We Are What They Grow Beyond: Lucasfilm and Its Untapped Potential

When you think Lucasfilm, you think of one of two things. The first is probably the company’s namesake, George Lucas. The second is probably Star Wars.

Founded in 1971, Lucasfilm was the brainchild of George Lucas and has since became best known as the home of legendary motion pictures such as American Graffiti, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.

Outside of those properties, Lucasfilm experienced a series of critical and financial failures with very few exceptions. While Labyrinth has become a cult classic over time, it crashed and burned upon its initial release (and was the last film directed by the late Jim Henson). Tucker: A Man and His Dream received glowing, positive reviews but was a massive box-office flop.

Nonetheless, other movies that bombed critically and financially, such as Howard The Duck and Radioland Murders. It wasn’t all bad. Ron Howard’s Willow was a moderate hit critically and financially while The Land Before Time solidified director Don Bluth as a legend in animation.

With Lucasfilm being an independent company from 1971 to 2012, they didn’t have the legs to sustain more failures, especially since Star Wars and Indiana Jones sequels or prequels weren’t being made as frequently as they used to be.

After the failure of Red Tails, things changed

disney star wars

On October 30, 2012, the Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm and all its properties for a total of $4 billion. Having worked with Disney before on theme park attractions based on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, George Lucas thought Disney was the perfect choice to carry out his legacy.

In addition to this, critically acclaimed producer Kathleen Kennedy was appointed as the company’s President shortly afterward The Force Awakens was put into production.

Since 2014, the Star Wars brand has been doing extremely well. The first joint effort post-sale, the Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels, became a ratings smash and was well received by fans. The series in the film department has also thrived. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released to critical acclaim and grossed more than $2 billion worldwide, currently sitting as Disney’s most highest grossing film. Rogue One and Star Wars: The Last Jedi also received their share of positive reviews and box office success.

Not only that, there’s also been a stream of acclaimed novels, comics, and animated shows. What’s not to like?

Sadly it’s not perfect

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Like with any company, there have been some bumps in the road. The first being troubled film productions, such as the extensive re-shoots for Rogue One, the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Solo, the departure of Colin Trevorrow from the upcoming Episode IX, as well as the cancellation of multiple anthology films after Solo’s underwhelming commercial performance. Merchandise and comic sales have also been low in recent years.

Despite what any angry clickbait YouTuber will tell you, Lucasfilm is not dying under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy. In fact, she has extended her contract to 2021. Star Wars hype and love is alive and well.

In the animation department, Star Wars Resistance and Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures have been receiving generally positive reception on social media. Upcoming novels such as ‘Queen’s Shadow’ and ‘Master and Apprentice’ have been generating hype too. Excitement for Star Wars: Episode IX has been growing by the day as well, namely hearing they have just wrapped filming.

Furthermore, there are high expectations for the franchise’s upcoming live-action shows–The Mandalorian and another untitled show centered on Rogue One‘s male lead Cassian Andor. This isn’t to mention the expectations for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge park attractions, which is set to open in California and Florida this year.

While Star Wars has been thriving under the Mouse House, there’s a question that’s been on my mind for the past few years.

“Where’s everyone else?”

indy 5Indiana Jones 5 has been “in development” since the release of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For a variety of reasons the film has been delayed constantly for the past few years. The most recent updates for the film are Solo co-scribe Jon Kasdan will rewrite the script and the movie will be released on July 9, 2021. Steven Spielberg has been confirmed to return as director, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as the titular hero, and John Williams will return to score.

Sadly, the movie will most likely not begin filming until next year as Spielberg is currently focusing on his remake of West Side Story. Even then, there’s no reason not to assume another delay could happen.

I’m honestly disappointed and saddened over the lack of Indy content from Disney. While I understand films take a long time to make, it’s surprising that Lucasfilm hasn’t tried to expand the series with comics, novels, video games, or television shows since their acquisition.

Granted, they had all of these in the ’90s, but it’s still saddening that Lucasfilm’s second largest property hasn’t gotten any big projects similar to Star Wars in the nearly seven years of Disney’s ownership. A logical explanation would be that Indy isn’t as relevant these days or Lucasfilm is waiting to see how the fifth picture performs to see if it’s worth the investment. Hopefully we’ll see more Jones projects; one of my dream ones being a series on Disney+ focusing on a younger Marion Ravenwood.

I can dream can I?

willow

In addition to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Disney is now the owner of Ron Howard’s fantasy cult classic Willow.

During the promotional cycle for Solo, Ron Howard stated on Twitter that Lucasfilm was “seriously considering” more Willow content. However on a more sour note, Ron Howard and original screenwriter Bob Dolman stated they weren’t involved with a sequel, at least not yet.

Outside of Harry Potter and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, big budget fantasy films haven’t been a very rewarding investment. Audiences have grown tired of giant castles, dragons, and wizards unless there’s a boy with a lightnwli scar or hobbits running around on screen.

A Willow sequel is an extremely tough sell. The original film was released nearly 31 years ago, is far from Ron Howard’s most popular film, and the picture was only a moderate hit. During the ’90s, three novels that took place in the Willow universe were published (all written by famous X-Men writer Chris Claremont). The best way to generate hype for a new Willow feature would be to re-release these novels or even write new ones.

A re-release of the original would be a great way to familiarize mainstream audiences with the universe. However, if Lucasfilm isn’t willing to spend over 100 million dollars on a sequel to a 30-year-old film, there’s always the option of a Willow TV series on Disney+. Considering Ron Howard’s history with television, it isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

While I’m not one to complain about the abundance of Star Wars content, it does make me wonder why Lucasfilm hasn’t done anything else since 2012. Granted, they have no IPs as  famous or as long-lasting as Star Wars and they do seem interested in revisiting old properties; however, I hope they do more.

Indiana Jones and Willow aside, Lucasfilm should also look to invest in more original creations as well. With Disney by their side, the possibilities of new franchises is endless. As a massive supporter of original big budget films, who better to do that than the mother of a franchise that became successful on its first try in 1977?

As Disney invests big bucks into their upcoming streaming service, it seems like a good place to start creating new series and films in addition to expanding already existing franchises.

Even thinking beyond franchises, it’s also a shame that Lucasfilm hasn’t invested in other kinds of pictures such as documentaries, dramas, as well as more animated films. As a company that started out as a place for filmmakers to express themselves artistically, there hasn’t been many movies at the company being made by people who aren’t looking to expand the Star Wars universe with only very few exceptions. Making smaller pictures in the vain of Lucas’ first two features, THX 1138 and American Graffiti wouldn’t be out of the box, especially since they were designed to be smaller in scale.

kk sw

As big of a Star Wars fan as I am, I do look forward to Lucasfilm looking to other creative endeavours. Kids today have experienced a new generation of Star Wars films and my biggest wish is for them to have that same opportunity with the likes of Willow and Indiana Jones.

Not to mention my hope that they can pass on films in new franchises to their children many years from now, just as our parents have done with us. With a legend like Kathleen Kennedy at the helm, I am hopeful that my hopes and wishes will be justified eventually. One day I hope that a large variety of filmmakers can create and tell new stories for multiple generations of movie goers to love.

Movies that will hopefully inspire aspiring filmmakers and remain in the consciousness of the cultural lexicon for decades to come just like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg did all those years ago.

I love traveling to that galaxy far far away whenever I can, I can only hope we can travel beyond the stars soon.

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