Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the only fresh on-screen Star Wars content fans had to cling to was The Clone Wars animated series on the Cartoon Network. The show was hit or miss over its five aired seasons, occasionally hitting the right tone, but too often floundering with lame characters and boring stories.
Season Five particularly lagged with back-to-back four-episode story arcs centered around the misadventures of child padawans and astromech droids. Four. Episodes. It was ridiculous and indicative of the show’s tendency to skew too far from the recipe which makes Star Wars work.
The announcement of Disney’s acquisition came as Season Five concluded. Not long after, The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled. Fans feared that might be the end of Star Wars on television.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the new Lucasfilm to announce Star Wars Rebels, a new animated series set to air in October on Disney XD. Here are 10 reasons to get excited about this new Star Wars television show.
#10. The Return of Kenobi
Occurring in the timeline between Episodes III and IV of the film saga, Star Wars Rebels benefits from an era fertile for storytelling. The series deals with the initial sparks of rebellion which eventually foment into the Rebel Alliance seen in A New Hope.
During this time period, we know that Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has exiled himself to the desert world of Tatooine to keep a close watch over the growth of Luke Skywalker. Fans have long wondered whether those years between defeating Vader on the slopes of Mustafar and seeking passage to Alderaan were spent meditating peacefully in his Jundland hovel or engaged in a more active role in galactic affairs.
This trailer for Rebels seems to indicate the latter. There’s something about this version of Kenobi, the hermit Ben draped in Jedi robe while graying in the beard, which excites more than his Clone Wars iteration.
Having composed a list of reasons the Star Wars prequels sucked, it only makes sense to bring balance to the Force by considering the noteworthy ways in which these millennial films added to the saga’s greatness. I have to admit, it was a lot tougher coming up with things to like about Episodes I through III than it was to throw stones at them. Even so, whether you love the prequels or hate them, they’ve undeniably expanded that galaxy far, far away. Here’s the top 10 things George Lucas got right.
Lucas defied the Expanded Universe of books, comics, and games in a number of ways when the time came to bring Star Wars back to the big screen. The Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk had been the setting for many adventures authored since Return of the Jedi. It was described as a dense forest world with massive redwood-like trunks supporting cities suspended hundreds of meters above the ground. The forest floor, known as the Shadowlands, was home to Kashyyyk’s most vicious wildlife.
It was therefore deviant for Lucas to set Revenge of the Sith’s Battle of Kashyyyk on a beach. Even so, the world’s time on screen does justice to its mighty inhabitants, making Endor look like a city park by comparison.
It’s with no small amount of irony that I, of all people, compose this list of hate against George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy. During their production, as each released, and in the years since, I have been quite the prequel apologist. There are several aspects of the films which deliver, and perhaps that will make for a follow-up to this list in the near feature. However, with the knowledge that six new Star Wars films are coming in as many years, and seeing how Disney has thus far chosen to treat the property, the flaws of the prequel trilogy seem more relevant than ever.
On the one hand, these criticisms serve as warnings for J.J. Abrams and the rest of the creative team working on Episode VII, the film which will set the tone for those to follow. On the other hand, it’s a testament to the enduring legacy of the Star Wars brand that the franchise may yet flourish despite these missteps.
Here are the top 10 reasons the Star Wars prequels sucked:
The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…
One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.
This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.
Variety brings good news and bad news regarding ongoing production of Star Wars Episode VII:
In a new update on Sunday, Disney announced that two new actors, Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen, have been added to the cast, and that Harrison Ford’s injury will cause a brief halt in production next month.
American actress Clarke is currently studying in the U.K. Her first feature, “The Moon and the Sun,” will debut in 2015.
Andersen is a British actor and parkour practitioner who showcased his skills in a 2012 ad for Sony.
Ford broke his leg last month during production, causing much speculation regarding the effect upon the film’s production schedule. Now we learn production will halt for two weeks in August as adjustments are made to the schedule.
For fans, this signals that Ford’s role in the production may be more robust than previously thought. Some experts, like the crew over at AMC Movie Talk, had claimed his injury should not affect production because his role would be limited and relegated to the background. Apparently, that’s not the case.
A few months ago, I brought you the story of Chris Conley, a football star at the University of Georgia (my alma mater – Go Dawgs!) who was putting together a Star Wars fan film. The finished product, entitled Star Wars: Retribution, is set to make its debut July 5. Here are the trailers:
Conley’s production company will soon begin work on a new film, Volition, soon.
