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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  • Crazee4mm

    So THIS is why prices at the parks have gone through the roof. Iger wanted to add the Star Wars universe to his toy collection.

    • That’s an interesting theory, but the real reason park tickets and passes went up is because Disneyland needs to show an increasing profit for the shareholders and WDW is weighing on the profits of the entire parks unit. The number of passholders is another factor. With 1 million passes, you can afford to raise the rates and decrease the surplus population a bit.

  • Ravjay12

    Great, great move Disney! This is going to get real interesting!! Us guests are the true winners in the war between Universal and Disney! This is a great time to be a theme park fan!

  • Aotphks

    Not sure how I feel this about purchase. While I don’t mind if Disney owns all of the production studios in Hollywood, I don’t think most of that creative work belongs in a “Disney” park. While I have enjoyed attractions like Star Tours and Indiana Jones’ Temple of (whatever) mostly for their technical execution, I have never felt these franchises really belong at Disney parks, I share the same feelings for the Muppets and the Marvel characters. They just do not belong in a Disney park. Of course, I understand some people enjoy those movies and such, but me? Nope. Not even my children care much for Star Wars and really don’t ride Star Tours that much if at all. Sooner or later, Disney company will have to change Disneyland’s name to Hollywoodland, or something to that effect, if they keep using someone else’s creative work in their parks.

  • Aladdin

    Wow! BIG news for Disney and Lucas Films! And so many thoughts to go with this!

    The number one thing that stands out is how Eisner initially stood for building bridges with other Hollywood entities, and then ended up burning those bridges when he usurped control at Disney. Whereas Iger has rebuilt those bridges, one by one, and then instead of buring them, he BUYS them!

    Lucas films have already been a part of Disney for decades, with Star Tours and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Both of these attractions have been well integrated into Disneyland, as well as other Disney Parks, with the Annual Star Wars Days at WDW Disney Studios. Some may say Indy is integrated better, however Star Tours has brought a spark of life to Tomorrowland, at two different times.

    Yes, there is Great Potential, more now, than ever before, for making the Star Wars Universe an even larger part of WDW. Most logically, it makes the most sense for the Disney Studios Park to make way for it’s own Star Wars land. Some may want Star Wars as it’s own Park, however WDW seems to struggle keeping up with just the 4 Parks (and it’s water parks, etc) So a land to it’s own, would be sufficient (with options to expand it futher, along a similar way that Universal Studios is doing with Potter.) And with Disney Studios hosting Star Wars Days each year, and Star Tours already there, it makes perfect sense for bringing new life to the Disney Studios park! The only question here is IF WDW executives really have the heart and love for WDW and the Studios to make a SIZEABLE investement in Disney Studios Park to bring us the next BIG Quality attractions with themeing to rival that of Radiator Springs over in DCA? No, the studios doesn’t need the Cadillac Ranges, the studios NEEDS the Star Wars Universe. THEY MUST be careful to have different draws to each coast!

    The other addition of ILM to Disney is also great news. Whereas, Howard the Duck, well, let’s hope he doesn’t lead some sort of coup d’etat and replace Donald, like what Pooh did to the Country Bears.

  • Redsix

    I love this deal. I think it is kind of ironic that the Walt Disney family museum is next to ILM in the Presidio. I know that the family museum has nothing to do with the Disney company. This deal is worth its weight in gold.

  • WesternMouse

    Looking forward to the SW Christmas Special dropped into the Main Street Christmas Parade.

  • lionheartkc

    All I can think is, giving John Lasseter creative control over the Star Wars universe (he is chief creative officer for Disney’s Animation Department… Clone Wars… and chief creative adviser for Imagineering, after all) might be the best idea EVER. Imagine a Star Wars universe without dumbed down characters to “appeal to kids” and with solid, well written dialog.

    Other things to imagine… Imagineering being able to tap ILM and Skywalker Sound. ILM being able to tap Pixar and vice versa. Whedon taking time off from The Avengers to add his talent to Episode VII.

