When news emerged earlier this year that “Star Wars” spinoff movies were being eyed alongside the new trilogy, with Han Solo, Boba Fett and Yoda reportedly getting standalone films, there was definitely a spark of interest and potential, even from longtime fans who felt burned by the prequels. Maybe this would be the area where Disney and Lucasfilm would exercise some real creative freedom. How awesome would a dark and gritty Han Solo movie be? What about a ’70s vibe genre flick for Boba Fett? Well, keep dreaming because Disney has some pretty dull plans for these characters.
Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo spoke today during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference and reassured the room full of moneymen worried about their stock portfolios that, “of all our worries, ‘Star Wars’ is not one of them.” And it’s a very telling statement considering he re-confirmed “Star Wars” release plans, which will see a sequel and spinoff released in alternating years, with the latter to be an “origin story film.” Sigh. And from a totally cynical, depressing point of view, it makes complete sense.
Why was a “Cars” sequel and a “Planes” spinoff made? For the simple reason that the licensing from that franchise rakes it in more than any other Pixar title. And when it comes to Lucasfilm, which Disney bought, what will be the easiest, most boring way to cash in on that $4 billion investment? Keep printing the money that fans are already spending on all manner of products featuring the iconic characters. It’s just simple math at the end of the day, and the safest course of action for Disney execs and shareholders (joke is on you if you think this is about what the fans want). And especially coming off two expensive, risky megaflops—”John Carter” and “The Lone Ranger“—Disney is not going to be taking any more chances and something that isn’t a certainty or that can’t predictably rack up ancillary bucks.
Oh, but wait, J.J. Abrams is at the head of the ship, and he surely will do something bold and original to set the stage for the rest of the films. Um, did you see “Star Trek Into The Darkness“? Talk about one of the most crass blockbusters this summer, devoid of anything fresh. More crucially, it resurrected a classic ‘Trek’ villain, and we’d be willing to bet heavy dollars that somewhere in these origin story prequels, Darth Vader’s shadow will be looming.
And if you want to know just how corporate this whole “Star Wars” re-launch is, well, here’s an excerpt from Variety‘s article, which basically drives the point home:
Rasulo said Disney’s in-house licensing and consumer products group would devote the next year on brokering deals around the world to expand the reach of the “Star Wars” brand.
Given its much smaller size, Lucasfilm had focused primarily on U.S.-based licensing programs and then on toys and a few other categories. But Disney plans to expand broaden it into housewares and other merchandise categories the way it’s increased the vast variety of products that feature Marvel’s superheroes.
“We will lay the groundwork for that … and when the film comes out in 2015, we’ll be ready to blow it out,” Rasulo said.
The good news? You’ll be able to buy that Yoda dishware set you’ve been dreaming of.