I’ve reported in the past about rumors of a Star Wars land coming to Walt Disney World. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, two attractions are closing in the near future, and these closings are leading some writers to speculate that Disney is making way for a Star Wars land at DHS.
The close is not that surprising. The show has never really gotten solid traction and it seems Disney is ready to pull the plug.
A statement was posted between the Walt Disney World Company:
“After more than five successful years, The American Idol Experience will be coming to a close at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in January 2015. Our partnership with FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment has been a great addition to the park and we are very appreciative of the amazing cast and guests who have devoted their time and talent to make this experience special and memorable. We are incredibly proud of the more than 2,000 Dream Tickets that have given guests a chance to live their very own Cinderella story and audition for ‘American Idol.’”
Over at Disney At Work, sources report that the long-running Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular will close soon as well:
My sources also suggest that Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is also slated to close at the end of the year. All of this is happening to make way for the major Star Wars additions coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will surround that end of the Echo Lake corner of the park, and supposedly extend further out as well, though in what direction(s) is uncertain. What is coming in remains to be formally announced, as the attraction is also being tied to a very anticipated follow-up series starting in 2015.
What’s interesting about the closings is that nearly all the vestiges of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a “behind-the-scenes” park will be gone. Instead of the original park idea of a glimpse behind the magic of the entertainment industry, DHS is increasingly becoming a park about the movies, music, and television programs themselves. Do both closings point to a new Star Wars land? Of course, the outcome remains to be seen, but I’ll keep you in the loop.
Here’s what we know about the future of Star Wars on the big screen. Director JJ Abrams and his cast and crew are currently weaving dreams at Pinewood Studios in London, heading into production of Star Wars Episode VII. We’re going to get Episodes VIII and IX to complete a third trilogy. There will be a couple years between each new episode of the saga.
But Lucasfilm has also confirmed at least three “stand-alone” films which will release between the main episodes. The stated goal is to have a new Star Wars film every year starting in 2015. Gareth Edwards, the man behind the lens of the new Godzilla, has been tapped to direct the first of these stand-alone films. Josh Trank, director of the found footage superhero pic Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, will helm the second.
Rumors have been circulating regarding the subject matter of these stand-alone films. The conventional wisdom, or perhaps just the communal wish, is that we’ll get films focused on popular characters from the franchise.
Assuming the purpose of these stand-alone films will be to flesh out the broader mythology of the fictional universe while remaining anchored to the core saga, here are ten stand-alone Star Wars films fans would love to see.
#10. Jedi Master Dooku
As the Star Wars prequels progressed, the Sith menace took phantom forms. One such manifestation was Darth Tyranus. Known by that name to few, Tyranus was known to the galaxy as Count Dooku.
Dooku’s choice to abandon the Jedi Order, reclaim the wealth and title of his birth, and rally opposition to the Republic led directly to the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire. A prototype of Vader, Dooku once commanded the highest respect and confidence from his Jedi peers, before turning against them and everything they represent.
In the prequels, we learn far more about Dooku from what others say about him than from what we witness firsthand. A stand-alone film exploring the arc of this Jedi swordmaster turned Sith lord would add layers of depth to one of the saga’s most under-utilized characters.
If you like Lego or if you like Star Wars — or if you’re like me and turn eight years old again when you put the two together — then click over to Wired right now for the whole story of this incredible build.
(Big thanks to Christopher Joshua Arndt on Facebook for the heads up!)
Tabling for the moment how lackluster the prequel films were, recall both the anticipation leading up to The Phantom Menace and the sense of finality which accompanied Revenge of the Sith. For me, those two moments — waiting for the Episode I reel to roll and, six years later, contemplating that I was about to see a new Star Wars film for the last time — define the bittersweet agony of Star Wars fandom in the Lucas age.
For decades, Star Wars was three movies released years apart with contradictory spin-off stories scattered throughout an “Expanded Universe” of books, comics, and video games. When the prequels were announced, it gave fans a reason to live. I remember actually thinking, “Please God, let me make it to 2005 to see this thing through. Then I can die.”
Perhaps that heightened sense of anticipation, fostered by a long drought of new adventures, magnified the disappointment of the prequels. Maybe fans would have endured Episodes I through III with more grace if they knew they might someday get more.
