Culture Clash – Is the Force Strong with Disney?

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Image by Stéfan – CC BY-NC-SA License

The Only Thing that could make Episode 1 look good? More movies…

Disney buying out Star Wars is inspiring a mixture of reactions in fans of the galaxy far, far away; not all of them positive. One website states that “the initial reaction from fans has ranged from mild deflation to angry snarls worthy of the Sarlacc”. There are always two sides to every story, as Darth Vader would be quick to tell you, and here’s why old Walt seizing the reigns of the galactic empire is inherently evil and wrong.

Firstly, as much as every true fan loves George Lucas for being the father of Star Wars; his constant re-hashing of the films rapidly became irritating. And just because Disney is holding the rights, doesn’t mean Lucas is out of the picture altogether. He will still be involved with the saga as an executive producer, a role which sometimes exerts more creative control than the director; therefore Disney’s willingness to create more films could easily lead to a public flogging of storylines that have already been done to death. Disney has a reputation for dragging out a popular concept for as long as possible, in order to make as much money as possible. Classic examples include: Lion King One, two, and two and a half, the shameless extortion of countless Pirates of the Caribbean’s – the list could go on.

‘But Rachel’, you cry, ‘what about Toy Story 3? Wasn’t that an incredible sequel?’ – My response? It took eleven years for Disney to produce Toy Story 3, if it takes eleven years to create a decent Star Wars, then what on earth will the first movie, expected to be released in 2015, be like? Better hold back from pre-ordering your tickets.

Further to this, another worry is the expected release date. Disney are stating that they plan to have a new film out by 2015 – three years seems like an awfully short time to produce a stunning sequel and one can’t help but wonder if it will really be of the high standards that Robert Iger, Disney’s chief executive, claims they are aiming for. Peter Hartlaub, a pop culture critic, clearly agrees with this concern, writing on his blog that “my hope as a fan is that this isn’t another Iron Man 2 situations, were the studio’s eagerness to pump out a sequel on a tight deadline seriously harms the potential of the finished product.

Although it is true that the purchase of Star Wars will mean the creation of more films and possibly more exciting possibilities for the franchise, there’s also the risk that Disney could incorporate their colourful trademark characters into the new creations and destroy its integrity. One blogger writes in the Metro, “By Episode 9 I wouldn’t be surprised if the latest threat to the galaxy is a Mickey Mouse hot water bottle…” And now that Disney officially own the franchise, there’s nothing at all to stop them casting Goofy as the Jar Jar Binks (although this could make him less annoying), or shoving some mouse ears on R2-D2, as shown in the promotional pictures featuring Lucas frolicking with the Disney greats.

And finally, as much as you might claim to love Star Wars, imagine walking around Disneyland and bumping into the Rancour, or being forced to cuddle a Space Slug. My point is, the whole concept of Disneyland is to go and snuggle up with your favourite childhood icons, and there really is no place in the Magic Kingdom for some of the Wars scarier counterparts. Even if there were, can you picture the scenes as children run screaming from an army of Sith warriors? Not the ideal Disney image. In addition to this, there’s always the chance on your travels that you might accidentally trip over Yoda, and nobody wants to be the guy that squashes Yoda – ‘not if anything to say about it I have’. Star Wars features a myriad of freakish characters who simply do not suit the Disney star specification of ‘cute as a button’; one would hope that they don’t decide to convert every Star Wars creature into an adorable cartoon.

Overall, there are a wide plethora of reasons why Disney doesn’t deserve to inherit Lucasfilm’s legacy. But, as disturbing as this news might be to true supporters of the galactic regime, hopefully you don’t feel as strongly as one particular Jedi Master, who described the takeover as “like having your Mum have an affair and remarry” – perhaps a slightly exaggeration, but his distress is clear. It’s a dark day for Star Wars lovers, but look at it this way: everybody loves a dark side, without it where will all the exciting space action come from? Not George Lucas anymore, that’s for sure. Brace yourselves, and may the force be with you.

—- Rachel May Quin

The Force is Strong with Disney

At the end of October George Lucas sold his production company Lucasfilm to Walt Disney Pictures and divided Star Wars fans from all over the world. Star Wars fans are notoriously die-hard so of course any change, never mind one so major that is could result in more Star Wars films, would cause uproar. However, I don’t see the four billion dollar sale as a bad thing and believe it could ultimately benefit fans of the original saga.

Disney bought Marvel Cinematic Universe prior to the making of the brilliant Avengers Assemble and, although I won’t give them full credit for the film, they made the right call in keeping Kevin Feige as President of Production. This then allowed Feige to put Joss Whedon at the helm of the Avengers film which went on to become the third highest grossing film of all time. Ultimately, Marvel has had huge success, the biggest of which was under the control of Walt Disney Pictures. If Disney can create similar success with Lucasfilm everyone will forget what all the anger was about.

From seeing people’s reactions to the sale it seems that most Star Wars fans don’t want to see any more films from that franchise. However, the story of Star Wars has already been continued through other mediums such as books and comics, so there is clearly a place for the storyline to go, even if it hasn’t reached the masses yet. As there are plenty of available storylines that Disney can look into for Star Wars 7, they just need to put the resources and right people behind it, like they did with Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, in order to make a decent film, and potentially a big success.

I do believe the biggest concern with the inevitable Star Wars Episode 7 being made is that it will end up more like episode 1 than episode 4. I understand this concern, but question whether it can get any worse. Surely everyone knows why The Phantom Menace et al failed to impress fans of the classics, so this could easily provide a platform for Disney to build on. Quite simply, they only need to get in a decent actor to play the lead and avoid creating another Jar Jar Binks character and they have a better Star Wars film than any of episodes 1-3.

Of course Star Wars fans were offended by George Lucas’ decision to sell Lucasfilm, but I struggle to understand why the buyer being Walt Disney Pictures managed to offend so many people. Although Disney is responsible for some of the worst things to hit our TV or cinema screens (The Jonas Brothers) they know how to make a film that will appeal to the whole family. Even in recent years they have managed to produce several films that were highly accepted by all family members. Tangled is arguably one of their most successful films of recent years as it proved that a solely Disney film can still appeal the way that one released with Pixar would. It is also worth pointing out that Walt Disney Pictures is responsible for four of the top ten highest grossing films of all time, so they clearly know how to produce popular and successful films.

Many Star Wars fans already feel that the franchise has been ruined and turned into something for kids thanks to its animated film and TV series. As much as I agree that these won’t help fans restore their faith in Lucasfilm I believe they were created to introduce a younger generation to the franchise, something that should be encouraged. Many kids would struggle to sit through Star Wars: A New Hope, but would happily watch animated Jedis fight with lightsabers as this would make them more approachable for children. The benefit of this would be this younger generation growing up with an interest in and respect for the whole franchise. Therefore those who already have an interest in Star Wars thanks to the animated series could also appreciate a potentially new great film from the franchise.

When looking at this take over it is very important to take into account what else Walt Disney Pictures currently have in the pipeline. With films like The Avengers 2 and Iron Man 3 they look to be sticking with making Marvel Cinematic Universe as successful as possible, so who is to say they cannot do the same thing with Lucasfilm?

Regardless of low expectations for the film, I am personally excited to see what will become of Star Wars Episode 7 and believe that it will help to redeem the Star Wars franchise in the eyes of the fans.

—- Charli Stevenson

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