Star Wars fans, you might want to sit down for this one — The Walt Disney Company just announced its plans to purchase Lucasfilm Ltd from George Lucas, with plans to release Star Wars: Episode 7 sometime during 2015. While there aren't any release dates yet for Episodes 8 and 9, those films will be coming as well — and the studio has even more beyond a new trilogy planned for the future.
The deal is a stock and cash transaction, with Lucas receiving about half of the $4.05 billion value of the deal in cash plus some 40 million stock shares. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers," Lucas said in a statement. "I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."
Disney plans to release a new 'Star Wars' film every two to three years
The deal will see Disney take control of all of Lucafilm's assets, including the "evergreen" Star Wars franchise, the Indiana Jones franchise, and operating businesses in "live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production." Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will take over as President of the new Lucasfilm division and report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Lucas himself will stay on as creative consultant for the new Star Wars films, with Kennedy serving as executive producer. While it's too soon to tell exactly what this will mean for the future of the Star Wars franchise (aside from more movies, at least), we'll be on Disney's conference call with investors at 4:30pm ET to see if we learn anything else.
Update: We're listening in to Disney's conference call right now, and Disney just confirmed that Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound are included in the transaction. It also confirmed a long-term plan of releasing a new feature Star Wars film every two to three years — beyond the planned Episodes 7, 8, and 9.
Disney think the franchise has TV potential
Disney also confirmed some other plans for the franchise, including placement in its gaming and television business as well as its parks and resorts business. It sounds like we can look forward to more Star Tours, new Star Wars video games, and even more non-film tie-in products. Specifically, Disney said that it "really likes Star Wars' potential on TV" and noted that "Disney XD will be a great home for that." As for gaming, Disney itself said it will focus more on social and mobile gaming than developing games for home consoles, but left open the door for licensing Star Wars to other game developers and publishers.
During the Q&A, Disney said that they were purchasing an "extensive and detailed" treatment for the next film trilogy, so Disney won't be starting from scratch. It also said the movies were in the "early stage development" at the moment, and noted that it hopes to have Episodes 8 and 9 released "every other year" — so 2017 and 2019 are the current target dates.
As for Industrial Light & Magic, Disney says that it will let the company continue to do business as usual — it can continue to work with other studios. While the Indiana Jones franchise wasn't mentioned much, Disney did say that though it now owns the rights, there might not be any new films because of potential hurdles with Indiana Jones distributor Paramount.
Sean Hollister and Bryan Bishop contributed to this report.
Update #2: The official Star Wars website has posted an interview with George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy where the pair talk about the acquisition — and the future of the Star Wars saga.