That’s the point writer, director, and big-time Star Wars fan Kevin Smith makes in the above interview with IGN alongside friend and frequent co-star Jason Mewes. He points out the stark contrast in development between when Lucas owned Lucasfilm and the property now under Disney.
They got the right idea now. Instead of treating it like champagne – like, “We’re gonna bring it out once every hundred years, a new cask of Star Wars” – these [guys] are like, “We’re gonna milk it to death.”
Let’s say they make twenty, and ten of them are great, and five of them are okay, and five of them are dog shit. F— it dude, that’s twenty more Star Wars movies than we were ever going to have in this lifetime.
Some of the best Star Wars storytelling and cinematics have come out of video games like The Old Republic or The Force Unleashed which were not personally directed by Lucas. It stands to reason that similar success will eventually grace the screen among Disney’s many planned films in the franchise. With something new consistently on the horizon, the stakes for each installment will be lowered. That may enable us to enjoy them more.
We might be witnessing one of the most clever viral marketing schemes of all time. Could there be method behind the madness surrounding the casting of Star Wars Episode VII?
Lucasfilm, now a subsidiary of Disney, dropped their big casting announcement on Tuesday. Along with “the Big Three” of the original trilogy – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford – the cast of new characters included several men and only one woman, the virtually unknown Daisy Ridley. By Wednesday, Movieplot was reporting on a wave of anti-patriarchal indignation rolling across social media. A sample:
Eliza Thompson at Cosmopolitan wrote:
There is absolutely no reason why there can’t be new characters added to account for the lack of women in the original trilogy and the newer trilogy.
Annalee Newitz at IO9 quite elegantly wrote:
Myths are powerful things, because we learn who we are by telling stories. When are we going to let little girls and kids of diverse races have fantasies as powerful as those given to white boys?
Here’s the rub. Wednesday also saw a second announcement from Lucasfilm indicating that a second female cast member was yet to be revealed. This proves noteworthy not just in light of the backlash over too few women in the cast, but because previous casting rumors indicated a very different direction than Daisy Ridley. The Huffington Post expounds:
Daisy Ridley appears to have nabbed the role that at one point had Lupita Nyong’o in talks with director J.J. Abrams, as she and Carrie Fisher are the only actresses announced for the movie. More recently, British newcomer Maisie Richardson-Sellers was also reportedly tied to the part, which was described as a “young black or mixed-race woman who may be a descendent of Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi.”
What if HuffPo has it wrong? What if the role Ridley secured was different than the one Nyong’o and Richardson-Sellers were considered for? With “Star Wars Day” approaching on May 4th, are we about to see confirmation of a young black woman in the next Star Wars?
If so, this could be one of the most brilliant viral marketing moves seen in a while. It would have been preconceived to exploit the knee-jerk reactions of progressive culture warriors. Intentionally release news of a male dominant cast. Get the headlines from the announcement. Foster buzz from social backlash. Then announce a black female cast member days later, on a Sunday no less, and dominate Monday with a fresh set of headlines. If someone’s doing this on purpose, they’re a Jedi master of earned media.
Director J.J. Abrams is well known for playing elaborate tricks on fans as part of his marketing of projects. Could he be the force binding this scheme together?
While growing up, I had the good fortune to live in two consecutive homes that were each a block away from their town’s respective libraries. From fourth grade through junior high, I had easy access to books, tapes, videos, and even video games available for check out. I spent a lot of time in the library, browsing and grazing, checking out volumes piled higher than I could ever read in the time allotted.
Among those many books were the Star Wars novels of Timothy Zahn. Now known as “the Thrawn trilogy,” they began with 1991′s Heir to the Empire. Set several years after Return of the Jedi, the Thrawn trilogy continued the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo as they fought the remnant of a collapsing Empire and confronted a new disturbance in the Force.
Zahn’s novels triggered an explosion of new Star Wars fiction spanning books, comics, video games, and more. In 1996, collaborators went so far as to develop a “movie without the movie” called Shadows of the Empire. The idea was to create merchandise around a story as if promoting a film. There was a Shadows novel, a video game, and even a fully orchestrated soundtrack for a film which was never actually produced. The story connected the events of The Empire Strikes Back with Return of the Jedi.
In later years, the timeline of this Expanded Universe became jam packed with stories detailing the fates of “the Big Three” along with their friends and offspring. Jacen and Jaina Solo, twin children of Han and Leia, joined their brother Anakin and their nephew Ben Skywalker on perilous and transformative adventures which spanned several stories across many mediums.
