Disney Confirms Unimaginative, Boring Plan To Make 'Star Wars' Spinoffs “Origin Story Films”

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by Kevin Jagernauth
September 12, 2013 8:34 PM
25 Comments
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When news emerged earlier this year that "Star Wars" spinoff movies were being eyed alongside the new trilogy, with Han Solo, Boba Fett and Yoda reportedly getting standalone films, there was definitely a spark of interest and potential, even from longtime fans who felt burned by the prequels. Maybe this would be the area where Disney and Lucasfilm would exercise some real creative freedom. How awesome would a dark and gritty Han Solo movie be? What about a '70s vibe genre flick for Boba Fett? Well, keep dreaming because Disney has some pretty dull plans for these characters.

Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo spoke today during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference and reassured the room full of moneymen worried about their stock portfolios that, “of all our worries, ‘Star Wars’ is not one of them.” And it's a very telling statement considering he re-confirmed "Star Wars" release plans, which will see a sequel and spinoff released in alternating years, with the latter to be an “origin story film.” Sigh. And from a totally cynical, depressing point of view, it makes complete sense.

Why was a "Cars" sequel and a "Planes" spinoff made? For the simple reason that the licensing from that franchise rakes it in more than any other Pixar title. And when it comes to Lucasfilm, which Disney bought, what will be the easiest, most boring way to cash in on that $4 billion investment? Keep printing the money that fans are already spending on all manner of products featuring the iconic characters. It's just simple math at the end of the day, and the safest course of action for Disney execs and shareholders (joke is on you if you think this is about what the fans want). And especially coming off two expensive, risky megaflops—"John Carter" and "The Lone Ranger"—Disney is not going to be taking any more chances and something that isn't a certainty or that can't predictably rack up ancillary bucks.

Oh, but wait, J.J. Abrams is at the head of the ship, and he surely will do something bold and original to set the stage for the rest of the films. Um, did you see "Star Trek Into The Darkness"? Talk about one of the most crass blockbusters this summer, devoid of anything fresh. More crucially, it resurrected a classic 'Trek' villain, and we'd be willing to bet heavy dollars that somewhere in these origin story prequels, Darth Vader's shadow will be looming.

And if you want to know just how corporate this whole "Star Wars" re-launch is, well, here's an excerpt from Variety's article, which basically drives the point home:

Rasulo said Disney’s in-house licensing and consumer products group would devote the next year on brokering deals around the world to expand the reach of the “Star Wars” brand.

Given its much smaller size, Lucasfilm had focused primarily on U.S.-based licensing programs and then on toys and a few other categories. But Disney plans to expand broaden it into housewares and other merchandise categories the way it’s increased the vast variety of products that feature Marvel’s superheroes.

“We will lay the groundwork for that … and when the film comes out in 2015, we’ll be ready to blow it out,” Rasulo said.

The good news? You'll be able to buy that Yoda dishware set you've been dreaming of.

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25 Comments

  • RODIE | September 16, 2013 12:39 PMReply

    I fully expect to see a HAN SOLO movie within the next 8-10 years that stars a 20-year-old playing a teen Han Solo, showing his first adventures in the smuggling trade. No doubt about it. And it could possibly be a massive train wreck.

  • Scott | September 16, 2013 8:43 AMReply

    That's a pretty depressing analysis of the situation. Thankfully, I disagree with just about all of it.

    An 'Origin Story' doesn't mean that it will be about Han, Boba, or Yoda. It is safe to say that the new trilogy will feature any number of new and interesting characters of its own. Any of these might be candidates for an 'Origin Story' and surely the realm of possibilities there is endless.

  • Greg | September 14, 2013 5:21 PMReply

    I'm not predicting they will be "flops" by any stretch, but I share the author's sadness that they could not find it in themselves to branch out and tell us NEW stories, one's only hinted at in the larger SW universe.

    An Old Republic trilogy, for example, about Jedi Grand Master Satile Shan and the rise of Darth Malgus would have more room to maneuver in terms of story and character than more Han/Luke/Leia/Londo/etc films.

  • Fred | September 13, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    There it is, in the middle of this hardline editorial so crusty that the author must have chomped a cigar to write it: um. That great linguistic equalizer that has come to make the entire world using it sound like nine year old girls. Why, the pure schizophrenic nature of its appearance in this tough-as-nails piece made the author himself flub the eviscerated title the cutesy term prefaced unless Star Trek Into The Darkness was a Bollywood knockoff unknown to many of us.

  • Daniel | September 13, 2013 12:46 PMReply

    The only thing that would make any of this bad is if the films themselves are bad. It's a good point to bring up that the originals were surrounded with a flood of marketing, and that didn't hurt their quality - - for the first 2 pictures. But Return of the Jedi is an absolute failure as a film, a sequel, and as simple entertainment, and this is directly because the marketing department started steering the ship. It's remarkable to me that companies seem to think that licenses create revenue sui generis -- when easily the greatest guarantee of making money on a product is to continue making it well.

