Friday, November 2, 2012

Disney and Star Wars - Top 10 (Mostly) Awesome Things That Could Happen

If you are a geek or have been near the internet, you have probably heard the big news about Star Wars. Disney recently purchased Lucasfilm for 4 billion dollars and so they now own Star Wars and everything that goes with it. Along with that announcement was the information about a new live action SW film coming out in a couple of years with more to follow, making it at least a new trilogy. This is big news for SW and there has been no shortage of commentary on it.

Yes, Lucas made 4 Billion Dollars. 
(To Lucas’s credit, he is using that money to fund philanthropic endeavors)

I am going to add my own commentary. First off, let me just say that I am remaining patiently optimistic. SW is a big popular license and Disney is a big popular company. If this had happened 15 years ago I would have been apprehensive or mad, but George Lucas has pretty much finished everything he wanted to do with SW and this gives it a new lease on life. That coupled with the fact that the last several movies and lots of the merchandise have been uninspiring. Most adult fans I know are still nostalgic for the SW of their childhood and the new stuff just didn't resonate. The worst that can happen really, it that I just ignore the stuff Disney releases. 

I think it is time for a new group of creative people to take over SW. There have been dozens of writers and artists and programmers making new games and books and comics for years, but not movies. Unfortunately, even the new stuff being put out by all those creative people rehashes familiar characters and plots (over and over). It’s like taking American history and only talking about the period from 1900 through World War Two and nothing else, Ever. All of the books and comics written after the movies link back to the original trilogy somehow. Obsidian Entertainment’s “Old Republic” was some of the most interesting new material seen in the SW universe when they released it. The point is, SW needs some “world building” and creative expansion to keep it interesting and that can happen now.

This image is going to haunt my dreams, so I had to share.
Disney for their part makes mistakes, but they have done well by the Marvel license and there are a lot of talented people there. Just remember, above all else, this is about money. Disney didn’t invest 4 Billion dollars just to say they own SW. They plan to market it and merchandise it and make money off of it. That means they might make a few missteps, but are going to try to make products that make the most money from the fans. That means releasing stuff that people want to buy. There is already tons of SW stuff out there, but most of it is a rehash of the original trilogy. If Disney can push new interesting quality stuff, they have a good chance at keeping it relevant.  

So, here are is my (mostly) optimistic list of things that I hope could happen with Disney and Star Wars.

1. The new movies need to break new ground - The prequels were still about the story of Anakin Skywalker. They could have been better, but the plot idea was fine for the time and we did get a few new characters out of them. Like I said though, fans have been rehashing those characters and events for years and years. It’s a big galaxy. Give us some new stories. Jump into the future or far into the past. If you HAVE to link back to the original trilogy directly, then follow Luke and Leia’s kids as adults and present new planets with something to offer. What does the Rebellion do when rebels rise up against their own new government? What happened when the Old Republic was trying to unify the Galaxy? This is the stuff I want to know about. 

Childhood. Well, for the lucky kids who didn't have to eat Corn Flakes.
2. All of those directors that grew up watching Star Wars can now get their hands on it. I can think of a dozen times when I have heard some director or writer say in an interview or commentary that SW influenced them as a kid and how they are still fans. Well now is their chance to actually make their own story and be super fans. (Brad Bird or maybe J.J. Abrams to name a few?)

Joss Whedon is our master now. Or something. 
3. More specifically, Joss Whedon - Joss currently has a contract with Marvel/Disney to make the next Avengers film, but he also agreed to help develop the entire Marvel franchise for the next few years. Joss is kind of a geek legend having already made Firefly, Buffy, Doctor Horrible, etc. He actually has worked with Disney before on Atlantis (one of my favorite of the Disney animated movies). That was all small budget stuff though. Then he got the Avengers and a bigger budget and made the biggest movie EVER. Joss Whedon can tell a good story, but where he really excels is characters. Give him some free rein to develop some characters and story (even if he doesn't direct) and I guarantee we will have a dozen (minus the few he kills off) new SW characters that we actually care about, including some strong female leads (because space needs more than one woman). I actually think he could do this better than Lucas since there isn't really anyone in the prequels I cared about (and no, I am not going to sink so low as to mention JarJar here). Or, even better... hand him the Old Republic and tell him to make a space opera. We can all just sit around pretending it’s Firefly set in the SW universe.