So when Disney acquired the Star Wars brand in 2012 and announced plans to produce Episodes VII, VIII, and IX set in a time period well covered by the Expanded Universe, obvious questions emerged. How would they work around the existing stories? How would they present the offspring of Luke, Han, and Leia? How would they tell consequential new stories without trampling upon established lore?
Lucasfilm has finally provided an answer, and it comes in the form of a soft-reboot. Precedent can be found (perhaps not coincidentally) in J.J. Abrams previous major sci-fi refurbish – Star Trek.
With Trek, Abrams and his writing team devised a way to have their cake and eat it too. They used the plot devices of time-travel and parallel universes to effectively reset the Star Trek universe, enabling future stories to take creative new directions without adhering religiously to established canon.
Director J.J. Abrams promised a new hope for the Star Wars franchise when tapped to continue the saga in next year’s Episode VII. That hope may have just faded like the cryptic spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Producers today announced that wayward Gungan klutz Jar Jar Binks will return to the series, playing “a significant role” in the 2015 release. This from the official Star Wars website:
Disney and Lucasfilm are excited to announce that Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, will welcome the return of children’s favorite Jar Jar Binks…
“We think there’s more story to tell,” said Abrams. “His arc was never fully resolved in [Revenge of the Sith]. Every other major character either died, went into exile, or otherwise positioned for their role in the original trilogy.”
Since Jar Jar did not appear in George Lucas’ original films, the creative team behind Episode VII felt that an opportunity presented to reprise the character in a new setting.
“We understand that for many older fans who experienced the prequels in adulthood, Jar Jar wasn’t the most popular character,” confessed executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. “But kids liked him. They really did. And these films have always been directed primarily at a younger audience.”
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who returns to the series with a pedigree penning The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, indicated that Jar Jar won’t be precisely the same Gungan we remember. “It’s been 50 years since last we saw him. Even a creature like Jar Jar matures in that amount of time. He has the same heart, but a little more grace and wisdom.”
So what do you think? Has the new trilogy just jumped the sarlacc?
Back in the summer, I wrote about the rumors that Disney has plans in the works for a Star Wars-themed land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So far, we haven’t seen anything more substantive than those rumors. But since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, fans and theme park experts alike have speculated how the company would fold its new acquisition into the theme parks. Now, rumors have begun to swirl that Disney is planning a rehab of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland influenced by the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.
The typically reliable MiceChat recently offered up a full update on Disneyland’s traffic numbers during the Christmas season (up!) and the park’s plans for the future. For those who like change, there’s apparently good news. Some of it is definitely coming, but it may not happen as quickly or be as drastic as Star Wars fans may have hoped. On the bright side, however, much of it may involve specific details from Episode VII, as the Disneyland crew recently was given a rundown on the plot and new characters that will be introduced to incorporate into their designs.
Apparently, the Tomorrowland remodel has been split into two phases… The first phase will involve relatively simple cosmetic alterations. The Astro Orbitor, [sic] that giant eyesore little kid’s ride pictured above, will be ripped out, along with the deserted track from People Mover. The buildings will also all be redone to look like a giant space port. Then, down the road, phase two will involve scrapping Autopia and replacing it with a speeder bike ride, putting some kind of spaceship walk through on the People Mover track, installing a new Astro Orbitor [sic] closer to Space Mountain and more, all positioned in the backhalf of Tomorrowland.
For Star Wars fans, this rumor (sorry, regardless of the source, it’s still just hearsay) could generate some excitement, and hopefully it will lead to changes at Walt Disney World as well – whether the changes be to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom or to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Adding a long popular franchise that just happens to be part of the Disney family into the parks is a wise move for both the creatives and the business people.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the comments at the end of the article, where commenters complained that a Star Wars patina is a bad addition to Tomorrowland, since the films take place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Of course, these folks have lost sight of the fact that Tomorrowland at both American parks isn’t exactly futuristic today. Imagineers have given Tomorrowland in both California and Florida – along with portions of Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea – a charming retro-futuristic vibe, influenced by science fiction from Old Hollywood as well as the works of Jules Verne. Art Deco flourishes abound throughout both lands, and other touches show a decided 20th century sense of style. It’s not strictly futuristic, but it is a distinct feel for these lands.
