Disney To Buy Lucasfilm, Are Theme Park Attractions Far Behind?

Written by Dusty Sage. Posted in Disney News, Features

Tagged: , , , ,


Published on October 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm with 77 Comments

In an oddly timed announcement in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, Disney has announced that they’ll be acquiring Lucasfilm for just over $4 billion. This brings Star Wars, Indiana Jones and an empire of stories and characters into the Disney realm.

Disney has already confirmed plans to film Star Wars Episode 7 for a 2015 release and increase the production schedule of future Star Wars films. Beyond that, there was no official word. However, sources close to the deal indicate that multiple interests are at play which certainly include the theme parks and possibly ABC as well.

For years, Imagineers have been designing concepts for Star Wars and Indiana Jones related attractions, lands and even entire theme park concepts. A rapid introduction of new Lucas content into the parks is practically assured. Expect chatter, rumors and leaks to follow as Disney tests interest in its newly purchased treasure trove.

While this purchase makes a great deal of sense for Disney, which has a track record of building and promoting franchises, StarWars has a rabid fan base which is already beginning to seethe with worry that their universe will be Disneyfied and diminished (Disney had to fight similar concerns when it purchased Marvel). Disney fans are much more likely to be supportive of the deal as Star Wars attractions and festivals are already a major part of the Disney experience.

Lucas will also provide Disney with the magic bullet it needs to battle the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which Universal Studios is doubling the size of in Orlando and building in Hollywood. The boy wizard poses such a serious threat to Disney’s theme park dominance that Bob Iger was pressured to ink a surprise deal with James Cameron to build an Avatar Land at Disney’s Animal kingdom and other Disney parks. That news was met with general disappointment from Disney fans and investors. The Lucas Star Wars opportunity should vindicate Iger and cement his legacy as a visionary leader of the Disney company. Under Iger’s leadership of Disney, the company has mended fences with many partners alienated by Michael Eisner and has successfully purchased PIXAR, Marvel and now Lucasfilm. That’s a massive amount of viable franchise content, enough to boost Disney profits and growth for many years to come.

Why was Disney in such a hurry to make this announcement on a day of tragedy, when even the stock market was closed? It should not be lost on our readers that the leak of plans for the upcoming Avatar Land and the announcement of the Lucasfilm purchase come just days before Universal’s highly anticipated announcement about upcoming theme park plans on Thursday. Poor timing from a sensitivity standpoint, but effective when it comes to stealing thunder from Universal.

Now, we turn to you, our brilliant readers. Aside from the inevitable slew of Star Wars films which are sure to follow in rapid succession, what else would you like to see? TV shows, theme park rides, merchandise? What are the ideas and concepts which have you most excited (or even worried) about the Disney Lucasfilm deal?

About Dusty Sage

Dusty is the founder and CEO of MiceChat.com. When he's not visiting theme parks and writing, editing or speaking about Disney and theme parks worldwide, Dusty stays busy as the Executive Director of both the Walt Disney Birthplace AND the Dick Van Dyke Foundation. He also run's O-Zell Soda (the company originally operated by Walt Disney's father and at which Walt once worked). If you've got news or photos to share with the MiceChat community, or would like to book Dusty for an upcoming event, please contact [email protected]

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  • SimbaSpot

    With every ounce of love and affection for both Disney and Star Wars, I am cautiously optimistic toward the future of the galaxy far, far away. But even that love can’t refrain from a little playful cynicism on the topic… http://disneylandcaliforniareport.blogspot.com/2012/10/star-wars-sequel-trilogy-announced.html

    • Jeedai Infidel

      I would love to see Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn Trilogy” on film. I definitely share your concern, like a new parent letting a friend hold their newborn baby. Be careful Disney, we are very protective.

      • WesternMouse

        Got a quick story for you on that. My first trip to DHS was Memorial Day weekend 1991. I just got off my first-ever trip on Star Tours, get dumped into the gift shop, and BANG! New Star Wars hardback books EVERYWHERE!!! At this time, besides comics, there were no toys, books, or other merchandise. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Zahn trilogy kicked off the new wave of SW merchandising that continues to this day.

        The first book, Heir to the Empire, rocks. I wasn’t so thrilled about the second and third stories, but HTTE was excellent.

