Could we finally see the original Star Wars trilogy, in its original form, released in high definition? Disney has officially purchased Fox for more than $52 billion. This move is going to change the entertainment landscape moving forever and, in total, the deal is valued at $66 billion. There are a lot of moving pieces with a deal of this size and it still needs to be approved by antitrust regulators, but assuming that it is approved, there are some major things at play. For one, Disney now owns all of the rights to Star Wars.
Disney purchased all of Lucasfilm in 2012 for more than $4 billion, but that only included everything that Lucasfilm controlled. George Lucas made the original Star Wars for Fox and the studio was granted the rights to Star Wars: A New Hope, in perpetuity. That was something Disney couldn't get with their purchase of Lucasfilm. So any theatrical re-releases, Blu-ray releases or anything of the sort had to be approved by Fox. Until now, that is.
With that said, does this really mean we have a shot at finally seeing the original, unaltered cuts of the original Star Wars trilogy re-released in HD? It certainly makes it more likely, but there are a lot of complexities when it comes to answering that question. The first and most complex bit is that, according to people with knowledge of the situation, the original cuts don't even exist anymore.
Now, that doesn't mean the cuts can't exist again, but it would be tricky. In 1997, when George Lucas decided to go back and re-work the original Star Wars trilogy with some fancy CGI and annoying changes, he altered the actual film prints and, as a result, the original cuts don't even exist anymore. Or, at least that's what we've been told. That means if Lucasfilm wanted to do a re-release of the original cuts, which they could now with a lot less trouble given the purchase of Fox, they would have to reassemble the original cuts.
This is something Disney and Lucasfilm could, in theory, do since the bits that were trimmed and altered are reportedly stored in the Lucasfilm archives. That means fans could possibly, with a lot of work, get Blu-ray copies of the Star Wars trilogy without rings around the Death Star explosions, with Han shooting first and without that ridiculous song in Jabba's palace. But the question is, will Disney do it? Earlier this year, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy made it pretty clear that, under her watch, it's not going to happen. Here's what she had to say about it in an interview on a podcast.
"I wouldn't touch those, are you kidding me? [laughs] Those will always remain his."
Kathleen Kennedy is a powerful figure and controls Lucasfilm, but Disney is a much bigger animal. Especially now. There are people above her paygrade that could make this happen, despite her wishes to let George Lucas' vision remain as is. Disney didn't purchase Fox just to flex muscle. They did it because there's possible money to be made. Releasing the original Star Wars trilogy in its unaltered form in HD, something currently not available but something fans desperately want, would make Disney a lot of money. Lucas had a vision, but money talks.