The bottom line is that Disney knows what it’s doing. The success of the Star Tours attraction and the Star Wars Weekends events demonstrate that Disney’s partnership with Lucasfilm paid off handsomely long before Disney bought the studio. I can’t help but believe that adding a bit of Star Wars influence to Tomorrowland (and a Star Wars Land at Hollywood Studios – please, please, please) can pay off even more.
On Saturdays in the fall, Chris Conley puts on a uniform and goes into battle, where his legs and arms serve as weapons. The wide receiver at the University of Georgia will finish up his junior season on January 1 at the Gator Bowl, but once the season ends, Conley will don a different uniform and brandish a different type of weapon. He is organizing a light saber duel for friends at UGA to film:
Other than his No. 31 jersey he wears for the Georgia football team, the junior receiver has a Star Wars Jedi costume he will break out on special occasions. Like when he wore it to the Gym Dogs’ meet against Alabama on Feb. 2.
“It was pretty epic,” Conley said. “I was dressed as a Jedi and we had two Storm Troopers.” But he is hoping it’ll come in handy again sometime soon.
Conley is trying to organize lightsaber duels on UGA’s campus with other fellow Star Wars fanatics. His campaign to get production of the fan film going began on Twitter.
“I’ve actually had a lot of response,” Conley said. “A lot of people really want to do this. It’s something I’m kind of spearheading. It’s been a goal of mine before I graduate. This is just for me, just for fun. All of the people who are involved like that sort of thing and we accept our nerdiness.”
Conley began tapping into all of his possible resources. He recruited a Georgia football videographer — Frank Martin, who has overseen the production of the Bulldogs’ pregame hype videos, such as A Letter for Larry and Awaken The Nation — has been out shopping for props to build lightsabers and has continued to build his production team.
Conley doesn’t yet have a timeline for his project, but he and Martin are scouting locations, designing props, and recruiting participants.
The Bulldog star admits to being a fan of the Star Wars franchise since he was a kid – along with the rest of his family – and he freely admits his geekdom:
“My brother and I got into the games and into the some of the Star Wars history outside of the movies and I’ve just been a fan of it ever since,” Conley said. “I’ve been a big guy who prides myself on remaining who I am regardless of who I’m around or how old I get. It’s something that I like and regardless of what people tell me, if it’s frowned upon or not. It’s me.”
Anakin was doomed from the start, being born as he was by the will of the Force, and not by the seed of a present father. So we may conclude after considering a recent study from the journal Cerebral Cortex. Here’s the summary from The Christian Post:
The absence of fathers during childhood may lead to impaired behavioral and social abilities, and brain defects, researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada, found.
The researchers found that the mice raised without a father had abnormal social interactions and were more aggressive, compared to the mice raised with a father. The effects were stronger among daughters than sons.
Being raised without a father actually changed the brains of the test subjects. The research found defects in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls social and cognitive functions, of the fatherless mice.
Mice were used because their environment could be controlled to ensure that the effects of fatherlessness were measured accurately. Plus, their response apparently proves “extremely relevant to humans.”
The real finding here affirms the human capacity for needless studies to confirm what plain sense makes clear. Kids need their Dad.
As a father of young children, I have been struck by the profound sense of gender identity inherent in even the youngest child. My six month old responds differently to men and women, snuggling up readily to the latter, and employing more caution around the former. My four year old presents different challenges to my authority than to that of his mother, and endures different challenges from each of us in return.
Here’s the deal. We had all the findings we needed on this topic when we first discovered that it takes one man and one woman to make a child. I’m not sure how much more we’re going to learn from mice.
Not even I’ve been naughty enough to deserve one of these in my stocking.
Star Wars holds a sacrosanct place in my heart, as it does with so many among my generation. As we’ve grown up, its mythology has served as a ready reference, shaping our perception of the world. Good and evil, light and dark, rebel and tyrant – while its moral dichotomy may prove simplistic, the struggles in Star Wars nonetheless resonate with conflicts we face in real life.
Anything which has such influence over a child, sparking imagination, shaping morality, and stimulating aspiration, ascends to an object of reverence. It becomes something we carry around with us (some more literally than others) and cling to like a sacred idol. A kind of theology develops around it, with conflicting doctrines advanced by competing denominations of fandom. So it is with Star Wars. For that reason, any tinkering with the the saga’s mythology inevitably draws cries of heresy.
