Unless you’ve been hiding inside a Tauntaun (get it? get it?) these past few weeks, you’ve probably heard that Disney purchased Lucasfilm - and therefore Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other properties - for the small one-time fee of $4 billion. Star Wars: Episode 7 will be hitting theaters in 2015, with episodes 8 and 9 following suit in two-to-three year intervals.
According to newly-appointed Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, that’s only the beginning - Lucasfilm will be making two or three films every year from here on out, a slight uptick from the five movies they made between the years of 1999 and 2012.
From the most recent edition of Entertainment Weekly, here’s the relevant section:
"Lucasfilm’s co-chairman and soon-to-be president, Kathleen Kennedy, has told employees she wants the company to produce two or three films a year (it’s averaged fewer than four per decade), and first up is ‘Star Wars: Episode 7’ for 2015, which will pick up sometime after Darth Vader gave his life to overthrow (figuratively and literally) the Emperor and save Luke in 1983’s ‘Episode 6’ - ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Yes, the plan is to return to the characters in the first trilogy (1977–83). Whether the original actors will have significant roles or merely be on hand to pass the baton to a new generation of actors—something Lucasfilm tried with mixed success with ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and Disney with ‘TRON: Legacy’ - is unclear."
It goes without saying that some of those “two or three films a year” will be Star Wars or Indiana Jones films (more of the former, less of the latter), but that leaves a lot of room for projects unrelated to those blockbuster properties. The question is, what kind of projects can we expect?
Willow was Lucasfilm’s fantasy follow-up to Return of the Jedi. Directed by Ron Howard and produced by George Lucas - who also provided the story - the film starred Warwick Davis (Wicket in Return of the Jedi and the Leprechaun in Leprechaun) as an amateur wizard and Val Kilmer as a swashbuckling rogue. The two unlikely heroes reluctantly teamed up to save an infant girl from certain destruction by a crazy old witch lady.
The film wasn’t a "bomb," per se, but it also wasn’t the massive hit that industry insiders expected. Still, Val Kilmer was fantastic and hilarious as Madmartigan, and both Lucas and Davis have talked about the possibility of a second installment - either in film or television - as recently as 2008. There was even a sequel trilogy of books written by Chris Claremont (of X-Men comic book fame) and George Lucas between 1995 and 2000.
Would a Willow sequel be something worth pursuing? There’s very little brand appeal at this point, which would probably be a strike against it. Then again, fantasy stories are far more lucrative now than they were in the 1980s, as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit can attest.
Lucasarts Adventure Games
Okay, so outside of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Lucasfilm’s catalog of cinematic properties (Tucker: The Man and His Dream, The Radioland Murders, Red Tails, et cetera) probably wasn’t worth the $4 billion that Disney shelled out last month. However, the videogame branch of Lucasfilm - A.K.A. Lucasarts - is practically brimming with interesting, original, and creative properties that could be highly marketable if adapted correctly.
From Monkey Island to Day of the Tentacle to Full Throttle to the crème de le crème of graphic adventure games, Grim Fandango - all of which legendary videogame designer Tim Schafer had a hand in crafting - each of these properties are perfectly suited for cinematic adaptation as is. Some, in fact, could be prime candidates for Disney animation (either traditional animation, CG animation, or stop-motion animation).
The primary reason for why these games are so well-regarded to this day? Their stories. They're all very original, relatively simple, and have incredibly charming characters to boot, which brings to mind the work of a little company called Pixar.
Hell, Steve Purcell - co-writer and co-director of Pixar's latest film, Brave - was heavily involved with Lucasarts videogames back in the day, including the Monkey Island series and the videogame adaptation of his own comic book, Sam and Max Hit the Road. (He even did concept work for a proposed Monkey Island animated movie that unfortunately went nowhere.)
Could we eventually see these two beloved worlds collide? Boy, I sure hope so.
More Star Wars Movies!
Just because Lucasfilm is going to be incredibly busy making a new trilogy of Star Wars movies doesn't mean they can't make even more Star Wars movies. There are plenty of options for cinematic Star Wars projects that don't have to infringe on the canon of the main series. Indeed, it's entirely possible we could see animated movies that focus on, for example, the Old Republic (speaking of Lucasarts games) or even the period of galactic war that set the stage for the Original Trilogy.
The Expanded Universe has proven, if nothing else, that there are limitless characters, corners, eras, and stories that can be explored within that galaxy far, far away. Why shouldn't Lucasfilm take full advantage of that?
Totally Original Properties
And then, of course, there's the 100% original route. Hard as it might be to recall - particularly for those of us who weren't alive at the time - there was a period in history when Lucasfilm created naught but original material. After all, in 1977, Star Wars was an original movie. In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was an original movie. If you were alive in the mid-1980s, you probably would've assumed that Lucasfilm would go on making incredibly original movies a la Star Wars and Indiana Jones in perpetuity.
Alas, they did not, and we got mostly sequels (and prequels) instead, save for the few unsuccessful dramas here and there. Perhaps that'll change with Kathleen Kennedy at the helm.
We'll have to wait to know exactly what sort of films we can expect from Lucasfilm in the coming decade. What, besides Star Wars and Indiana Jones, would you like to see from the studio now that they've got Disney's backing? Are there any Lucasarts games that you'd like to see adapted for the big screen? Or would you prefer that Lucasarts goes the "100% original" route? Let us know in the comments.
Star Wars: Episode 7 is expected to hit theaters in 2015.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.