The Marvelization of Star Wars

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Love ’em or hate ’em (and just admit that you love ’em already), you have to admit that Disney knows how to run a company. They’re like the Google of the entertainment industry, which is odd to say out loud since they were around long before Google. Founded in the 1920’s, they’ve done nothing but dominate and grow in the fields of film, television, publishing, music, theme parks and more. When Robert Iger took over the helm in 2005, the company took even bigger steps to cement its place as a leader in entertainment by purchasing companies like Pixar ($7.4 billion in 2006), Marvel ($4.24 billion in 2007), and of course Lucasfilm ($4.06 billion in 2012). Read More

To Spoil Or Not To Spoil?

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In 1996, I started this site. The “Special Editions” were just gearing up and everything in the Star Wars Universe was fun and nostalgic. Then the Prequels were announced and everything went crazy. News started to leak out in all directions and Lucasfilm went bananas trying to plug all the holes, quite often just denying stuff and calling the Internet rumors “crazy.” Well, they weren’t so crazy and while a bunch were quite ridiculous, a LOT of them were on the money.

In my case, I didn’t quite expect to be in the “spoiler” game. It sort of just fell into my lap. There were many sites posting information on Episode I before it came out but there were only 3-5 reputable ones and without sounding too smug, I think this site was perhaps one of them. It’s up for debate but I did receive a LOT of information. I was sent tons of material and in the end almost all of it proved to be legit. In fact, just the other day I was going through some old boxes and found all my old printed materials and notes. The stuff I had was surprisingly accurate and was in my hands over a year before the film was released, if not earlier. I had shooting schedules, artwork, character descriptions, scene-by-scene summaries, and lots more. At the time, I couldn’t really be 100% sure what was real but when things started coming in from multiple and unrelated sources, it became easier to draw conclusions.

In any case, the site became wildly popular and the more popular it became, the more sources sent stuff to me and/or other sites. It was hard to not just blanket-post stuff. Lucasfilm was pretty tough and they were threatening the site here and there. They almost took my domain name once. They asked for things to be removed on a regular basis. We got past it all and the film came out and did amazingly well. So their worries that spoilers would kill ticket sales were unfounded. I always maintained that (spoilers or not) the fan sites did nothing but drum up even more anticipation for a film and gave the studio TONS of free promotion/advertisement.  If things leaked, it was really their fault, not mine. Don’t blame me for posting it. Go after the leak.

For Episode II, things changed a little. I moved the site around a bit. I was associated with sites like Fandom.com (now gone) and Cinescape magazine and things got a little more complicated. Sources were still keen to come to me (many were the same ones so it was easy to trust them) but the site was under a different banner and if I posted anything crazy or too “over the line” for Lucasfilm, the Lucas lawyers went right to the top of the food chain. Many times my posts were removed before I even knew what happened.

So after a while I went back to my own server and had some more freedom but after all the Episode I spoilers (most of which I was under the radar for) they knew who I was and were watching even closer now.  Cease and Desist e-mails were a regular thing.  I still got away with posting a lot of textual stuff (rearranging spoilerish material in my own words), plus lots of sketches and images, many of which had to be removed before I was shut down.

Again, the film came out and did well, but not as well as Episode I. However, I don’t attribute that to the fan sites. I attribute that to the horrible backlash that Episode I received. Some would argue that Jar Jar Binks alone was to blame. You can make that call.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d even be in the game for Episode III. I thought that all the sources had moved on and nothing much would come my way. I was very wrong. While the amount of stuff wasn’t as large in total, the stuff I was sent was VERY revealing. I remember one incident where I broke the news that Lucas himself was doing a cameo in the film. I had the name of his character (Baron Papanoida) AND a photo of him in costume. I posted this on the site and a bunch of other sites picked up on it. Within hours I was forced to remove it and got lots of nasty e-mails. Someone on the inside told me I was very close to being sued (not sure if that’s true) and shut down (probably true). I was told that Lucas himself found out about it and got pissed which was why it was such a big deal. Can you imagine the internal e-mails flying around Lucasfilm? Remember, no one knew about this cameo yet. Anyway, just about everything else I had was solid and with a few little hiccups turned out to be legit.

So I had a good run for the prequels and the site was VERY popular around that time. I was pretty happy but I’m guessing that Lucasfilm wasn’t too happy with me because when it came time for them to start including fan sites at their press junkets and so on, they never once asked me which was kind of cool in a way. Wear it like a badge and all that. Ironically, years before, I was one of the first ones out there saying that Lucasfilm should have included fan sites from the start instead of demonizing them. But that’s all over now. I don’t have any regrets and it was a fun ride. History is judging the prequels as lackluster in comparison to the originals and that has absolutely nothing to do with fan sites posting spoilers on the Internet.

So the next question is: What happens with this new trilogy?

Once again, I’m at an impasse. I really don’t think any of my old sources are still “in the game.” I have no expectations. I don’t think I’ll be receiving anything spoilerific about these new films.

