Your Questions Answered: What We Know And Speculate About 'Star Wars Episode VII' And Disney's Purchase Of LucasFilm

The news of Disney purchasing LucasFilm and a new Star Wars trilogy being released creates far more questions than it answers. Yes, in 2015 audiences are finally going to see the Star Wars universe, on the big screen, in a post Return of the Jedi world. It's an announcement as big as they come in the world of movies. Then take a step back from that. The company that owns Marvel and Pixar now owns Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Immediately the mind begins seeing the possibilites of crossovers, collaboration and pure insanity.

We all have questions in regards to this news and we've complied the answers. Some stuff we know for sure, such as "How far into development is Star Wars Episode VII?" and "Will the films have the classic Fox fanfare?" Other we don't, such as "What does this mean for the live-action Star Wars TV series?" and "Could Pixar make an animated Star Wars movie?"

After the jump, read answers to 15 questions from myself and Russ Fischer, and even get some answers from departing LucasArts chief George Lucas and new leader Kathleen Kennedy.

What We Know:

by Russ Fischer

Will we see More Indiana Jones Films?

In the near future, no. Disney execs were very specific about the fact that Indiana Jones is part of this purchase, but as with some superhero characters when Disney bought Marvel, there is financial "encumbrance" with Indy. Namely, Paramount has a controlling distribution interest in the character, and Disney isn't going to mess around with that right now. This deal is all about Star Wars, as Disney's Bob Iger said explicitly. (Remember, too, that Disney essentially took distribution of Marvel movies away from Paramount, so this isn't the first time the companies have had overlapping interest in a character or franchise.)

Our understanding is that other LucasFilm properties, such as Willow, Red Tails, and Howard the Duck (originally a Marvel character!), are also covered under this deal, but they may have the same issues that Indy does, thanks to controlling interests at other studios.

Will George Lucas be involved in any capacity?

The short answer is "yes," or at least that he has been involved. Lucas has consulted on the development of Episode VII so far, but he is not spearheading that film. On the conference call, it was said that "it's his intent to retire," from which we can extrapolate that someone else will write and (whew!) direct the new film(s). As to the continuing involvement of Lucas in the new film, we have to wait and see. The suggestion is that his involvement will be fairly light.

Who is Kathleen Kennedy, and what has she ever done?

Oh, you know, just someone who has been a producer on small films, such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and most of Steven Spielberg's big-screen efforts in the past couple decades. (And many of his small-screen ones.) Kennedy was a co-founder of Amblin Entertainment and a principal of the Kennedy/Marshall Company (with her husband, producer Frank Marshall) through which she worked on many Spielberg productions as well as films such as the first three Bourne movies.Earlier this year, she was named as Co-Chair of LucasFilm and set up to be the ultimate successor to George Lucas at the company he founded. With this deal, that movement will now take place.

(Correction: While Kennedy was at the Kennedy/Marshall Company when the first three Bourne films were made, she did not produce any of them.)

Will the new movies have the classic Fox Fanfare?

They will not. LucasFilm and Fox have long had a sort of picture-to-picture relationship, with Fox most recently acting only as distributor for the Star Wars films, while Lucas funded them himself. Any new film may carry a Fox logo (in the same way that The Avengers had Paramount branding) but the days of live-action Star Wars features opening with the Fox fanfare are done. That said, how this deal will affect the 3D re-release of the existing Star Wars films is unknown.

How far into development is Episode VII?

What was specifically stated in the conference call with Disney this afternoon is "what we're buying... is a pretty extensive & detailed treatment for the next three movies." Lucas says "I have story treatments for [Star Wars] seven, eight, and nine, and and a bunch of other movies, and obviously we have hundreds of books and comics."

Development of Episode VII is well along, though we can't say precisely what has been done. We can speculate a lot, and guess that Kennedy will want to start hiring talent to take the film through the next stages of development very quickly, but I'll refrain from that here. And, in fact, there could already be people on board and under death-threat NDAs. Recall that Warner Bros. had a Justice League script brewing for a year that went unreported until the studio was ready for word to get out.

Will Industrial Light & Magic be exclusive to Disney now?

All LucasFilm properties are part of this deal, but ILM will continue to operate as it has for years. The company will do effects work for Disney films (as it has in the past) but that won't be an exclusive deal. Here's what Jay Resulo, senior executive vice president and CFO of The Walt Disney Company, had to say about the acquisition:

In this transaction we will acquire rights to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, a highly talented and expert team, Lucasfilm's best-in-class post production businesses, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound, and a suite of cutting edge entertainment technologies. Our valuation focused almost entirely on the financial potential of the Star Wars franchise, which we expect to provide us with a stream of storytelling opportunities for years to come delivered via all relevant platforms on a global basis.

Does the deal include LucasArts, George Lucas' video game division?

Yes, it does, as suggested by Rasulo's comments, and comments from Bob Iger of Disney. And in the conference call, specific mention was made of creating Star Wars product in games. But LucasArts has struggled in the past, and you should expect to see more mobile efforts than anything else, at least at first. Don't expect a big rush of new console games just yet. Bob Iger said,

We're likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console. We'll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they've already demonstrated to the other platforms.

A LucasArts rep did tell Polygon that the game Star Wars 1313 is still a go:

For the time being all projects are business as usual. We are excited about all the possibilities that Disney brings.

