In the last 24 hours, I’ve been seeing lots of updates and memes being published on Facebook and Twitter timelines as well as mainstream media sites expressing one opinion or another about the recent purchase of Lucasfilm and, of course, its all-time epic Star Wars franchise by media giant Walt Disney. Many of these shoutouts lamented — or celebrated — the passing of Star Wars from its creator George Lucas’s hands to those of Mickey Mouse’s creator.
Interestingly Disney’s “purchase” of Lucasfilm does not necessarily cut Lucas out of the loop of thought leadership over Star Wars (a detail many folk neglected to understand). A significant component of Disney’s payment to Lucas is in the form of millions of shares of Disney stock — which now makes Lucas a notable shareholder in Disney. So to the folk who are looking to the horizon for a “final solution” to the Jar Jar Binks “issue,” I wouldn’t hold my breath just yet.
I wouldn’t mind either way.
Those who celebrate Disney’s takeover of Star Wars look forward to a re-energised effort to continue telling stories set a long time ago in that galaxy far far away. Those who lament the event seem to fear Disney’s trademark Technicolor Micky Mousey flavour being injected into the dusty Tatooinian brown-and-gray rustbucket industrial theme that made Star Wars a standout groundbreaking sci-fi cinematic concept in 1977 and set the stage for countless space opera films to follow in its wake.
To be fair, Star Wars does stem from a conceptual lineage that, until now, hardly intersected with Disney’s roots. The young Lucas was into fast cars, Amazing Stories, World War II dogfights, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and the cutting edge sci-fi comic art of the late Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) all of which inspired key design and story elements in the Star Wars universe. Much of what is in Disney’s early track record involves the turning of the dark noir of Brothers Grimm fairy tales into the happily-ever-after sunshine world that generations of kids grew up on.
While Disney turned kids on to the worldly aspirations of princesses waiting for their Prince Charming and Peter Pans forever living in a state of child-like bliss, Lucas’s Jedi espoused the Zen-like spiritualism of Samurai warriors who relied on inner strength, reflective solitude, and stoic character that comes from maturity, to wage their continuous battle to overcome their youthful impulsiveness and quest for adventure — Yins and Yangs that made his two most famous characters, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, among the most fascinatingly conflicted protagonists and antagonists respectively in cinematic history.
Unfortunately for many of us, there are not too many happy endings, no living happily ever after, and no winning on the back of quiet achievement and stoic strength. Values rooted in open-minded childlike curiosity and wonder are eventually discarded as we “grow up” and imprison ourselves in the “adult” world of dogma and unreasonably set ways while the wrong arguments of the noisy and loudmouthed routinely trump the well-thought-out approaches and frameworks laid by the silent and reflective.
Thus the universes created by Disney and Lucasfilm are wondrous because they provided generations of flawed humanity an escape from their untenable existences and much needed validation that their most private issues are shared by even the most fantastic characters who live in the remotest worlds and times. It is only natural that two of the biggest producers of such alternate worlds eventually come together and continue the business of medicating our lot.
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