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Jon Spira

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Skywalkin' Back to Happiness

Posted: 01/11/2012 00:00

It's not been easy for us children of the 80s, you know? Everything that was presented to us as wholesome, decent and magical - tartrazine, the Sun, Jimmy Savile... have been revealed to be actually properly evil.

Even the movies we grew up with have been turned on their heads. On a night when the guy who played Freddy Kruger cropped up on Come Dine With Me and turned out to be a rather lovely chap, the powers behind the most apparently wholesome film franchises of that decade have joined forces in a deal almost universally objected to by film lovers the world over. Yes, George Lucas has sold his company Lucasfilm to Disney for a reported four billion dollars.

It's funny what happened to both Disney and Lucas. They went from being the most beloved things in our young lives to the most derided of our adult pop culture conversations. In the past two decades, both seem to have willingly urinated on their own legacies. Lucas's prequel Star Wars trilogy was critically mauled and generally disliked by his original fanbase (the kids loved it, though and it proved a massive commercial success) and he then went on to make a series of baffling choices, having anxiously guarded the integrity of the franchise for decades, the last year alone has seen him give his blessing to an X-box Kinect Star Wars dancing game and a series of cringeworthy Vodafone adverts featuring Yoda. He still refuses to release decent versions of the original trilogy we grew up with to the cinema or Blu-Ray, telling us that the dire, and already clunky-looking, CGI riddled Special Editions of the late 90's are all he wants out there. I can't think of another franchise leader so disliked by his own devoted fanbase.

Disney, on the other hand have been considered evil for quite a while now. The man himself, Uncle Walt was clearly a bit of a bastard - even if you ignore the rumours of racism and anti-semitism, it is undeniable that he eagerly took part in Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunt and volunteered several of his own employees as communists. Charming. Even after Walt died, Disney became a literal metaphor for rampant corporatism - presenting a public face of being happy, friendly, warm, fuzzy and all about family values whilst practicing ruthless capitalism and amassing massive global profits. Their recent travesties have included a plethora of crappy straight-to-video sequels to their classic titles.

It's very easy to assume that the reason Disney and Lucasfilm are joining forces is to raise the money to fund some kind of scientific experiment which will raise Jimmy Savile from the grave to pursue each one of us individually, steal our wallets and smash our heads in whilst whispering in our ears the as-yet unrevealed atrocities committed by those few childhood heroes we have left ('Tony Hart buggered puppy dogs! Johnny Morris wee'd on whores!) That does seem to be the only logical conclusion - that these two entities (Disney and Lucas, not Hart and Morris) can only be joining forces to extract the ultimate act of destruction on what remains of our childhood memories.

I think the truth is far more obvious and, to me, makes perfect sense. Disney are making an investment in the biggest franchise in cinema history which will be profitable for decades, if not centuries, to come. Lucas is an old man now and clearly keen to retire and before he can do that, he must consider what the future holds for Star Wars. In recent interviews, he has let slip a certain tetchiness about the whole thing. A decade or so of criticism had clearly gotten to him and one feels that the dancing game and Vodafone adverts might have been something of a retributive strike. It never really felt like he'd made purely commercial decisions about Star Wars before in terms of licensing.

To play devil's advocate in this whole situation, this might not be the worst arrangement. To me, it doesn't feel like a grumpy bastard selling out to an evil corporation. Disney are massive and very corporate but they've handled this kind of deal very well before. It should be remembered that they own both Marvel and Pixar studios. Both of which are trusted to operate with an industry-admired autonomy and both of which are producing arguably the finest mainstream multiplex movies of recent years. If Lucasfilm is handled in this manner, we could likely expect something pretty special to come from it. Disney also own The Muppets - another hugely beloved legacy brand. It may have lost some of its charm with Jim Henson long in the ground and most of the original talent departed but it was a ballsy move by Disney to hand the franchise over to younger, non-hacky, idiosyncratic filmmakers recently and although many old-time fans found it lacking, it undoubtedly found love with a while new generation of children.

I'm particularly elated by the announcement of a new non-Lucas trilogy of Star Wars films. I can't wait! I will always love George Lucas because I will always love Star Wars but I feel he's always been at his best when collaborating. With Spielberg and Kasdan on the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, I said trilogy) with Kershner, Brackett and Kasdan on The Empire Strikes Back. I feel the prequels were a missed opportunity but I understand why he decided to write and direct them all himself. It's his sandbox. I think he learned his lesson. But I hope he had fun. He deserves fun, he gave us a lot of it.

In the meantime, can we focus on the mouthwatering prospect of new Star Wars films by other filmmakers? Remember all of those rumours that surrounded the prequels? Of Frank Darabont writing? Of David Fincher directing? These are things that could now happen. Kathleen Kennedy will now be running Lucasfilm, She produced some of the greatest Hollywood movies of a generation, she really knows what she's doing.

All I can see here is good news. Lucas is done with hurting Star Wars and is passing it on to a new generation of filmmakers and a company who have an established track record in protecting and helping develop legacy brands.

Until they give me something to actually moan about, I'm behind this all the way. All Disney needs to do in embarking upon this venture is a Blu-ray release of the original versions of the original trilogy and some kind of theme-park situated 'Beat Jar Jar with a cricket bat' experience and they'll get the fans aboard.

 

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