The force is strong with Mickey Mouse.
In one of the most momentous entertainment industry acquisitions of the last 30 years, the Walt Disney Company announced on Tuesday that it is purchasing Lucasfilm in a stock and cash deal valued at $4.05 billion. The sale includes plans for Star Wars: Episode VII, which is in early development, aiming for release in 2015. Walt Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced in a shareholder conference call that the studio also intending to release Episode VIII and Episode IX. “Our longterm plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years,” he added, noting that the deal came with “an extensive and detailed treatment for the next three movies.”
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Star Wars creator and Lucasfilm CEO George Lucas in a statement. “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.” Iger said Lucas began considering retirement four or five years ago, and the two began informally discussing Disney acquiring Lucasfilm a year and a half ago, although they only got serious more recently.
Veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy, who recently became co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become the studio’s president, reporting to Disney studios chairman Alan Horn. She will executive produce the future Star Wars films, with Lucas serving as a creative consultant. In a video released by Disney (and embedded below), Lucas says he and Kennedy have already been working on future Star Wars films with unspecified writers. “We have a large group of ideas and characters and books and all kinds of things,” Lucas said. “We could go on making Star Wars for the next 100 years.”
The deal also includes plans to incorporate Star Wars into Disney’s TV, parks, and games businesses, as well as acquisition of Lucas’ companies like Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, and Skywalker Ranch. Standing distribution deals with Fox and Paramount will play a factor for Disney in monetizing the previous six Star Wars films and last four Indiana Jones films, respectively.
The purchase marks a clear desire by Disney to expand further into the tent-pole feature film business, with Pixar Animation Studios and Marvel Studios moving into the Mouse House over the last decade.
You can watch Iger and Lucas’ official announcement of their deal below: