Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Buying New Galaxies, and Creativity

Unless you live under a rock, only care about real news like Hurricane Sandy, or don't have six news apps that all send you push notifications of breaking news at the same time, than you've probably heard: yesterday, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion.

My first reaction was: "Neat!"

Lucasfilm and Disney have had a very close relationship ever since Star Tours opened at Disney in 1982. Some of the best Star Wars merch I've ever seen or bought has been at a Disneyland. You can find Jedi Mickeys or Donald Duck made up as Darth Maul at gift shops next to Star Tours. Hollywood Studious annually holds Star Wars Weekends, one of the most popular celebrations of the franchise anywhere. The Jedi Training Academy is a popular show, with walk around characters like Darth Vader and a couple of Storm Troopers making daily appearances.

To Disney dies-hards like myself, there won't be much of a transition from Lucasfilm being an independent company to one owned by one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.

Some are decrying the deal, accusing Disney of being greedy, and predicting that when Disney makes episodes VI, VII and VII, they will ruin the "Star Wars" film franchise.

These people don't know what they're talking about and are hating on Disney because it's the convenient, typical thing to do. When Disney took over Marvel for a similar price, one of first films to come out of the joint venture, "The Avengers," is arguably the best Marvel film to date, and is inarguably the highest grossing. This was because Disney let acclaimed nerd Joss Whedon take over, gave him creative control and trusted him. I foresee Disney doing a similar thing with the coming "Star Wars" films.

So people, stop whining. You will be proven wrong.

Star Tours at Disneyland. (Photo by Preston Carter
Melbourne-Weaver/Main St. Monitor.)
Though I won't associated myself with those whiners, I do have something to whine about myself. My past co-worker while I was in the Disney College program, Patrick Johnson had this to say about the deal on facebook: "The most recognized entertainment company in the world that neglects to capitalize on their own intellectual property. Le sigh." In an article about reactions to the deal by USA Today, they quoted Former Columbia Pictures marketing exec Peter Sealey as saying: "It seems to me that Disney is bankrupt of new ideas so they've just gone out and made another big buy."

This deal will cement Bob Iger's legacy as "the guy who bought all that other stuff." From Pixar, to Marvel, and now Lucasfilm and Avatar Land, Iger has made it clear he is more interested in buying creativity than creating it in house. Pixar has created some of its worst films since being acquired by Disney, most of which were money grubbing sequels. Avatar Land's E-Ticket attraction is rumored to use the same ride mechanism as Soarin' over California.

What Iger has done with the parks, with New Fantasyand and the re-imagining of Disney California Adventure, has been great, but not exactly innovative.

I think acquiring Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel are overall good things for Disney, but I look forward to Iger's 2015 planned retirement and hope that his replacement focuses on creating magic inside the company. Iger is, by far, a better CEO than his predecessor Michael Eisner, but at least Eisner had 10 creative years at the beginning.

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