  • [email protected]

    I cannot say I am surprised by this news. I also cannot say that I am exstatic about the deal. But, I do believe that it will benefit Disney, but at what cost. 4 billon + is a buttload of money for any company. The creative juices must flow alot from Lucus and his massive Empire (Punny huh ?) to pay for it. I hope that Disney does not put all those eggs in one basket, and make really crazy changes. ie, Small World to a Small Galaxy. Pirates of the Caribbean to the Space Pirates of the Millenmun Falcon. Or maybe, The Indiana Jones to …. Oh yeah, I forgot.I just my AP does not up too much to pay for it. 1800 credits to Jaba is too much. Peace out !

    • It’s more like 2 Billion, a number which Disney could make up very quickly on licensing, new films and merchandise. This is a very valuable franchise. The other 2 billion is in stock. It’s a smart transaction for the company and I think wise for Lucas to cash out now.

  • mkemows

    Does this mean that Disney will bring out Howard the Duck to make products of a long forgotten character like they did with Oswald? :)

    • Oh, please god, NO! They can trade that character to Universal. ;)

      • OriginalMousekteer

        No, you’re missing the freaking synergy–DUCK WARS!!!

        It would put the Daffy/Donald sequence from Roger Rabbit to shame!

      • Marko50

        No, don’t think they can, at least in Orlando. Howard IS a Marvel creation, and a very good one – at least, on paper.

        No, really – that paper with the pieces of wood in it that comic books were made of.

    • WesternMouse

      Howard can now get it on with Snow White.

  • eicarr

    I hope the injection talent/energy of Lucasfilm can do the wonders that our other local company Pixar did for nearby Disneyland. I know there are little touches here and there they can can give ideas on during weekend trips down to their local California Disney parks. The fun little touches that Disneyland is known for. I have a VERY good feeling about the new Disneyland Tomorrowland!!!!

  • islandmadman

    Well this completely trumps whatever Universal’s big announcement is on November 1st. Well played Disney!

  • [email protected]

    Darth Micky, hmmm add a couple more Princesses to the Disney stalls.

  • toonaspie

    Checking to see that this isn’t April 1st.

    Excellent! This is what they should’ve bought instead of Marvel. Now let’s kiss Avatar goodbye and put Lucasfilm to work on fixing DHS. This has been long overdue.

  • tooncity

    At the opening of the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland in 1959, Walt Disney boasted about his submarine fleet being the 7th largest in the world. This Iger guy comes along and brings in a DEATHSTAR and a Billion Man Clone Army of space Storm-troopers, of the 1st Galactic Empire. This Iger plays rough.
    I always thought a Disney lawyer was the most dangerous thing on the planet. Now they’re backed by Sithlords. The Mayan Calendar is right; the world IS going to end in 2012!
    Yeah man, it just got serious!

  • waymire01

    Very surprising.. I am honestly shocked that Lucas would ever sell the rights to Star Wars considering how protective of it he has been in the past.. to the point of alienating fans over his choices for the franchise. Way better than avatar though.. I’ve always felt that Disney did an amazing job with Star Tours, and their merchandising has also been top notch. As for the movies.. there is certainly a lot more story to tell there.

    I also have to say that I live in S. Louisiana.. we are no stranger to hurricanes here. While what has happened on the east coast is horrible and I certainly wish them the best as they recover.. I do not see how that has anything to do with Disney releasing an announcement, or how it could in any way be construed as “bad taste” or disrespectful.

    • Really? When millions of people are suffering, the stock market and even the presidential campaigns are halted for the day, why would this be a good time for anyone to toot their own horn?

      Companies all over the country altered their normal routines today. The morning news programs won’t even be doing their normal Halloween dress up tomorrow. Why? Because it comes across as insensitive. Someone at Disney made the wrong call on this announcement. It easily could have waited. But they were in too much of a rush to wait.

      • Marko50

        Sorry, Dusty, I’ve gotta agree with waymire. Although it’s true that stock markets and presidential campaigns are not halted every day, millions, if not billions of people suffer 24/7/365. And I saw this announcement as not so much tooting as informational.

        Maybe we should see what Uni does on Nov 1st. Or if they do. The end doesn’t justify the means, but…

      • WesternMouse

        No need to resort to hand-wringing here. The east coast was affected. Business still moves forward. It’s not like they just announced a theme park in NY.

  • disneyohno

    I hope Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is inspired by Star Wars!! This is good news so excited about this

  • darthgonzo

    Could there be a muppets star wars movie in the future? “Luke the frog here!”

