Lucasfilm Deal Represents Shift In Hollywood

Audie Cornish speaks with Steven Zeitchik, who covers entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, about the recent Disney deal that bought out filmmaker George Lucas' production company Lucasfilm Ltd. for over $4 billion. The company is behind one of the most beloved, profitable and iconic movie franchises of all time, Star Wars.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A surprise announcement yesterday from the Walt Disney Company. The studio that gave us "Cinderella"...

(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMATED MOVIE, "CINDERELLA")

CINDERELLA: Oh, my goodness. It's midnight.

CORNISH: Ariel...

([SOUNDBITE OF ANIMATED MOVIE, "THE LITTLE MERMAID"])

ARIEL: (Singing) You want thingamabobs? I got 20.

CORNISH: And "Snow White"...

([SOUNDBITE OF ANIMATED MOVIE, "SNOW WHITE"])

SNOW WHITE: I'm sure I'll get along somehow.

CORNISH: ...has added a new princess to the family.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "STAR WARS")

CARRIE FISHER: (as Princess Leia) Why you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.

CORNISH: Disney has bought Lucasfilm, the force behind two of the world's most successful movie franchises, "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones." The price tag, just over $4 billion and here's the real headline. Just when "Star Wars" fans had resigned themselves to the idea that the force would retire with its creator George Lucas, Disney now promises a new "Star Wars" film by 2015 with more to follow.

Steven Zeitchik is covering the deal for the Los Angeles Times, and I asked him what kind of role Lucas will play in the future.

STEVE ZEITCHIK: Well, that's, I think, I would say the 54,000 question, but it's I guess the $4.05 billion question because, you know, he's listed in this as a consultant. And as we know from across the business world, being a consultant can mean any one of a number of things to you're advising on a project directly to sitting on a beach and taking a phone call now and again.

So I think my own sense is, given how involved Lucas has been just on his own properties, is that it's going to tend more towards the former. But I think he'd also, as he said in his own statement, he's intent on making this a bit of hand-over. And I think the fact that he has Kathleen Kennedy, who's a very well regarded Hollywood producer, working for him and running the company, I think the sum of that will be offloaded. But I can't imagine he's going to be completely on the sideline.

CORNISH: Is Disney looking to essentially reinvent and reinterpret these franchises or will they be kind of handling it with kid gloves creatively?

ZEITCHIK: You know, a lot of people are really wondering that. And I think that, you know, it's funny, for all the jokes that we all make about, you know, Leia's now a Disney princess and, you know, will we have 101 Ewoks or the Little Mermaid Strikes Back, I think the actual recent track record of Disney is to be a little bit more hands off.

When you look at, you know, what Marvel, for example, which is run by a separate team of executives, a guy named Kevin Feige, who very much stays hands-on and Disney stays hands off, you know, well, I think there's a popular perception of Disney as being a kind of micro-managerial kind of company. I think their recent dynamic with a lot of bigger creative powerhouses that make these really big budget movies is to be a little bit removed.

Again, they're still a billion-dollar conglomerate so it's not going to be la-di-da. But I think they'll be a little bit more removed.

CORNISH: At the end of the day, is Disney essentially becoming a company that instead of creating or originating stories, they buy creators. I mean, you mentioned Pixar, Marvel, now Lucas. I mean, what does this tell us about where the company is creatively?

ZEITCHIK: Well, I think it tells us something very interestingly where the company is and, in fact, I think what it really tells us is where Hollywood is creatively. I mean, you know, there was time when studios - sort of the thing they liked doing most was making movies, was developing films, developing characters and really creating. I mean, Dream Factory and sort of all those cliches I think came about for a reason.

And what you're seeing now is a very fundamental shift in how, at least, this one very big Hollywood company and perhaps others do business where they're outsourcing a lot of the creative sort of enterprise. And what you're seeing now is a very fundamental and I think fascinating shift in how Hollywood does business.

CORNISH: Steve Zeitchik, thanks so much for talking with us.

ZEITCHIK: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: Steve Zeitchik, reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF "STAR WARS" THEME)

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