George Lucas: Grand Master Jedi of Lucasfilm

Thomas Martin

‘Having a new home within the Disney organisation, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come,’ said George Lucas after his Lucasfilm was acquired by Disney for $4.05 billion ($1.855bn in stocks) on October the 30th, 2012. This sale was the culmination of nearly 40 years of work by George Lucas, creating a franchise (and arguably two) which has influenced pop culture immeasurably. After raising his Lucasfilm baby, Lucas now reaps the rewards of cinematic and monetary stardom. What has happened to his former empire? What is he doing now? And is a Lucas return on the horizon? Impact‘s Thomas Martin explores.

The final hurdle for the Disney-Lucasfilm merger passed on December 4th, 2012, after approval by the Federal Trade Commission, meaning no antitrust problems would arise (competition law that regulates anti-competitive conduct to maintain market competition). Consequently, officially, on December the 21st, 2012, Lucasfilm became a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Looking specifically into the commercial agreement, all live-action film production, consumer products, video games, animation, visual effects, and audio post-production ownership transferred to Disney, as well as Lucasfilm’s portfolio of entertainment technologies. Star Wars merchandising rights were to begin in 2014.

Interestingly, 20th Century Fox retained the physical and theatrical distribution rights to the prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II, and III), Episodes V and VI of the original trilogy, and full distribution rights to the original 1997 film (Episode IV), whilst Lucasfilm retained the television and distribution rights to Star Wars Episodes I through VI with exception to IV.

On March the 20th, 2019, Disney solved this entanglement dilemma by acquiring 20th Century Fox, meaning all distribution and ownership rights pertaining to the Star Wars franchise belonged to Disney. Paramount Pictures held distribution and marketing rights to future Indiana Jones films, and Disney purchased those rights in December 2013.

All Lucasfilm subsidiaries now fell under the Disney banner, which as of writing, sees the company structure as followed: Industrial Light and Magic (visual effects), which includes Lucas Studio, ILM Singapore, ILM Vancouver, ILM London, ILM Sydney, and ILMxLAB; Skywalker Sound (post-production sound design); Lucasfilm Games; Lucasfilm Animation; Lucas Licencing, which includes Lucas Books; and the Lucasfilm Story Group. Since the acquisition, Disney closed both Lucas Learning and Lucas Online, and the other two Lucasfilm pre-Disney acquisition subsidiaries, Pixar Animation Studios and THX (theatre sound system). The former remains in Disney (separate from the Lucasfilm subsidiaries) and the latter is now owned by Razer Inc.

After dissecting the current state of his former company, it is important to touch upon the impact and legacy of it. Narrative art has changed because of the movie universe created in Star Wars. Marvel and DC have been able to truly take off following in the original footsteps grounded in 1997. The films’ content also allows for expansion, such as the famous scene between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), where the singular question, ‘You fought in The Clone Wars?’ has spawned the prequel films, The Clone Wars and Rebels animated tv series, and countless new characters, merchandise items, and future possibilities.

Lucas’ net worth is now over $10bn

Regarding merchandising, in 1977, Lucasfilm contracted with 21ST Century Fox to direct his own film for only $150,000, but Lucas would get merchandising rights. Everybody knows that Star Wars merchandise is incredibly popular and abundant today, but back then it wasn’t the case. Lucas’ net worth is now over $10bn.

The productions of these movies, using the facilities at ILM and other subsidiaries at the time, saw sound design and special effects’ innovations. ILM have worked on over 300 films since, and pioneered the Dykstraflex, which is the first motion-controlled camera system that could be programmed by computer. Within ILM existed The Graphics Group, who, after some development by Steve Jobs, eventually released the world’s first fully-CGI movie, Toy Story. Today, this Group is now within Pixar Studios.

Now, enjoying retirement, how is the AFI Life Achievement Award (2006 and 2013), National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, and Disney Legend recipient spending his time? In 1991, The George Lucas Educational Foundation was established, and it works through the Edutopia brand providing educational materials for Kindergatern through to 12th grade students in the USA. Signing Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge in July 2021, Lucas also has donated heavily to the Make-A-Wish foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, and the Film Foundation.

Politically, he is a known Barack Obama-donor during his presidential runs and is rumoured to have donated to both Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden. Other philanthropic donations include to the construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the non-profit After School Matters, the University of Southern California Film Department, and the Barack Obama Presidential Centre in Chicago. Additionally, in 2025, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art hopes to open in Los Angeles.

During the merger with Disney, Lucas was originally promised to serve as Creative Consultant for future projects. Despite some involvement with Episode VII, Lucas was largely shut out until his involvement with the executive producers of The Mandalorian, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. Lucas did have scripts for post-Return of the Jedi movies, but these were rejected by Disney. According to Lucas himself, these sequels would have seen Leia ‘trying to rebuild the Republic’ and Luke ‘trying to restart the Jedi’. For the villain, none other than Darth Maul would have been resurrected, alongside Darth Talon, his female apprentice.

society is better thanks to George Lucas

However, at the age of 78, with 4 children, and after becoming the richest film director in the world, it is no critique of Mr. Lucas that he should spend his days in Carpinteria, California, with his family, carefully allocating his endless wealth to deserving charitable causes.

Whether the Grand Master of the Jedi returns to thunderous applause is unclear, but one thing is: society is better thanks to George Lucas, and that is achievement enough.

Thomas Martin

Featured image courtesy of  Brian McGowan via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article image courtesy of @indianajonesofficial via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

In-article video courtesy of 701 film via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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