Betsy Woodruff of National Review went so far as to declare Star Wars dead, due in large part to the brand’s acquisition by mega-corporation Disney. Citing George Lucas’ own introspection regarding his Vader-like transformation from ragtag rebel of the film industry to head of his own corporate empire, and detailing her experience trying out for a role in director J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Episode VII, Woodruff concludes:
Here’s why Star Wars is dead: First, because they made a huge mistake in not casting me. Second, because it’s no longer in the hands of a bunch of nerds in California and because it’s been entrusted instead to the kind of people who think eight-hour meet-and-greets are a good idea either as A) publicity stunts (or, giving them the presumption of good faith) B) a good way to determine who’s going to be the next Luke Skywalker. It’s because Star Wars — a story that’s profoundly anti-centralization, anti-bureaucracy, anti-depersonalization — is being micromanaged and scrutinized by nameless bureaucrats who think that people who’ve stood in line for five hours will be satisfied with being directed to a website. And it’s because a film enterprise that was initially about risk is now about bet-hedging. No one should need to be told that the seventh film in a franchise probably isn’t going to be super great. But, you know, just in case, consider yourself warned.
Consider me a fan of another denomination. While the next film in the franchise may indeed bomb, it won’t do so for the reasons Woodruff cites.
Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm just over a year ago and announced a new film trilogy, fans of the expanding Star Wars universe have sat on the edge of their seats awaiting a release date for Episode VII. Now we have a date – December 18, 2015, and the announcement became the talk of Hollywood last week.
The same day as the announcement, Disney CEO Bob Iger appeared on Blooomberg TV’s Street Smart to talk about Episode VII, as well as the increased presence that Star Wars will have at Disney’s various theme parks:
The only thing I can share which, actually I don’t think we’ve really talked about much, is that there is a fair amount development going on at Disney Imagineering right now to expand the Star Wars presence in California and in Orlando and eventually in other parks around the world… It’s probably likely that Star Wars will be more than in just our two domestic parks.
Iger made a similar (but more vague) statement back in May:
In addition to the Star Wars feature films that we’ve already talked about, we’re also working on opportunities for television and our parks. It’s still very early in the process.
What will this mean – individual attractions? Meet and greets? Or perhaps an entire Star Wars Land at the parks? (I’ve said for a while that a Star Wars land somewhere like Disney’s Hollywood Studios would generate far more excitement and interest than the Avatar Land in the works at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.) In March, the company surveyed guests at Disneyland to gauge their interest in a Star Wars land, and I wrote about swirling rumors back in June. The success of Star Tours 2.0 in the American parks, as well at Tokyo and Paris, along with the annual Star Wars Weekends in Orlando and Anaheim, suggest that the idea of a Star Wars land isn’t that great of a gamble.
Obviously, this situation continue to develop, but as both a Disney fan and a Star Wars fan, I’m excited at the idea that Disney Parks will see something in terms of an increased Star Wars presence. Stay tuned – as I learn more, I’ll pass it on here.
In the last few years, Disney has made some of the boldest corporate moves, purchasing Marvel Studios in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. In both cases, the company quickly incorporated both acquisitions into their brand, making and planning films and increasing their presence in theme parks and on television. Disney is also ensuring that both Lucasfilm and Marvel fit in with the company’s family-friendly reputation, announcing last week that they will phase out Star Wars and Marvel-themed slot machines over the next few years, according to The Guardian (UK).
A Disney spokeswoman told the NY Times the decision to phase out gambling machines linked to its recently acquired brands had been in place for some time, but was only now being made public. “Marvel discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney,” the spokeswoman said. “The handful of remaining licence agreements have expiration dates within the next few years.” LucasFilm would follow suit, though it might take several years for branded slot machines to disappear altogether.
Taking on the lucrative gambling industry is nothing new to Disney. The company has fought attempts to bring resort casinos into Florida for several years, despite the protests of critics.
Disney is particularly determined to fight the proliferation of gambling in Florida. “We oppose the legalisation of so-called destination resort casinos because this major expansion of gambling is inconsistent with Florida’s reputation as a family-friendly destination,” said Andrea M Finger of the Walt Disney World resort.
Competitors, however, argue that Disney fears competition more than gambling. Michael A Leven, whose Las Vegas Sands Corporation hopes to open a casino in south Florida, told the Times: “Disney’s internecine warfare against integrated resorts in Florida under this pretence demeans them significantly.”