  • tooncity

    I think most people on this site concern themselves with, how this will affect the theme parks. But the real value here for Disney, is being the Giant Gorilla of Hollywood. That being the leverage they now have in making deals and services provided by Industrial, Light and Magic AND LucusArts. Both of which are now Disney.
    If you have a Big Budget film in Hollywood, then you are going to have to deal with DISNEY. Companies that have Marvel Licenses that Disney wants back are going to be intimidated into giving those licenses back. Meaning if Fox and Sony, won’t give back X-men, Fantastic Four and Spiderman back to Disney for some reasonable compensation then they may never get another project done at ILM. Or those projects will be priced way to high or will always be late. Studios don’t like that at all, so they may decide it’s better to appease the NEW Giant Gorilla in town.
    Also, Disney wants the Marvel theme park rights back from Universal. Iger wants a large presents of Marvel in Florida. Disney will use ILM to pressure Universal to give the rights back. Iger can also leverage ESPN on Universal’s corporate owners, Cablevision. ESPN can get really expensive, when your customers expect to have it in their cable package. I bet you’ll see ESPN prices suddenly rise until Cablevision is willing to make a deal. It’s all about POWER to control your destiny. Nobody in Hollywood will want to be on Disney’s bad side.
    Additionally, Disney really needs a QUALITY video game production company. It’s been 3 years since they bought Marvel. Yet, they haven’t put out a great, awesome video game of all those great characters. Disney needs to promote them because most of the world doesn’t know anything about the 5000 plus character history of Marvel, which has yet to be exposed.
    Disney’s Film dance card will be full of Franchised, tent pole Event films. When all of Disney’s assets get going at full speed, they will DOMINATE Hollywood. Disney wants 2-3 Marvel films a year. One Pixar film and one Walt Disney Animation Studio film a year. Now one Star Wars film a year. Then mix in the NEW Lone Ranger film, which could be a franchise. Don’t forget Pirates of the Caribbean, which still has legs. So that is at least 5 films a year, with a high end of 8-9, big money films. All those characters and films need theme park real estate. Disney simply doesn’t have room in the current theme parks to handle all those income streams. Nowhere close.
    We are on the verge of a true Theme park, Film and Video media death match. When Disney is ready, they’ll bully everybody in Hollywood to get what they want.

    • OriginalMousekteer

      Really, really WELL-said. (And better than I could have.)

      This is some major freaking leverage. My biggest hope is that acquiring Lucasfilm will upgrade Disney (as Pixar did) rather than detracting from Lucasfilm.

      Cross fingers.

      • OriginalMousekteer

        And let’s remember one important fact:

        Three industry giants chose to sell to Disney: Jim Henson (his children’s greed after his death notwithstanding), Steve Jobs, and George Lucas.

        Henson died tragically soon after the inital announcement, Jobs had already been ill, and Lucas is 68 and wisely planning for his legacy to survive.

    • WesternMouse

      Great take. I never thought of the sith lord grip that Disney can now put on the other studios. Your POV is a bit Machiavellian, but I can totally see it happening.

      Now I’ll throw two more acquistions candidates in the hat: IMAX next followed by Paramount. Paramount is a stretch for sure. The DOJ might block that, but IMAX? I can see that completely happening. Time to buy some stock.

    • Park Hopper

      You do understand that ILM is not the only special effects house in Hollywood? Currently, they’re not even considered to be the best special effects house in Hollywood. There was a time when they were, but not anymore. Disney isn’t going to be bullying anyone with ILM.

      There’s no denying this is a good purchase by Disney. But I think you overestimate the impact it’s going to have in the industry.

  • [email protected]

    “It all started with a mouse” Those words just got very very loud.

  • GreeneBean

    My 2 cents: It makes business sense. Disney has several Star Wars and Indy attractions, which they must pay licenses for. Now if they own the franchise, no more payments. If we pretend that Lucasfilm breaks even per year, then Disney now goes further into the black. I work for Oracle, and I think the philosophy is if you want to use something…don’t pay for it, just buy it….revenue stream plus savings….it’s all good.

    And besides….more Star Wars stuff showing up…..this could get COOL!!

  • scarymouse

    Let’s not forget that old george lucas has deep ties to pixar,I am wondering how much consulting Mr. Lucas is going to be doing for Disney. We all know what Lasseter has done for the parks, his input was what makes Carsland so special. Since Lucas found him originally,along with Ed Catmull it seems like there was a definite connection. He got an inside track about what its like to be in the Disney family.But what it appears is that Disney bought Lucasfilms not Lucas, although he will be consulting. Hmmm how much consulting will he provide ? He is the genius that is star wars. I hope Disney can get him to provide input in the parks and not just on future film projects.