    Hopefully Disney looks at the .5 billion that Phantom Menace made as the disaster that it was: that is everyone going to see the film ONCE. There is no long term money in that. Make it well, and they will see it a thousand times, and buy all the Yoda crap you want to hawk at them. I know I did.

  • Eddie | September 14, 2013 9:10 AM

    You know, the truth is that the haters attitude of never being happy arises from such an obvious place...they always want the Star Wars films to look like what they imagined. George Lucas could have played it easily. He could have given the ''fans'' what he wanted. But he instead stayed TRUE to his origins, and made something bold, that took the fans to a new aspect of the saga. The Phantom Menace is anything but a disaster pal. In it's 3D re-release it made the same amount of money as Titanic, a film everyone supposedly loves. If the Darth Maul figures and the Lego sets of Phantom Menace with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar riding the Bongo through Naboo's planet core aren't indications of long term money, then I don't know what is.

    So, you know it should be no surprise that the haters get annoyed when their won't be a ''dark and gritty'' Han Solo film and instead we get an origin story. Don't be surprised when Episode VII roles around, and they start to say that Disney ''raped'' their childhood, that JJ Abrams is a ''greedy'' dude, and so forth.

    But at the end of the day, what do the hateboys accomplish?: NOTHING. The Star Wars prequels remain wildly popular among the people of my generation and the younger ones, because at the end of the day that's who Star Wars was made for.

  • catttt | September 13, 2013 3:06 PM

    ^agreed 100%. The original SW films are loved because people like the characters. The original films have stood the test of time because there's Han Solo, Vader, Chewbacca, Luke etc.

    The only positive thing people say about the prequels nowadays: "The lightsaber fights were awesome". People don't care about those stories and characters. Even the apologists hate Anakin as a kid and adult.

  • shedzy | September 13, 2013 8:43 AMReply

    If people dont like the films, they wont see the films;
    if people dont see the films, then they wont buy the merchandise;
    if people dont buy the merchandise then Disney wont make the money........

    Fear leads to anger
    anger leads to hate
    and hate leads to the dark side............

  • John M | September 13, 2013 7:59 AMReply

    I agree with Dustin, plus you're reporting on the CFO of Disney's conference with banks and investors. News flash, the conversation in that context will be talking about money. Disney is a business and they need to generate a profit off these films to continue making them. This by no means dooms these films to be flops. The key to having a successful film is creating something your target audience will enjoy and like. Please point out where Disney has ruined the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example. They haven't and they won't interfere with Star Wars. They want these films to be more like the original trilogy.

    Star Wars is also heavily merchandised anyway, in case you failed to realize that.

  • Dustin Philipson | September 13, 2013 7:47 AMReply

    News f***ing flash: The original trilogy was the VERY template for this kind of merchandising tie-in approach this horned-rim glasses wearing schmo is lamenting.

    Please spare me this "corporate-take-over-of-a-beloved-franchise" crap; it exposes you as the NON-Star Wars fan you most likely are (but apparently you love your Karl Marx Cliff's Notes, and most likely think Middle-America is a wast land of idiocy and consumer of lowest-common-denominator pop-culture trash blah-blah-regurgitated-sh*t-my-college-profs-burned-into-my-brain-blah-blah-blah).

    I don't know what you were taking interest in as a kid in your coastal cocoon in the 80's/early 90's, but my buddies & me in the midwest, we were covering up with Star Wars comforters, puttin' Star Wars posters on our walls, staging elaborate battles in our living rooms with our Star Wars action figures and accompanying playsets (which we kept in our official Star Wars carrying cases, shaped like character's busts from the movies).

    Heck I think for breakfast we would even enjoy bowls of 'Kellogg's C-3PO's'. And we sure as hell made sure to be home in front of the TV when they aired those made-for-t.v. Ewok spin-off movies.

    POINT: This franchise has from it's inception been heavily merchandised. Some children had their imaginations sparked by the official Star Wars products/ toys/ tie-in's etc. long before they were even old enough to watch the films.

    So please spare us all your hipster "corporations-are-raping-my-child-hood" spiel.

    - Dustin Philipson

  • Chris | September 19, 2013 1:07 AM

    I agree BUT as a somewhat hipster from the West Coast, I don't like your labeling. But everything else here is good. In fact, it's spot on.

    Also, is it impossible to have heavy merchandising and a good film? (See: Indiana Jones, Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Batman (the original here), among others ...)

  • Christopher Bell | September 13, 2013 10:56 AM

    When I read your name at the top I was like "that's not his real name" and then when you wrote it again at the bottom I am CONVINCED that is not your REAL NAME.

