While the long-in-development live-action Star Wars: Underworld television series remains in a state of flux, we can now confidently say that the franchise will be returning in live-action regardless. The shocking news yesterday that Disney acquired LucasFilm came with the bonus surprise announcement that Star Wars Episode VII has a tentative release date for 2015.
Not only is Disney planning to continue Star Wars immediately, but they aim to continue the story that began back in 1977. For fans speculating what (and who) they could see on screen for years to come based on the Expanded Universe novels and video games, what we've learned today may alter some expectations.
Dale Pollock, author of the 1984 George Lucas biography, Skywalking: The Life And Films Of George Lucas, spoke with The Wrap after yesterday's major announcement and revealed his thoughts on the original dozen stories Lucas wrote treatments for. When writing the biography, he was able to read all of the stories but signed non-disclosure agreements on their contents.
"It was originally a 12-part saga. The three most exciting stories were 7, 8 and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, 'I want to see these 3 movies.'"
The plan for episodes 7-9 was to follow Luke Skywalker in his '30s and '40s with someone else taking over the role from Mark Hamill who Pollock claims didn't impress Lucas. For longtime fans disappointed with the current status of the Star Wars brand and film franchise, Pollack calls the prequel trilogy "dreadful" but has very positive things to say about the ideas behind the potential next two trilogies, stories he confidently believes Disney will use, claiming they represent one of the reasons Disney made the acquisition.
Sources of E! Online however, provide a different story, claiming that Disney will instead opt for an entirely original story for Star Wars Episode 7 and the following installments. They acknowledge that there are treatments in place and the despite the nine beloved Star Wars Expanded Universe novels written by author Timothy Zahn (most notably, the Thrawn trilogy which begins with Heir to the Empire) which technically qualify as canon according to the publishing department at Lucas Licensing in the '90s, none of that will serve as the basis for the films going forward.
E!'s Leslie Gornstein reports that she's heard directly from LucasFilm and other sources "close to the picture" that Star Wars Episode 7 will tell a story never before seen in the extended fiction. That of course, also applies to episodes 8 and 9 which were confirmed by Disney chairman Robert Iger on a conference call earlier today.
It's no surprise that with the acquisition, Disney will plan out a full trilogy (at least) ahead of time, thus allowing them to get talent and a director locked for long-term deals from the outset, much like we've seen successfully implemented by Disney's other recent $4 billion acquisition in Marvel Entertainment. With the acquisitions of LucasFilm and Marvel Studios, Disney currently has The Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Star Wars 7 all slated for 2015.
The press release about the announcement yesterday contained an official statement from George Lucas, who states that he aims to "pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers." We'll have to wait and see if that means we're getting new stories to go along with it, or adaptations of elements from the Expanded Universe.
Check out our fun list of top 10 pros and cons of the Disney-LucasFilm deal. I wonder if the Gotye music video parody up top had any influence on Mr. Lucas.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.