Imagine being a young adult with one massive idea.
You put in blood, sweat, and tears into transforming that idea into a reality. The idea is a global success. You are celebrated for your ingenuity and temerity. You are rewarded for your work and passion. You are ultimately considered a “Mount Rushmore” type of guy in your particular genre.
All because of that idea, which has–by any other fathom of imagination–become your baby. You are that close to it. One day, after a few decades, you decide the “baby” is all grown up and determine now is the time to sell that idea.
You cash a check for, let’s say, $4 billion and mosey on your way to retirement, conventions, speeches, and all that mailbox money you’ll get for the rest of your life.
Anyone on the planet would take that scenario. Anyone. So, fast forward to today when we hear ingenue of that idea, father of that baby George Lucas felt “betrayed” by how Disney allowed that baby to look, grow, and act, as Disney CEO Bob Iger writes in his memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime.”
After that exhaustive set-up, wouldn’t you? Absolutely. The problem is that while we should not blame him for airing his grievances after seeing J.J. Abrams’ vision of The Force Awakens…tough.
Simply put, the baby is grown and has left home. And once Daddy is no longer responsible for what the baby does, someone else always will.
You see, Lucas had new ideas for another trilogy. He offered those ideas to Iger as a part of the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. To wit, Disney (aka. CEO Kathleen Kennedy) consulted another nerd mastermind in J.J. Abrams and went another ballyhooed direction, as we are made aware by a report in THR.
“[W]e decided we needed to buy them,” the chief exec writes of the decision made with studio head Alan Horn, “though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he’d laid out.”
Disney had every contractual and financial right to do so.
This was their bed and they were going to soil or press those sheets however they saw fit. And all Lucas could do is look outside the bedroom store’s window fogging up the glass the harder he breathes in angst and frustration. As we are told by Iger’s account:
“George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren’t using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations,” Iger writes.
“George knew we weren’t contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we’d follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded. I’d been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn’t think I had now, but I could have handled it better.”
Iger admits his wrongdoing. Kennedy probably should as well. And, here’s that father with a huge helping of seller’s remorse:
“George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we’d gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start.”
Time to Move On?
There’s Lucas, a man bruised by how his baby looks and betrayed by how his friends dressed her. Of course, he’s butt-hurt. No one should or could blame him. But, he sold that intellectual property so while he may see things he doesn’t like and say things he definitely means, but again… tough.
George Lucas is many things to many people, but to everyone, the man is a visionary in every sense of the word. Movies are directed, recorded, edited, and finalized differently all because of his vision. Not sci-fi movies. Not nerd movies. All movies.
So, when Bob Iger writes Lucas admonished him because “there weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward,” we should listen. In fact, Iger noted “he wasn’t wrong.”
He also wasn’t appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars.
And there, we have the rub.
If a film was to feel “quintessentially” like the original in theme, wouldn’t Daddy have some insight there? Of course, he could appreciate the pressure. Lucas was under similar pressure to make six movies prior to The Force Awakens (feelings about Jar-Jar Binks aside).
However, it seems Lucas was blowing up the intergalactic hotline whenever he felt his insight was being ignored.
“We’d intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected,” Iger explains, “and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do.”
That’s the thing with the word “vision.”
Everyone can view something at the same time, but each individual has a different vantage point and those points-of-view are attached to individual’s cerebral cortex, where thinking, perceiving, producing and understanding is done.
This isn’t a science-fictional concept. We don’t share a brain. We all have our brain, so we all have our vision. Lucas has his, and has beholden out of respect Disney was to Lucas’ vision — they had their own.
Lucas, Iger, Kennedy, Abrams, et. al. shared the same vision, but had different vantage points. This is the unfortunate rift why Lucas felt betrayed. He entrusted his vision, his baby to new people and they didn’t continue to raise it the way he would — precisely the way he would.
The line at the point of sale “we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he’d laid out” should have been a clue that his vision may have different vantage points that would influence the sequels.
Maybe that will all be assuaged when The Rise of Skywalker is released. The Force Awakens, while not necessarily a triumph had some stellar moments. Many people — critics and fans (and even trolls who just won’t shut up) — thought The Last Jedi was a fart-and-fall-down moment in this saga’s history. By all accounts, it seems there is going to be a huge Kumbaya in December, but until then, Lucas is simply hurt.
Real fans hope those feelings go away. Real fans hope this movie will go into hyperspace with stellar reviews. And real movie fans know, following these accounts by Iger, that… well, no one puts baby in a corner. Not even Disney.
If you’re interested, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company is available now from Random House.