Lucasfilm and Disney: Putting it all in Perspective.

It was a busy day yesterday. What with dealing with e-mail, lots of personal issues and hurriedly catching up with a friend who lives in New York City. Although lower Manhattan still had no electricity (everything was dark below 36th Street), things were fine at his place and thanks to some friends who lived above the demarcation line, he had somewhere to sleep for a couple of days until all the power was turned back on. Almost as an afterthought as we were ending our brief call, I asked if he’d heard about the Disney/Lucasfilm deal. With all that was going on, of course he missed hearing about it, but the news still managed to elicit some excitement from him. After all, Lucasfilm + Disney = $

Every day of course there are two kinds of news, the real world stuff which usually involves some kind of misfortune or catastrophe; and then those more mundane life, personality or business events that may involve any of our interests. Rarely do the two mix and hopefully the severity of the former helps keep the less important latter in proper perspective.

The last few years the Walt Disney Company has been getting very good at keeping their major business announcements under wraps until they’re good and ready, so I actually felt a little sorry for Bob Iger as Disney’s meticulously crafted news releases and video presentations about the Lucasfilm deal hit the media right in the aftermath of one of the worst storms to hit the eastern United States in decades.

Whether they had an ironclad date to stick to, or were suddenly trying to jump in front of a perceived leak, the less than optimal timing took away from yet another major coup for the man who will probably go down in history as the second most transforming executive the company has ever had. Just as Walt Disney continued to retool and rethink his vision of what his company could do, Iger has put together a series of deals that for the most part grow and strengthen the creative trunk of the company, allowing it to branch out into more markets and business areas.

With one exception (the Avatar deal – trust me, the question “What were they thinking?” is a valid one), it’s clear that most of the acquisitions smartly complement existing assets, as they broaden Disney’s core audience. Reading through the press materials it’s clear that the first focus will be on the Star Wars franchise, with the Indiana Jones properties looked at further on down the line as they resolve any issues with Paramount and may buy out their rights to that series.

So, what does this mean for Disney’s domestic parks? Actually, right at this moment, not all that much. Star Tours 2.0 is in place, and other than the entertainment folks probably discussing rather heatedly whether Princess Leia deserves a spot next to all the other Disney Princesses at the meet ‘n greets and parades, the Marvel projects coming down the pipeline are the current priority.

Further on down the line, while I don’t foresee any standalone Lucaslands, I do think it’s likely that we’ll see the Star Wars franchise along with Marvel taking center stage at the Disneyland Resort’s third park. Something to also note is the one year extension that ComicCon just negotiated with San Diego. It will be interesting to see what happens after that, and if they get serious about Anaheim again. As for Florida we know Kathy Magnum (the Imagineer in charge of building CarsLand) is now out there, and her rumored focus is on the Studios Park, which is in dire need of some attention.

Overseas, the word is that Star Wars is a major component of the new Shanghai Park’s Tomorrowland. An educated guess would be that Oriental Land in Tokyo would like to consider an expansion in that area also.

For all the Star Wars/Indy fans fretting over this acquisition, I think they need to look to the horrifying way that Paramount has mishandled the Star Trek franchise. One need only look at how both Pixar and Marvel now operate under The Mouse to see the much better possibilities. They can also hope that George Lucas steps back a bit. (Wouldn’t Brad Bird be a great choice to helm Star Wars 7?)

The deal also includes all the other businesses Lucas is involved in, such as Industrial Light and Magic, THX, as well the Skywalker Ranch. It will be interesting to see what Disney ultimately does with those boutique enterprises.

So is this all a good thing? I think so, and it certainly addresses all the questions everyone had about Universal’s Harry Potter deal giving the Disney Resorts some good competition. Remember, JK Rowling has completed the Potter series of books, while Disney plans a continuing run of Star Wars sequels ramping up right away.

I’ve said before this is a good time for theme park fans, as all the major players have been increasing their efforts. We are going to see some great new attractions and themed environments over the next few years as they continue to one up each other with what they can do. It’s going to be a blast!

What do you think of the deal? Go ahead and post your thoughts below…

See you at Disneyland…