Disney CEO Bob Iger has been in the news a lot this past week. He just published a memoir called 'The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company'. In it, he goes into great detail about Disney taking over Star Wars, and how the movie ultimately left creator George Lucas feeling betrayed, and quite disappointed by what he saw in The Force Awakens.
Disney bought Star Wars in 2012 for over $4 billion. Since then, they have released four movies and an animated series, with The Rise of Skywalker set to wrap up the latest trilogy this December, and The Mandalorian launching in November as the first-ever live-action TV show for the franchise, which has been going strong since 1977.
When Kathleen Kennedy and director J.J. Abrams were putting together The Force Awakens for release in 2015, George Lucas was nowhere to be seen. Disney CEO Bob Iger has now gone into great detail about what exactly happened with the creator's ultimate involvement with his greatest creation. At the time Disney purchased Lucasfilm, George Lucas had submitted three outlines for where the Skywalker saga should ultimately go. Well, ultimately, the new team at Disney threw all of that in the trash.
The purchase of this three movie outline was done more out of a sense of obligation more than anything else, and it's noted that Disney really never intended to use anything George Lucas submitted after the ink dried on the deal. Robert A. Iger reveals this.
"[W]e decided we needed to buy them. though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he'd laid out."
When Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and The Force Awakens writers J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt met with George Lucas to discuss the first Star Wars movie since George Lucas directed Revenge of the Sith in 2005, the filmmaker quickly learned that they had no intention of utilizing a single one of his ideas.
"George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren't using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations. George knew we weren't contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we'd follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded. I'd been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn't think I had now, but I could have handled it better."
Bob Iger goes onto say that, "George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we'd gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start." George Lucas was very disappointed by what he saw in The Force Awakens, and he noted that in the press on several occasions, though he never came right out and said it was a bad movie. After watching it for the first time, he definitely let Kathleen Kennedy know how he felt about the whole thing.
"[He] didn't hide his disappointment. "There's nothing new," he said. In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to him to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, 'There weren't enough visual or technical leaps forward.' He wasn't wrong, but he also wasn't appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars."
Bob Iger goes onto claim that the creator of the franchise didn't appreciate what Disney was trying to do.
"We'd intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do."
It has been noted that some of George Lucas' complaints are the same as those Star Wars fans who didn't like the direction things took with this new trilogy. Bob Iger never agrees with any of these criticisms in his book, though he does note that perhaps Disney's overall handling of Star Wars was, 'Too much, too fast.' And that it may have hurt the sci-fi series in the short term. He doesn't feel any irreparable damage has been done at this point, though.
"I think the storytelling capabilities of [Lucasfilm] are endless because of the talent we have at the company, and the talent we have at the company is better than it's ever been, in part because of the influx of people from Fox."
George Lucas hasn't responded to any of these claims made in the book, but they pretty much line-up with his attitude at the time The Force Awakens was released. He's since been more open to the creators of Star Wars, giving director Ron Howard some pointers on the set of Solo and visiting Jon Favreau on the set of The Mandalorian. He was also a presence on the first spin-off movie Rogue One. 'The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company' is now available in bookstores and online retailers everywhere from Random House.