What do you think? Is Disney right to align its brands with a family-friendly focus? Is the company’s battle with the gambling industry a fight against the inevitable?
J.J. Abrams and “Star Wars” veteran Lawrence Kasdan have taken over screenwriting duties on “Star Wars: Episode VII,” replacing Michael Arndt, who was originally hired to pen the project.
“I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a ‘Star Wars’ story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”
If it weren’t for Kasdan’s script and Irvin Kershner’s direction, The Empire Strikes Back would have been a Lucas-infested and disappointing sequel. Instead, it’s inarguably the best movie of the original trilogy.
I have a new hope for the upcoming sequels.
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit
Not too long ago, on a server far, far away, I marveled at the cooperation between sworn enemies. Pitted against each other on the frozen planet of Ilum, Jedi and Sith extended each other a civil courtesy, working together toward mutual benefit.
This unlikely truce occurred in the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic. Set thousands of years before the films, the game welcomes players to create characters loyal to either the Jedi-guided Galactic Republic or the evil Sith Empire. Players spend hours progressing their characters to a level cap beyond which the focus of gameplay shifts to large scale cooperative operations and player-versus-player combat between the two factions.
The developers designed Ilum as a stage for the latter, an open world player-versus-player environment where Republic and Empire funnel into close proximity. The design presumes that members of the opposing factions will attack each other on sight, simply because they can. However, that commonly does not happen. Jedi and Sith often leave each other alone, going about their respective business.
The planet hosted a recent in-game event including a kind of capture-the-flag scenario where players from both factions were tasked with collecting orbs and depositing them in a central goal zone. The act of depositing took three and a half seconds and could be interrupted by enemy players. A successful deposit triggered a minute long lockout of the goal zone. The developers’ intention was to encourage a contest over the goal zone, where players vied for the chance to deposit their orbs.
Instead, an understanding soon developed between enemy players. All soon realized that it was easier to cooperate and take turns depositing the orbs than to fight over the goal zone. So it came to pass that Jedi, Sith, troopers, smugglers, bounty hunters, and Imperial agents could be seen waiting patiently in single-file for the chance to complete their individual missions.
Ever since The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm – and all that goes with it – last fall, the rumor mill has buzzed with gossip that Star Wars would have a greater presence in Disney’s theme parks. Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris already boast the thrilling, recently updated Star Tours attraction, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando hosts the popular Star Wars Weekends every May and June, where fans from across the galaxy gather to take part in special events and meet the films’ stars and cartoons’ voice over artists. Some kind of Star Wars themed land would be a natural fit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
As a longtime Star Wars fan, the mere possibility of a Star Wars Land in Florida thrills me infinitely more than the Avatar themed land already in the works at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But can it be that such an ambitious project could become a reality in a few short years? The grapevine is working overtime on this one, and the speculation comes with an interesting amount of detail.
Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider seems pretty confident in proclaiming a Star Wars Land:
Multiple sources have told me the long-awaited dream of theme park geeks everywhere is actually happening. Disney’s moving ahead with both Cars Land and Star Wars Land at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
From what I’m hearing, Cars Land will replace the Lights, Motors, Action auto stunt show as well as Catastrophe Canyon on the southern edge of the park, providing a logical extension to the existing Pixar Place.
So what about Star Wars Land? The logical places for that expansion would be on either side of the existing Star Tours ride. From what I’ve heard, it appears that the expansion would take out the area between Star Tours and the auto stunt show stadium, including the Muppet theater and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids play area. But I’ve also heard of consideration of going in the opposite direction, which would place the new land on the site of the Backlot Express restaurant and Indiana Jones stunt show theater. Given that the Indy theater’s used for several other events throughout the year, and that both the Muppets and Honey I Shrunk the Kids attractions long ago passed the height of their popularity, I’m hearing more forceful arguments for the first option.
This appears to be a five-year project, putting completion in 2018, though Disney could choose to throw money at it and accelerate it by a year.
Star Wars fan blog TheForce.net confirms the buzz, adding an anonymous source:
Speaking of Star Tours, it seems like that attraction will be receiving upgrades as part of the Star Wars land. “Expect to see new levels added to Star Tours and some more interactive attractions, possibly an additional ride,” my Disney source said. However, my source added that “most of the expansion will be environments and character meet-and-greet areas.”