How I always picture him.
4. ...And Kevin Smith. When Kevin Smith said, “I could have written a better Episode 1” we believed him. I would love to see Kevin do something official and Star Wars, but more to the point let him do it his way. Kevin Smith is at his best with dialogue, especially comedy so expect something comical, irreverent, and aimed at adult fans. 

Personally I think a live action mini series or TV show would be awesome. Base it around the idea of old Troops shorts (showing the underside of the Empire) and follow some Storm Troopers around the galaxy. Remember the comics about Tag and Blink? Sort of like that with more of a Jay and Bob feel. (If you haven’t read them, go read them now.)  Recruit the 501st legion to help out with extras and cameos for charity work. Give Kevin a shot at SW (so he can stop making spoofs) and you will have a SW show that college kids and adults can actually care about and enjoy again. He is all for the new trilogy anyway so bring him on board stat.

5. Merchandising. This is what Disney does better than about any other company, (except maybe Spaceballs). The Disney Princess line has something like a million licensed products and a lot of it is junk. However, there is good stuff in there too. Same thing with SW. LEGO is probably the best use of the SW license I have seen for toys. There is a lot of merchandise, but a lot of it is junk, or has been recently.
Seriously, who carries an orange and white blaster?

What am I trying to say? Do more than just stick pictures of Star wars characters on backpacks and notebooks and stuff and call it merchandising. They can do better and Disney can help. My daughter wants a pink or purple lighsaber. I would love to get my son some cool SW vehicles so Lightening McQueen and Thomas can fend off those ATATs. How about some quality games and costumes? Where are the bikes/sleds/wagons with X-Wing and Tie Fighter like wings attached? Even the video game offerings have been lackluster recently. I have no doubt SW will be a big part of the Disney theme park expansions, but do some good merchandising too with customer surveys and make products I want to buy. 

Sexy Leia is everywhere. You are welcome.
6. The "gender issue". Star Wars has never been great about the gender issues. I am not joking about the “one woman in space” thing. Leia was awesome (despite some weak characterization in places), but we need more appeal for girls and more strong characters they can relate to. (My girls happen to love SW, I am talking in general here.) My biggest fear is that Disney just bought SW to market to boys after they outgrow Cars (the Pixar movie). Then again, that's why I thought they bought Marvel too. Star Wars should be a cross gender license as it has so much to offer. If they market and merchandise only to boys, then it will be a big fail in my book. I’ll have to wait and see on this one.

Disney Princess Leia

7. Disney Princess Leia. This is the first thing everyone mentioned when they heard the announcement. (The second being Cinderella with a blue lightsaber right?) But, anyway... I would go with it. Make her a Disney Princess! 

Wait, come back, hear me out... 

Leia is feisty and independent, but at the same time, she was actually raised as a princess. The daughter of a wealthy royal from Alderaan named Bail Organa, who was also a member of the Galactic Senate. Develop a show/book/merchandise line with Leia at the center. A young Leia who follows her (adopted) father around the galaxy as he does “Galactic Diplomacy” stuff. Leia herself became a senator when she grew up, so she must have been greatly influenced by her father. She can have adventures, be a kid, and we get to see her early years and care more about Alderaan. At least until the Death Star comes along, the show would be very kid friendly. It would be pretty easy to make kids forget about Alderaan if they did a bunch of planet hopping anyway. Leia can even legitimately wear an Alderaan princess dress if you want. 

