 4 billion dollars. And it seemed like I ought to touch on that.

(You might want to watch for spoilers. In some of my examples, I'll talk about the ending of series. All of them are a few years old, but better safe, I suppose.)

I've heard all sorts of panicked ideas--reboots, Disney/Star Wars crossovers. Star Wars has both a huge and devoted fanbase, and it was, understandably, in a frenzy after the announcement--especially when the words "episode seven" began being tossed about. (And that is happening, by the way, in 2015--with an Episode VIII to follow two years later, and an Episode IX two years after that. And possibly more after that.)

To be honest, this whole thing is sort of a mixed bag for me. I'm not particularly worried that Disney will bastardize the Star Wars universe: a similar worry was voiced when Disney acquired Marvel, and that marriage has done a lot of good for Marvel in media outside comics--Avengers was hugely successful, Earth's Mightiest Heroes was pretty excellent as far as animated series go, and pretty soon there's going to be a S.H.E.I.L.D. television show on ABC. Disney's goal for the past several years has been to bring their level of popularity among boys to the same level as their popularity among girls. They're not going to mess it up by injecting glitter where it ought not be.

The issues that I have with Disney taking over Lucasfilm as a whole and Star Wars specifically are less about changes to the brand than they are about over saturation, I guess.

First of all, do you know how much stuff Disney owns? ESPN, ABC, Disney Theatrical, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Hyperion Books--they own a lot. A lot. There's nothing wrong with Disney having their hands in so many pies, I suppose, but it does make me uneasy. As with anything, when only one voice or one take on things gets heard, only half the story gets told. I'm a fan of a lot of Disney products, but they have specific areas in which they're strong, and there are lots of great stories that don't fit in to those categories. With Disney owning so many channels and so many production companies, it's harder for stories that Disney may not see a place for to get out there--television shows and movies that could be worthwhile might not get made.

The other issue I have that kind of goes along with this is that Disney is out for money. And, I know, every company is out to make money. I don't necessarily fault Disney for being focused on profit--it's certainly served them well for decades.

But Disney has a tendency to do something that really frustrates me as a storyteller.

As long as a franchise is pulling in profit, Disney will keep it going. They're not the only group to do this (Shrek, anyone?), but three Cinderella movies, a Monsters, Inc. prequel, and four Tinkerbell movies (not counting the two Peter Pan animated films) prove that Disney's pretty bad about continuing a story just for the money.

That might be a good policy for business--if Disney's any indicator, it works very well--but it's terrible for stories. This is a big problem in a lot of American media. It's how so many shows wind up lasting long past their prime and movies winding up with sequel after after sequel even after audiences have stopped caring. After a certain point, stories and characters are left with nothing to explore. While many Potter fans would love to see another Harry Potter book, Harry's fulfilled his destiny and there's no more to his story. An eighth season of The West Wing wouldn't have worked, and, as much as I was a fan of Aang, Sokka, Katara, Zuko, and Toph in Avatar: the Last Airbender, their story really ended with the defeat of the Fire Lord. When a story is done, it ought to be left alone.

I might be alone in this, but I feel like the core group of Star Wars characters--the Skywalkers, for instance--have told their stories in full.  We really don't need another movie about them. There are still other parts of that universe worth looking at, but  after a certain point, more Star Wars movies is really just using the brand for the sake of using the brand.

In the end, I don't think Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm is necessarily bad. It's just an interesting turn of events and, like any combination of companies or franchises, it could really go either way. I guess we'll see with Episode VII in 2015.

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