As Hurricane Sandy continues its destructive path across the East Coast of the United States on this eventful Halloween, Disney and George Lucas have dropped an unexpected announcement that has sent a shock-wave across the entire entertainment industry: Disney has successfully acquired Lucasfilm and announces a new trilogy kicking off in 2015! 

Every once in a while, there are some news that we come across and are frankly at a loss in dealing with it. Back in our first official article on The Daily Zombies dated September 1, 2009, we experienced an astounding announcement when Disney acquired Marvel. While the news today is somewhat similar in nature, the stunning impact of the announcement has sent a shock-wave across the entertainment industry and every single fanboys out there: Disney has successfully acquired Lucasfilm and announces Star Wars Episode VII in 2015, followed by Episodes VIII and IX every other year! Yes, mark your calendar. If we survives 2012, 2015 will see the releases of Joss Whedon's The Avengers 2, Warner Bros.'s Justice League, and the return of one of the most popular franchises of all time!

Acquired for $4.05 billion, the deal also covered Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound as well as the Indiana Jones franchise, which will however be left alone for now thanks to legal complications with distributor Paramount. Speaking of distribution rights, 20th Century Fox will continue to push forth the 3D releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith next year as they still own all theatrical, non-theatrical and home video rights to every Star Wars films through May 2020 except Star Wars: A New Hope, of which their ownership is permanent, according to THR.

With this deal, Lucas will officially bow out as the head honcho directing the fan-favourite franchise and will instead be onboard as a "creative consultant" for the new films, handing over the throne to long-time collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, who will also be serving as the executive producer on the new trilogy. Apart from the new film, Disney will also be expanding Star Wars into television on their networks.

In the below video clips, Lucas and Kennedy discussed over the future of the franchise while Disney CEO Bob Iger addresses the acquisition.

Here's the full press release by Disney:

Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.” 

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. 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. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations. 

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.

Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.

The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney’s very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney’s portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company’s ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world’s highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders. 

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.

As clich├ęd as it sounds, only time will tell if this bodes well for the franchise. We are definitely cautious on this given how the prequel trilogy chopped up the collective hearts of the fans. In addition, the money-grabbing nature of Disney to seize the earliest opportunity to cash out their billions might also mean not enough time for proper planning for the new trilogy.

Undead fingers crossed on this one.


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