But what if I do?

It’s a tough call. I’d want to share it but I also want to see if Lucasfilm is going to make good on a recent promise made by Kathleen Kennedy about the fans to “…recognize they’re important to the process and acknowledge there are things you’re gonna want to make sure they get to know. So I think that’s something we’re going to monitor, pay attention to and think differently about.”

She’s obviously referring to Internet leaks here which is something this site has been known for in the past. Am I still relevant enough to be included in their list of trusted fan sites? Are they just going to stick with the top dogs who play ball that they can easily control? Will they include fan sites at all in their marketing and press efforts?  Lucasfilm was always a little behind the curve on that. They ignored most fan sites right up until the end when they realized they couldn’t all be ignored.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. People (fans and otherwise) are not at all beaming about the Prequel trilogy, box office numbers aside. The general consensus seems to be that it’s a lackluster effort with wooden acting, horrible dialogue and was a bit of a missed opportunity to really go back and explain a few things. I have always maintained that Episode II should have been Episode I and Episode III should have been split out into II and III. Lucas wanted you to see little innocent Anakin  and his mommy but in the end, people weren’t interested in THAT much back story, much of which could have been done in flashbacks or something. But it’s not our baby – it’s George’s. Well… now it’s Disney’s but you know what I mean.

So while Lucasfilm will probably deny this for all time, Star Wars took a pretty big hit. Sure, they tried to over-saturate with cartoons and other stuff but as for the films themselves, people might have “liked” them but they’re not going to go down as timeless classics like the first three seem to have. No one’s going to be saying, “Oh that Jar Jar… so funny!” thirty years from now.

So yes, even with something like Star Wars, there’s a lot riding on these new films and a lot to potentially lose here. This new trilogy has to be up to snuff. If the first one doesn’t really blow people away, people are going to just move on and the brand will suffer. I think Lucasfilm should really reach out to the fans and fan sites and come up with a good marketing strategy that keeps the sites happy and less inclined to just reflexively post anything and everything that comes into our hands.

Here’s an example which will probably never happen, but should provide a little perspective. If Lucasfilm came to me today and said they wanted to include me in their marketing strategy for promoting the film by sending me some weekly updates, maybe a once-a-month super cool exclusive that no one else would get, and perhaps some way to get other access like an interview now and then or something, I might be willing to go that route for the duration and not just blanket post things sent to me that are probably spoiler -laden and would most definitely result in me being removed from any and all contact inside Lucasfilm, thereby blowing my good standing with them (which I don’t have anyway, based on prior history, I assume.)

Alternatively, I could just ignore all that and post whatever I wanted hoping to not be shut down or sued or whatever.

Will they do it? Will they extend the olive branch to some of the popular sites? I’m sure they’re going to work with a few of the bigger ones. Those are the sites that have full working staffs and LLC statuses. But what about the smaller guys who might not get 19,000,000,000 hits a day but have been pretty successful in the past and have a decent following? I guess we’ll see what they decide soon.

The film’s being written. The director’s on board. I’m sure casting has begun. Things are going to start leaking very soon.

Get ready!

 

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What do you think? Leave some comments and let’s talk.

New Animated Series Announced: Star Wars Rebels

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When George Lucas decided to retire and sell Lucasfilm, everyone expected a few changes. New President, Kathleen Kennedy, faced many challenges and had to make some hard decisions. Under the oppressively huge shadow of the multimedia juggernaut known as Disney, it appeared that some of those decisions might have instead fallen into the demand rather than decision category.

Being that Disney already had well-established multimedia divisions in place, the decision to dismantle certain entities such as LucasArts seemed to be aimed at avoiding competition with oneself.  Disney’s interactive arm already develops games and software, among other things. Why have another internal company creating games? I know they’ve hired EA, but I’m sure they’ll develop some stuff internally. Something similar could be said for Lucasfilm’s animation division. The successful Clone Wars animated series was abruptly canceled which upset many fans and left some story arcs incomplete. Almost a whole season sits in limbo, waiting to find its way to fans. Will Disney buy and air the final episodes? Probably not. Will they go straight to DVD? Possibly. We’ll see. I never really watched the show but what I did see was pretty good.

The show aired on Cartoon Network, a direct competitor to Disney’s television stations, including Disney XD which is the home to many of Disney’s shows including Spider-Man and Avengers cartoons as well as other animated and live action programs.

So why cancel the show in the first place? No one really knows for sure but it probably revolved around money somehow. Perhaps Disney didn’t want to buy the show out or just didn’t want anything to do with something touched by the Time Warner-owned Cartoon Network.

In any case, we’re getting something else now: Star Wars Rebels.

Many a fan, including myself have wondered when Lucasfilm would venture into this nearly untouched period of time before Episode IV concerning the “Jedi Purge,” in fanboy speak. I didn’t think we’d get it in animated form but just because one medium is involved, doesn’t mean others won’t follow. Once new characters and scenarios are established, endless books, comics, and perhaps even films will be sure to follow.

