News of Walt’s Conglomerate latching onto the face of Lucasfilm, secreting magic colored digestive jell to liquefy and digest the aging empire, went off like a two ton megatron bomb – shock waves racing round the globe, tremors undulating with love and hate, boiling like a pot of ‘now what happens’ curds and whey. The fact Miss Muffet got off her tuffet to soften the news with a tentative 2015 date for an all new Star Wars: Episode VII was either flavor tested in strategy meetings beforehand or hatched last-minute, intended to numb followers and frighten great spiders seething at the old man’s decision to run the ship onto the rocks of the magic kingdom and, with a $4 billion dollar paycheck, slip away to the rich old retired filmmakers home. Personally I’m writing from the gut right now, the acid eroding the lining of my narrowing throat passage, the sting sizzling wet steps in the cavern of my head anticipating the Alien’s dripping maul waiting in the darkness to rip the heart out of my chest. How? Why? What?? Selling Lucasfilm to Disney is like selling Apple to Microsoft and asking Bill to slip on a pair of New Balance sneakers to do his best rendition of Michael’s stage slide at the next great keynote speech. Gawd, that might be about as bad as this news, the very bad sort of news, like giving Kathleen Kennedy the keys to the farm and asking her to drive a tractor, dig a ditch, stack hay and do the real work only to watch as she gets paid the most to get everyone else to the dirty work. What would past George think, pre Star Wars Episode I and all those others, pre Young Indiana Jones Chronicles T.V., the George Lucas from the wastelands of Modesto California that followed his dreams to USC where Francis Ford Coppola took him under his wing, nurtured first George’s debut film failure THX-1138 and then helped him to his multi-award winning American Grafitti – that George – what would he think of all this posturing and side stepping?
The devil is in the details George. You know it as much as anyone. You know how wrong this is, how bad a decision. I understand you wanting to put on a parachute before plummeting like Nick Cage’s career, before crumbling beneath the weight of a career as conflicted as Tarantino’s from beginning to now, too old to navigate the yellow emergency exit slide and getting out of the game before you fly the plane into a mountain – again – but why go all the way? Why would you sell ALL technologies, ALL IPs, and ALL rights to EVERY property? Even Steve hung on in the end, stepping off but not out. It’s like turning your back on your children after you file for divorce, irreconcilable differences with yourself, opening up your books and handing over %100 of your fortunes to a stranger, walking out a free man but a poorer man and never looking back, no waves to your children – Star Wars and Indie, little Skywalker Sound and tiny Industrial Light & Magic, good luck on your own LucasArts and all the others – Daddy’s not your daddy any more, he’s not even Darth Vader. Don’t you realize that opening the doors this wide, hell tearing them off the hinges for the Disney legions to do whatever they want and get away with it is blasphemy? This means the potential for mistakes even greater than yours. At least they were your mistakes and you can take ownership of your blunders when you’ve done so much good before it all. Take Mel Gibson, yeah (I go out on a limb here), Gibson’s like the walking dead these days, a pariah even but he’s got decades of the goods to make it all make sense in the senseless Hollywoodland because it’s Hollywoodland sort of way.
So Disney gets it all – Skywalker Sound, Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts, and the Indiana Jones franchise. There’s a video floating around of George and Kathleen talking about things, like people really are corporations and franchises live on the hot air of opportunity not in the blood, sweat and tears of the writers and directors doing the dirty work, not the suits and pencil pushers in the office chairs and expensive cars making decisions – when was the last time a decision showed up at 4 a.m. on set to get the shots to match the emotions to match the stars aging indifference and translate that to big screen fantastic? I can’t even begin to go there, not here. George tells us in that interview and others that he’s got plans for retirement, he’s got all sorts of things going on but George, none of that has anything to do with the stuff people love you for. For all intent and purposes you’re heading out into the desert of has-been with a land cruiser, without a lightsaber or a bolo whip or a USB cable. I suppose you’ll be doing really new stuff, not the stuff you’re talking about in interviews because the aforementioned studios and production companies have all the good stuff sewed up like a silk purse, but stuff you’re going to have to do from the outside looking in.
It’s supposed to be passing Star Wars (SW) on to new generations of filmmakers so it can live on beyond george, which is a great Hallmark card moment passed out at the farewell luncheon, but then what? Trouble starts right away, the fact that you didn’t really square things away, you didn’t prepare the departure or really, to be honest, leave a living, breathing fighting sensibility behind, you left a millionaire producer celebrated for getting other people to do the hard work. Not like Apple. Not like Steve. See, Steve got it right for a long time so when he punched out it was like sure, of course the Apple is going to keep on keeping on, going, because once you make the world’s best Swiss clock it’s like that Millennium clock that’s ticking on and on to the break of dawn. But Steve didn’t jump ship like this, like when he got fired first then came back and showed them all, he didn’t walk away and leave it all bare and broken and worn out like Lucasfilm is and was when you turned the lights out and walked away from your legacy. Someone has to say it so I’m saying it. Maybe people are going to say this is a good thing, things will go ahead and get better, but leaving the keys in the boardroom is like saying go forth and make babies where I used to make babies but don’t cry for me Argentina. Disney is going to do what Disney do and that’s rapid fire injection molded mass production until Lucasfilm and family doesn’t look at all like it did, nothing at all what it once was – one of the grandest inspirations a young filmmaker could dream of, a production company making dreams and dreamers, touching hearts, minds and souls everywhere. Maybe it got heavy, maybe you’re right and maybe you just forgot.
Lets face it, the HMS Lucasfilm boat is floating down the rose-colored waters of the Magic Kingdom and it’s a one way passage headed for an inevitable typhoon of change like hurricane Sandy and we know how the Bounty held up so who knows with all those imperial walkers onboard. If you’re thinking about Pixar floating around there in the shark’s belly, how it continues to dominate the market of animated features unhindered by Disney, the difference is simple – Disney can’t do what Pixar does so they have to stand around and watch, help out but stay out-of-the-way, get their name on the marquee and do whatever it is they do – but that ain’t Lucasfilm. Yes, change is inevitable and while in a lot of ways it’s more than welcome, hell anything to resuscitate the dying, but Lucasfilm is unprepared for a takeover of such epic proportions and subsequently we’ll see it stripped down, wearied out, reconstituted and reconfigured. Maybe the name will stick around in some places but it’s going to be a lot smaller, a lot less Lucasfilm and a lot more Disney.
The fact that Lucasfilm is no more, priced to sell, sold, is a shameful reality, it’s selling out, literally and figuratively, letting people down. It’s the death of integrity that wounds the soul, not turning the keys over to new young hopefuls to blaze new trails, it’s turning it over to the very thing that’s always been wrong with people with money-making movies a product, the commoditization and homogenization process, the cookie-cutter, carbon copy scratch pad jello mold demographic shopping and test audience endings. Remove the heart and a machine can do the beating but remove the soul and you’ve got nothing. To suggest that one of the world’s largest homogenizers is going to devour its competition and allow it to go on it’s belly, unscathed, undigested – even a little bit – is hopefully optimistic but blindly idealistic. We’re not talking Pixar, not even Disney can screw them up, because Lucasfilm does’t have that kind of steely resolve – that soul missing thing again. In an industry of sharks and deep waters, killer whales and meals, the predator with the sharpest teeth doing the biting always prevails, because there is no room for sheriff Brody at a Disneyland filled with mayor Vaugns.
The right thing is not always the easy thing but the outcome is almost always better because of it. Lucas could have made it right but he chose easy instead of maybe, certainty instead of possibility, forgetting you can’t buy insurance for risky business. The right thing would have been the hardest thing, no certainty at all but for the possibility of more than one outcome – including more failure. Threats make efforts worthwhile as they pay off while you’re living it, breathing it, not at some unknowable end because you won’t be there anyway. It’s where Lucasfilm came from not where it is going, better to burn up in success then fade away in the shadow of assurances watching someone else drive your car. Lucas could have turned the keys over to the real next generation of filmmakers, the nobodies yet, the bartenders and soup servers, the elbows creased from dreaming guys and girls make believing, every single soul who knows you come up alone before you get to help others like others helped you – by not paying others for your mistakes.