Star Wars & Indiana Jones Film Rights Under Disney
While everything in these two franchises released post-merger is without question Disney, things get a little murkier in regard to the movies that came before. For Star Wars, 20th Century Fox (distributor of the first six episodes) maintains their rights on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the prequel trilogy until May 2020. They'll own A New Hope in perpetuity since they were partners with Lucas on its production. Of course, this could all change if Disney's impending acquisition of Fox is approved by federal regulators, but for now there's a clear division.
In the case of Indiana Jones, Disney reached an agreement with Paramount (the studio behind the first four adventures) in December 2013 to acquire the brand's distribution and marketing rights. Paramount maintains the rights for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while also receiving "financial participation" whenever a new film starring Dr. Jones is made. This could partially explain why Lucasfilm has prioritized Star Wars over their other cash cow. Besides the plethora of stories available to be told in the galaxy, Disney wouldn't have to share money with another studio.
The Role of the Lucasfilm Story Group
One of the more controversial actions in the earliest days of Lucasfilm's Disney era was the decision to rebrand a majority of previously-published works as "Legends." The only survivors of the purge were the six movies, the Clone Wars animated television series and film, and the Darth Maul comic arc Son of Dathomir (which was based on unused Clone Wars scripts). This upset many fans who followed the Expanded Universe, but it was necessary to wipe the slate clean, giving creatives the necessary leeway to craft their narratives. Starting in 2014 (with the book A New Dawn), all of the Star Wars films, novels, comics, and even video games would be part of a singular, cohesive canon. It's the story group's job to maintain the canon and collaborate with directors, authors, and writers.
Related: The Women Who Shaped Star Wars
The story group idea stemmed from Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart (the group's developmental lead) and currently consists of 11 members. Despite how it looks on-paper, their objective is not to dictate the direction of the franchise and force story beats on the likes of J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and others. Lucasfilm grants the creative team behind each project freedom to tell the Star Wars stories they want to tell, with the story group acting more as a sounding board to ensure there are no blatant contradictions with earlier materials (i.e. someone can't write a book set after Force Awakens where Han Solo is alive). Lucasfilm isn't immune to minor slip-ups, but it's great they have multiple sets of eyes overseeing everything that comes out.
Page 3: How Lucasfilm Makes a Movie
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Indiana Jones 5 (2021) release date: Jul 09, 2021