Here’s an excerpt from the Starwars.com press release:

Production has begun on Star Wars Rebels, an exciting, all-new animated television series based on one of the greatest entertainment franchises of all time. Scheduled to premiere in fall 2014 as a one-hour special telecast on Disney Channel, it will be followed by a series on Disney XD channels around the world.

The action-filled series is set between the events of Episode III and IV — an era spanning almost two decades never-before explored on-screen. Star Wars Rebels takes place in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape. Details about the show are a closely guarded secret at this point.

Source: Starwars.com 

Why Brad Bird Turned Down Episode VII

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In a recent interview, famed director Brad Bird opened up about being an early name mentioned as a possible candidate to direct Star Wars: Episode VII. He recently revealed that he was not ultimately interested in the job and that the schedule Lucasfilm had in mind was what turned him off of the highly-anticipated project.

He went on to say . . . .

“I’ve known (producer) Kathy Kennedy for a while and I know George Lucas. And they did come to me. But the problem was, the schedule they had in mind made it impossible to do…unless I dropped Tomorrowland. And I was just really deeply into this film at that point. It’s easy to say, ‘Just put it on hold.’ But you’re moving now; you don’t know if you’re going to be able to move later. Maybe it’s true of filmmakers like Cameron or Spielberg, but I have to act on momentum. We had reached a critical mass where it would’ve thrown the furniture around from the train stopping. I really want to see this movie. I love the Star Wars films, and I can’t wait to see what J.J. Abrams does, but it meant I’d have to shut down one dream to participate in another. I feel like with Tomorrowland we’re making something that’s really special and unique.”

Disney’s highly anticipated sequel trilogy blasts its way into theaters in 2015.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Dave Filoni of “The Clone Wars” Post-cancellation Interview

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By now you have heard that the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is not returning for a 6th season.  RebelForce Radio posted the first post-cancellation interview with the driving force behind “The Clone Wars”, Dave Filoni, in which he reveals that he is still very much involved in Lucasfilm Animation and will be involved in future Star Wars projects.

Filoni couldn’t say much about that future, but did give some interesting insight into the show that he just finished working on and the mysterious bonus footage that exists from the show.

“When you look at Ahsoka and you see the evolution of her character from season one to season five, and you see the change in her, and in the attitude, and the performance by Ashley (Eckstein), it really symbolizes the kind of change and evolution of the entire series”, says Filoni.

“I’ve seen some fans say, ‘is there going to be a proper ending?’, and I don’t quite understand what they mean by a proper ending…  the ending for her is that she has survived … and that there are more stories to tell.”

Whether you were a fan of the show or not, you have to respect the fact that 100+ episodes later, we have much greater insight into that time period and what was happening with many familiar characters including everyone’s favorite good guy/bad guy Anakin Skywalker.  And more Star Wars is on the way!

One more interesting little tidbit from the interview:  The cast and crew had a little wrap party meal at the local In & Out Burger.  Their order number… 66!

Dave Filoni has the receipt to prove it.

Make sure to check out the entire interview with Dave Filoni over in the RebelForceRadio.com podcast.

 
Here’s the Bonus Footage from IGN’s youtube channel.

 

~kknight – is a lifelong Star Wars fanatic that is incredibly excited to be working with T-bone.  Ahsoka, surprisingly really to me, will be missed.

Episode VII: The Original Dream Team Is (Probably) Returning

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In an article on Businessweek.com, George Lucas dropped the closest thing to confirmation that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher will reprise their roles as Luke, Han, and Leia in Star Wars: Episode VII.

Here’s an excerpt:

Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

The rest of the article details the selling of Lucasfilm to Disney. It contains a lot of history you may already know, but it’s worth a read if anything to see how things operate behind closed doors at big companies.

It also talks about how Lucas was on the fence about whether or not to hand over his outlines for a sequel trilogy – outlines he has claimed many times never existed.

At first Lucas wouldn’t even turn over his rough sketches of the next three Star Wars films. When Disney executives asked to see them, he assured them they would be great and said they should just trust him. “Ultimately you have to say, ‘Look, I know what I’m doing. Buying my stories is part of what the deal is.’ I’ve worked at this for 40 years, and I’ve been pretty successful,” Lucas says. “I mean, I could have said, ‘Fine, well, I’ll just sell the company to somebody else.’ ”

Once Lucas got assurances from Disney in writing about the broad outlines of the deal, he agreed to turn over the treatments—but insisted they could only be read by Iger, Horn, and Kevin Mayer, Disney’s executive vice president for corporate strategy. “We promised,” says Iger. “We had to sign an agreement.”

When Iger finally got a look at the treatments, he was elated. “We thought from a storytelling perspective they had a lot of potential,” he says.

So, I’ll be the first to say it: Here’s where the fun begins!