    Honestly, I hope Disney back burners all talk of Avatar stuff and goes full speed ahead on Star Wars in the parks. I also hope they plug their best writers (Stanton and Doctor, maybe, if Whedon doesn’t want to stray from Marvel) into the Star Wars film franchise asap.

  • Hildy

    Well, just when you thought everything had calmed down and it would be a relatively calm after the big hoopla over Cars Land! I think the idea of an SW land in Disneyland (must be at Walt’s flagship park) is absolutely fabulous. That would bring people in droves and cover a large age bracket, too. The problem with Tomorrow Land is that it is already tomorrow and a lot of things there are yesterday. I have faith that the imagineers can come up with a land that would rival anything that a theme park has yet to offer.

    On the movie side. They obviously will have to be very careful with a new SW trilogy. Fans take this stuff very seriously. They have to be beyond good. There is no room for mistakes here. Overall, very exciting. Can’t wait to hear more.

    • The question is, will we see a Star Wars land or a Star Wars park? I would love for Disneyland Resort’s 3rd park to be made up of Indy, Star Wars and Marvel concepts. But I’d be thrilled with a whole Star Wars park too. Unlike other franchises which come and go, this one has proven to be the most powerful and long lasting. It has many decades of life left in it yet. Bring on the rides!

      • MickeyFickey

        Forget a Tron Lightcycle coaster, can you imagine a Vekoma Booster-Bike(esque) coaster themed to speeder bikes from ROTJ?

        Whoa. :)

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I loved your article about this Dusty. You really hit it on the head.

    Personally, I feel like Star Wars and Indiana Jones are yesterday’s news. They are old franchises that are dying. The last three Star Wars films did not impress. The same way seeing an aging Harrison Ford in the last Indiana Jones film.

    So there really needs to be a cutting edge new Star Wars film that really has endearing characters to push the franchise forward.

    I feel that Pixar was a great purchase. I think that they have shown the ability to create new characters and stories that people enjoy. Marvel was a good purchase too. There are many super heroes which can be rejuvenated to be appealing in the 21st century.

    I would not start building a new Star Wars land until the next movie proves to be a hit. Otherwise, if it sucks, the whole park might become a point of ridicule.

    • Very interesting comments. So far, every Star Wars film has been a financial blockbuster. They continue to sell merchandise, comics, games and have one of the highest name recognitions among any product in the world. If Disney spends the time to craft the right story, they’ll easily get three new blockbusters out of the franchise and possibly many more than that. I just hope they don’t overexpose it the way they’ve done with Highschool Musical and to some degree Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s the big risk. Not that Disney won’t do a good job (because I believe they will), but because they can’t resist the temptation to milk things for all they’re worth and thus kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  • darkamor

    It will make things easier for the Walt Disney Co to incorporate Star Wars & Indiana Jones within everyone of their Theme Parks without paying a license fee … & I’m sure we will see more Star Wars in Tomorrowland / Indiana Jones within Adventureland (or similar Land) whether its a ride, attraction, live show, dining area …. something Universal should think about doing with its Classic Horror Franchise ….

    C J

  • Atomobile

    The problem with Indiana Jones is it revolves around one persona and the actor got old. The problem with Avatar is it takes place on only ONE planet and is so heavy handed and cardboard in its characterizations. (I can’t think of one character in the film that I liked. I pretty much was annoyed by ALL of them from all sides. Who wants to spend more time with THOSE “people?”)

    The advantage Star Wars has is that Luke, Leia and Han aside, there are so many other characters that the franchise springs forth, so many planets to explore and heroes and VILLAINS (which has been a great Disney vehicle) to take advantage of. There really IS enough to create at least a land in the parks, but ONLY if the coming stories remain compelling. If the giants Lucas and Lasseter could work together, the fascinating ideas and pathos filled characters which might be developed could reignite Hollywood all over again and bring out so many interesting stories that the public could get behind and a new generation could embrace. Disney might well float for decades on it. Mishandled, the franchise could sour and take out a huge portion of the company.

  • Atomobile

    And if the StarWars franchise does what everyone hopes it will… think of the Hotel its going to spawn. ;D