  • JJ | September 13, 2013 4:15 AMReply

    I don't like this news much either. But guys, you really should stop with those judgemental headlines that are always so full of anger and hate. I mean, this is a great website, but the frequent vicious tone of your articles bothers me a lot. Maybe you should consider being a bit more neutral about things. Just my two cents.

  • Gabe Toro | September 13, 2013 3:44 PM

    We suck young blood.

  • nylok | September 13, 2013 8:29 AM

    Well said, Dustin!!!! This article makes me sick!! Born in 75 and I know Disney is doing this right!! Author, your just a hater.

  • Fred | September 13, 2013 5:08 AM

    JJ, clearly you miss the point of "film criticism."

  • catherine | September 13, 2013 3:13 AMReply

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  • Jar Jar Abrams | September 13, 2013 3:04 AMReply

    These films would be a bad idea even if you had good directors and writers. Boba Fett or Yoda can't carry a film, they're better as supporting characters. Yoda's dialogue gets really old if you listen to it for 2 hours, Boba Fett is just a henchman not a character.

    Han Solo origin story would've been a good idea in the 90's if River Phoenix never took the speedball that killed him.

  • clara | September 12, 2013 11:02 PMReply

    What did you expect to hear from Disney's chief moneyman talking to other moneymen?

  • Jake | September 12, 2013 10:58 PMReply

    Very much agreed. The Lucasfilm/Disney STAR WARS transaction was just that, a business deal where new movies also happen to be a component. If these releases fit within the Marvel Studios model, it could be interesting to see TV stalwarts like Alan Taylor, the Russo Bros., or Michelle MacLaren make the leap into studio filmmaking. STAR WARS, regardless of how people feel about each individual entry, did come from the specific vision of one filmmaker, though at its finest a slew of creatives were involved (Irvin Kershner, Gary Kurtz, Willard Hyuck/Gloria Katz, Lawrence Kasdan, etc...). It would be great for a new STAR WARS film to be able to take risks, be daring, and expand upon a rich universe, but with the type of economic demand behind it and news of these origin stories/prequels/direction by the "geek-approved" J.J. Abrams, I doubt it will take place.

    Oh well.

  • Gustavo | September 12, 2013 10:31 PMReply

    Star Trek ID was 'crass'? It is elegant, both in visuals and narrative.

    'Crass' is a word I'd use to define Now You See Me and Jack the giant Slayer. But a J.J. Abrams movie? Never. You're trying too hard to come off as a pessimist sourpuss.

  • jimmiescoffee | September 12, 2013 10:30 PMReply

    wait, Disney bought star wars to cash in on a bunch of shit and MAKE MONEY? call the AP!!!! is nothing sacred? thanks kev!

  • Jeremy Hull | September 12, 2013 9:18 PMReply

    Personally, I think that Mr. Kevin Jagernauth is jumping to conclusions before he's even seen a single frame of a movie that's still under development. How about we wait to see what the final storyline is going to be? And is it any shocker that Disney is focusing on how they're going to continue to make money off of one of the most profitable franchises of all time? That's what corporate business leaders do; they focus on the profit while the creative minds sit around and go, "How the hell can we make this good for the fans?"

    The story is in good hands with JJ Abrams at the helm. Sir, you may have found 'Star Trek: Into Darkness" a bit - as you put it - 'crass', but you cannot deny the fact that the creative mind behind "LOST" and "Super 8" is a perfect fit. I have high hopes and high expectations - admittedly a little to high - but I am willing to set those expectations aside for a good story and solid directorial approach, because I know that JJ Abrams will deliver a fantastic motion picture.

    Frankly I think that Mr. Jagernauth is jumping on the 'lets hate Disney' wagon far to earlier. I'll tell you what? If you have such a huge problem with Disney expanding the 'Star Wars' universe, how about taking the time to create your own treatment and pitch it? Let me know what the opinionated fans think of your concept, and good luck convincing the businessmen the marketing angle is not important.

  • Washington | September 12, 2013 9:35 PM

    "And is it any shocker that Disney is focusing on how they're going to continue to make money off of one of the most profitable franchises of all time? That's what corporate business leaders do"

    Why is this my problem though? And why does anyone "owe" Disney the benefit of the doubt?

  • Amy | September 12, 2013 8:46 PMReply

    Ugh, Disney. Does anyone actually want these? No offense to Star Wars fans, but I wish Hollywood would just let this franchise die already.

    On another note, though, as disappointing as some parts of STID were, I didn't find the overall movie nearly as bad as The Playlist seems to. Besides, if the new Star Wars movies are bad (and even as someone who likes J.J. Abrams a lot, I'm not really looking forward to them at all), it's going to be near-impossible to tell how much influence Abrams had on the final product.

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