illustration by Simon Wang for cover of Brendan Bell's Article on Star Wars being mishandled by Disney
It's been almost a decade since Disney bought Lucasfilm, and many infamous changes have been made since then. (Illustration by Simon Wang, Case Western Reserve University)

Seven Year Later, Disney Is Still Mishandling the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise

After spending $4 billion to purchase the iconic media franchise, the giant entertainment conglomerate has little to show for it.

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illustration by Simon Wang for cover of Brendan Bell's Article on Star Wars being mishandled by Disney

After spending $4 billion to purchase the iconic media franchise, the giant entertainment conglomerate has little to show for it.

On Oct. 30, 2012, Disney bought movie and television production company Lucasfilm from George Lucas. This $4 billion deal gave Disney access to every film by the company, as well as the “Star Wars” franchise, including the movies, TV shows, comic books and video games. Seven years have passed since “Star Wars” was sold and it is in a pretty bad position thanks to some poor decisions by Disney.

One of the first victims of Disney’s bad decision-making regarding “Star Wars” was the cancellation of the critically-acclaimed TV show “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” The show was beloved by fans because of its writing and characters, but I guess this wasn’t good enough for the mega-corporation as they cancelled it in 2013. In a statement, Lucasfilm said the following: “As we enter into an exciting new era focused on the next ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming or television programming. You can expect more details in the months to come.”

Eventually the show was picked up by Netflix and had its remaining episodes air in 2014. Disney surprised everyone when they announced that they would bring the show back for one last season in 2020 on Disney Plus. The story of “Clone Wars” should be considered a happy ending as other “Star Wars” media wasn’t so lucky. The company was cleaning house when it came to “Star Wars” shows, as the cancellation of “Clone Wars” occurred just months after the purchase of the franchise. “Clone Wars” wasn’t the only show cancelled as “Star Wars Detours,” an animated comedy show that was never finished, was also axed; this may have been more deserved, however, because unlike “Clone Wars,” it wasn’t very good. These shows weren’t the only “Star Wars” media to face the wrath of Disney in 2013. The House of Mouse decided to turn its gaze toward video games after its TV cancellation spree.

LucasArts was a subsidiary of Lucasfilm that was responsible for either developing or publishing every “Star Wars” video game in existence, at least until April 2013, when Disney announced it was shutting down the famous video game company. I think many fans would agree with me when I say the worst result of this, besides hundreds of people losing their jobs, is the fact that “Star Wars 1313” was cancelled before it was ever finished. The game debuted with a trailer a year earlier and impressed people with its dark and gritty tone, something that was then unusual for the franchise. Disney shut down LucasArts in order to pursue licensing to a different company so that they could make their own games with Disney’s permission.

Out of all the video game companies in the world, Electronic Arts (EA) was able to get the “Star Wars” video game license. This deal with Disney would give them the exclusive rights to make “Star Wars” games. EA was and still is infamous for their bad business practices such as not supporting their own games after release and nickel-and-diming their users with microtransactions. What’s ironic about this is that six days after the closure of LucasArts, EA won the title of worst company in America for the second year in a row. Some may call this a coincidence, but I call it foreshadowing since only three video games have come out since EA gained the rights to “Star Wars” and two of the games generated controversy over their monetization practices.

After killing off TV shows and a video game company, Disney decided to take a break from slowly ruining the “Star Wars” license without even releasing a movie. They returned in 2014 to declare that the “Star Wars” Expanded Universe would be considered non-canon going forward. Leland Chee, a member of the then newly-formed Lucasfilm Story Group, released information via Twitter about what the plan was for the “Star Wars” canon:

“’Star Wars’ Canon is now determined by the Lucasfilm Story Group which [Pablo Hidalgo] and I are both a part of. Story Group has a hand in all facets of Star Wars storytelling, including movies, TV, games, and publishing. More so than ever, the canon field will serve us internally simply for classification rather than setting hierarchy. [Disposing of the hierarchy and having one cohesive canon is] definitely a primary goal of the Story Group.”

It makes sense that they would want to make sure that the “Star Wars” universe had a unified story with no continuity errors, but this did not have to happen at the expense of tons of great novels, games and comic books. Even as a causal fan I was upset at this because I had hoped to see something like the “Force Unleashed” games turned into a movie one day, but Disney saw fit to make sure that didn’t happen. Instead, they decided to make an entire trilogy of films with no sense of direction or consistency.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was Disney’s first attempt at a “Star Wars” movie and it was just an okay movie that relied too heavily on the nostalgia people have for the original trilogy. Its sequel, “The Last Jedi,” opened the floodgates for internet toxicity from people who loved the film and people who hated it. It was a movie that seemed to ignore everything that the previous movie had set up, all for the sake of doing something different. I wasn’t a huge fan of “Force Awakens” but it at least set up some interesting things to look forward to in the future.

It left me wondering who Rey’s parents were, who Snoke was and where the First Order came from. What did “The Last Jedi” do? Reject all of that. Rey’s parents? They don’t matter. Supreme Leader Snoke? He dies out of nowhere with no new info revealed about him. I immediately lost interest in the main “Star Wars” films after “Last Jedi.” Instead I turned my interest to the fantastic “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” with its dark and gritty tone and ability to not only do something different but to do something that’s actually good. “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus is also a great show that’s similar to “Rogue One” in tone, but manages to evoke the atmosphere of the Western.

Disney should be releasing movies like “Rogue One” and “The Mandalorian” because they are more liked than the new trilogy that they have released, especially the newest one, “The Rise of the Skywalker.” This movie has managed to upset just about any fans that remain. It retcons something and then never explains it. There are so many things in the movie that serve no purpose other than to pander to some portion of the fanbase. The problem is that they tried to please so many people that they ended up pleasing no one. The future of “Star Wars” movies is unknown now since they have decided to stop with spin-off movies since the Han Solo movie flopped.

The next film is set to arrive in 2022 and what I believe they should do is adapt stories from the Expanded Universe and turn them into movies. They should just copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have phases for the films and have them build up to a film like “Avengers: Endgame.” If they don’t then they should have a trilogy directed by one director instead of two so that there is an actual vision for the films. If the films end up being worse than the current trilogy, then I guess I’ll become a “Star Trek” fan. Beam me up, Scotty.

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