Disney is developing a similar sounding show about a toddler princess named Sofia. Tap Lauren Faust for some creative input at the very least (you remember, she helped with Power Puff Girls and became goddess of the Bronies?) The point is Lauren makes awesome shows with strong female leads that also happen to be lots of fun. Perfect for this idea of a young Princess Leia. I would rather see a feisty little Leia taking on the galaxy than another classic (and pink) Disney Princess.

Pixar is kinda awesome.
8. Pixar! Yes, Pixar. The new studio that puts out all the best animated movies. It’s full of SW geeks too. Do I want John Lasseter to head up a new SW movie? No, not at all. But Pixar can and does influence some of Disney’s other properties. In this case I think it would be a great idea to have the world renown writing team at Pixar look over the new scripts for the new trilogy of movies Disney announced. I wouldn't be surprised if a Pixar writer was tapped for part of the script anyway. I would also love to see them produce a new Star Wars original trilogy Blu-ray release. Pixar has done well releasing Miyazaki’s work from Japan. They have done well because they are passionate about his movies and treat them with love. Have the people that are passionate about SW at Pixar spearhead a proper release of the original trilogy before Lucas started messing with it. Include the documentaries and details the fans want to see. The Blu-ray stuff Lucas released last year flopped because it wasn't what people really wanted. That’s how Disney can use Pixar to bolster their SW purchase. That and look over the scripts after Joss Whedon develops the characters. Actually, since they all work for Disney and live in California, maybe they can just sit at the same table and work in tandem. (Yes, I am writing fantasy, how could you tell?)

You can send me these for Christmas if you want to.

9. That brings me to Japan. Give Star Wars to Japan and see what happens. Am I joking? Not at all. Remember Kingdom Hearts the video game? It was kinda awesome. That’s what happened when Disney gave one of the best Japanese RPG companies (Square-Enix) the Disney license. Do it again with SW. Maybe we will see Kingdom Hearts 3 with lightsabers. Maybe, even better, we will see some original and new ideas for Star Wars video games or manga or anime or other merchandise come out of Japan. Would I play a SW epic Final Fantasy like game? You bet I would. How about Star Wars meets Animal Crossing? I have no idea, but Japan is creative in a whole different way than America. Let them have the license and see what happens. I mean, it’s not like they can do worse than some of the stuff Lucas released and if people don’t like it, they just won’t buy it.

Grand Admiral Thrawn 

10. The Thrawn Trilogy. The first of the novels based on SW were written by Timothy Zahn. The trilogy that started the whole "expanded universe" of books. I consider Zahn's books to still be the best. They were completely in line with the SW original trilogy and still completely original, except for a few borrowed characters. If anything needs adapting into movies, it’s those three books.

That’s it for today. Leave some comments if there is anything you think I missed that is worth adding to the list, like right now while we are still speculating like fans.

Edit Update:

There has been plenty of rumor mongering about the prospective Cast of Star Wars Episode VII.

Here is what I want to see (with assumptions thrown in cause you know they are going to rehash character types from the other movies).

Christina Hendricks as Mara Jade.
I don't really care who else they cast, but if Mara Jade is in it, they had better hire Hendricks.
I don't care if the character is exactly the same as the books, etc. Have her toy with whatever character they fill in for the Han Solo rogue nice guy Jedi slots. Especially if she distracts the rogue from his stable relationship with the Princess Leia character while flirting with the Jedi. Make her dangerous physically and emotionally pulling strings.

Nathan Fillion is the Han Solo rogue we all love. 
For whoever plays the Han Solo type character... it really has to be Nathan Fillion. Not because he was captain tight-pants, but because I can't really think of any other actor who can fill so in perfectly for a young "Harrison Ford playing Solo" vibe on camera. If the character isn't Han, then expect a friend, child, or another pilot from Corellia with a similar personality.

Judy Dench as Mon Mothma
If they need a leader for the new Republic after the Rebels defeat the Empire. It needs to be Judy Dench playing an older and wiser Mon Mothma holding the power vacuum together and playing the strings of politics.

That's what I want to see. In the hands of a good director and writer, I would go see it even if it was only those three with any acting ability.

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