A related question, to which we don't know the answer, is how this will effect the availability of past LucasArts titles, including classics like Grim Fandango, Maniac Mansion, and the Monkey Island series. Moreover, can we expect to see those games becoming fodder for film or TV adaptations? That's something we don't know the answer to. But a Wreck-It-Ralph sequel might bring a couple of those characters to the screen...

For a few more answers, here's a video featuring George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy discussing the deal.

What We Don't Know:

by Germain Lussier

How far into the future will Episode VII be and what might it be about?

This is the question of questions, isn't it? Just because this film will take place after Return of the Jedi doesn't necessarily mean it'll feature the same characters. Star Wars games and novels have written extensively about the period after the ending of Jedi, dealing with the offspring of Han and Leia, Luke's rebuilding of the Jedis, finding a love interest, and any number of other subjects. Some properties have even gone thousands of years into the future.

However, popular discussion has always assumed these films would take place a few decades later to continue the overall story. The universe is finally recovering from the rule of the Empire, the Jedi have returned, and the main characters have passed along what they learned. Luke is now more like Obi-Wan, Han is now more of a leader, etc. And to truly complete the circle of the prequels, the droids would have to be in it. Don't forget, most of the principal actors are still alive, too, so never say never on them reprising the roles. Also, it's important to remember that the rise and fall of Darth Vader was the throughline for Episodes I-VI, so the story has to feature some of that.

It seems obvious, but Wikipedia has a great entry on this.

Since the original publish date of this article, a source has come out claiming that 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Will Be Original Story; How Do Lucas' Old Story Outlines Factor In? Find out here

Will Episode VII continue the extensive use of CG sets, or will it go back to more "physical" production?

One of the major complaints about, and technical advances of the Star Wars prequels, was that they were primarily filmed in front of green screen, and enhanced by computer-generated imagery later on. This gave the films a much "cleaner" look than we were used to with Star Wars.

Fast forward a decade to Episode VII. Technology is now exponentially better than it was when Episode III was created, but the story doesn't take place at the height of the Republic as in the prequels. It's in a post-Empire world (though when and where is up for debate, as said above) so one would imagine things are still grimy but improving. Not to mention almost all of Disney's live action films (the Marvel movies, Oz, Lone Ranger) are using CG but in conjunction with huge practical sets.

Add all of that together and while nothing will be set until a director is chosen (more on that below), odds are these films will be a more physical production.

Who might direct Star Wars Episode VII?

We know that Episode VII is in the early stages of development and George Lucas has already been working on it tangentially. He also says that he wants to pass the franchise on to the next generation. That said, any filmmaker – be it an Oscar winner or a first timer – would likely be equally scared and excited to do something only three people have ever done, direct a Star Wars film. (And don't tell me about Ewok movies, people).

Fans can dream about people like Christopher Nolan, the Wachowskis or Steven Spielberg but, the truth of it is, they're too established. This is a make or break job on the grandest scale and I'd assume someone with experience, but not a huge body of work, gets the nod. Think of where J.J. Abrams was when he did Star Trek.

For some more educated guesses and an ultimate filmmaker wish list, read Angie Han's article 10 Filmmakers Who Should Direct the New 'Star Wars' Trilogy – And 5 Who Shouldn't

What could this mean for the long in development Star Wars live action TV series?

Probably nothing. That series takes place between Episodes III and IV so they can't use those supposed scripts for the new movies, and the fact that LucasFilm has a new home doesn't change the main reason the show has yet to take place. The technology to cheaply make a Star Wars movie a week for television doesn't exist yet. I'd imagine these are still on the books, but no closer to happening.

Could we see a Pixar animated Star Wars movie?

We've already seen (and pretended to forget) Star Wars animation that looks like Pixar. Now that Disney owns both, will the companies pair up? It's unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future. Pixar already has several films in development probably looking ahead to 2017. (Generally their films are being developed at least 3 years before the public hears about them.) Considering that Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, Pixar has had some time to use that awesome property and has yet to do so. I think Star Wars would be similar. Pixar likes to do its own thing, and until that stops being lucrative, expect Pixar to play in its own yard.

Walt Disney Feature Animation though? Maybe that's more likely.

Will Disney open up a Star Wars theme park?

Some would say Disney's theme parks are already too full of Star Wars, as the companies have been working together since 1987 and recently refurbished their classic Star Tours rides. But in the conference call announcing the deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that expanding their role in the theme parks was definitely one of the selling points of the deal. That means it's surely something they'll look at but it's a long process.

Will Marvel and Star Wars properties cross over?

Much like Disney and LucasFilm had a relationship before this deal, so too did Marvel and LucasFilm, as, beginning in the late '70s, Marvel published a slew of Star Wars comic books before Dark Horse took over the license in the '90s. While we're still at a "anything is possible" stage with this deal, and Disney has done such a masterful job with Marvel on the big screen, I doubt we'd ever see these two universes cross paths there. Sorry, no Iron Man vs. Boba Fett battle. However, Disney is always looking for new TV content for their channels and there, this just might work.

Will we get the original trilogy on Blu-ray?

When the news broke of this deal, almost immediately fans began clamoring for a Blu-ray release of the original, unedited, Star Wars trilogy. And let's face it: if Disney were to make that release happen, it would generate significant good will with the fans leading up to the release of Episode VII. However, Lucas is still part of this whole thing as a "creative consultant." I still don't think he lets it happen until at least 2015 with the new movies coming out.

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