From one recently-acquired film franchise to another, Disney is generating buzz and hype like we've never seen before. Their acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 resulted in last summer's record-breaking The Avengers and in October they acquired Lucasfilm with the hope of replicating the success by launching another Star Wars trilogy, beginning with Episode 7 in 2015.
On the Marvel side, there are six films that have official release dates over the next three years, with a seventh confirmed for sometime after that. Major rumors on Super Bowl Sunday detailed potential plans for another two (see: Planet Hulk). For Star Wars however, which now has J.J. Abrams attached to direct the first installment, Episode 7 is one chapter in a big unfolding book over a six-year period.
Disney CEO Bob Iger appeared live on CNBC today as the company shared their quarterly earnings. Not only was Iger able to proudly report higher-than-expected earnings, but he was able to force push another wave of Star Wars buzz throughout Wall Street and Hollywood.
After Abrams came aboard, jumping ship, so to speak, from the USS Enterprise to the Millenium Falcon (don't worry, he's still involved with the Star Trek Into Darkness sequel), new Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy hinted that the previously announced 2015 date may not be as firm as once believed. Part of the deal in convincing Abrams to sign on "after a day of furious negotiation" may have been that Abrams would get more time. From what Iger told the world today, that's not the case and Star Wars Episode VII will release in 2015 as planned. There's too much money on the line for it not to, and there's plenty of time to get the film into production with its release date at least two and a half years out.
While that's not too surprising considering the announcement of the Lucasfilm acquisition came packaged with the Episode 7 confirmation initially, what's most interesting is that Iger also confirmed the timeline for the trilogy and that there are additional standalone Star Wars movies in the works to release during that time period as well:
"There's been speculation about some standalone films that are in development, and I can confirm to you today that in fact we are working on a few standalone films. Larry Kasdan and Simon Kinberg are both working on films derived from great Star Wars characters that are not part of the overall saga. So we still plan to make Star Wars 7, 8 and 9 roughly over a six-year period of time, starting 2015. But there are going to be a few other films released in that period of time too."
Over a six-year period means Star Wars Episode 8 will likely release in 2018 and Star Wars Episode 9 in 2021, with additional films in between. There could very well be at least one Star Wars movie per year depending on the resources and production capacity of Lucasfilm. However, Entertainment Weekly reported previously that Kennedy told the Lucasfilm staff that they will be ramping up for producing 2-3 films per year, meaning they very well may be embracing the Marvel cinematic universe strategy.
The timing of this confirmation lends credence to AICN's scoop last night that the first standalone movie Lucasfilm and Kennedy are working on is a film about Yoda. Yoda of course, is part of the saga, but we don't know if Iger's use of the word is in reference to the saga as a whole or if he's specifically referring to characters no longer alive post-Return of the Jedi.
If by "characters that are not part of the overall saga" refers to Episodes 1-9, then we could very well eventually see standalone features based on some of the more popular pieces of the Star Wars expanded universe. Could stories from the novels, comics or games finally get the big screen treatment? Are Knights of the Old Republic and Shadows of the Empire real possibilities? Boba Fett solo film?
One of these standalone films could also be the rumored Zack Snyder Seven Samurai style film, which we thought could be a neat story to fit in a younger Yoda who proves himself as a leader in battle. What would you like to see come 2016?
[Update: Lucasfilm followed up Bob Iger's statements on CNBC by confirming that Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg are each working on separate standalone films. Each will focus on a character not part of the saga.]
The Star Wars cinematic galaxy is about to experience a Big Bang. Lucasfilm is officially announcing new spinoff films that will expand the mythos and depths of the Star Wars universe in previously unexplored ways.
One of the standalone films will be written by Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and co-writer ofReturn of the Jedi while the other will be penned by Simon Kinberg, writer of Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The movies will be separate from the upcoming Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, on which Kasdan and Kinberg are also consulting, and are expected to be released sometime after Episode VII. Each standalone film will focus on a specific character, and two spinoff films are currently confirmed.
In a call to investors, Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, revealed while the original focus was on the highly-anticipated sequel trilogy, the idea of spinoff films was bandied about early and the additional films are now becoming a reality. "We are in development of a few standalone films," he said, "that are not part of the Star Wars saga...there are now creative entities working on developing scripts for what would be those standalone films."
Stay tuned to StarWars.com as more exciting developments unfold.
Star Wars Episode 7 will hit theaters in summer 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
Millenium Falcon art by Acain Rivard.
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