So, I spent a good portion of the day in Tomorrowland, riding the newly updated Star Tours ride, watching little kids train at the Jedi Academy, and geeking out over a tremendous amount of really cool merch in the gift shops. The Star Wars attractions at Disneyland reinforce for me just how much that world meant to me as a kid and (sometimes to my surprise) how much it still does as an adult.
Meanwhile, today, in another part of the galaxy (Las Vegas, to be precise) an event called CinemaCon was taking place. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, CinemaCon is essentially Comic-Con for movie theater owners. The big summer movie season gets underway in just a couple of weeks, and CinemaCon is the film industry trying to win over the businessmen who will be screening their films for paying audiences come May. Flesh is pressed. Much, much schmoozing goes on, and A-listers show up to add star power to the proceedings. As Burt Reynolds says in Boogie Nights, “It’s an important part of the process.”
This afternoon Alan Horn, the head of Disney’s motion picture division, stood in front of the exhibitors and announced that his studio will be producing not just a new set of Star Wars prequels but one new film in the franchise every single year for the foreseeable future. He also mentioned that the new trilogy will see a new film released once every two years instead of the once every three years rotation both the original trilogy and the prequels utilized. That’s an awful lot of Star Wars.
Like most fans, I’m really excited about the new trilogy. While we were waiting in the Star Tours line today, I told my friend, John, I think my brain will melt when the first trailer for Episode VII debuts, and we get to see Harrison Ford as Han Solo again. We also talked about how sad it was that Roger Ebert won’t be around to see it.
I just can’t get over what a terrible idea all this is.
Look, I get it. If you pay $4 billion for a property, you expect to make money off of it. Disney didn’t just acquire Lucasfilm so they could reap the money that ILM and Skywalker Sound generates. Disney wanted Star Wars so they could exploit it for maximum profitability. That’s business. I understand that, and I don’t resent it. As a financial decision, it’s the right one.
But, what about quality?
Is there any reasonable way that Disney can crank out a new Star Wars movie every 12 months indefinitely without having the quality of these films eventually suffer? It makes sense now that the layoffs of artists in Disney’s hand-drawn animation division was likely intended to make way for staff to work on this behemoth and ongoing Star Wars assembly line. Make no mistake, that’s what this is. It’s an assembly line. It’s mass production.
Is two years between films enough time to properly write, prep, shoot, and do post for each film in the new trilogy? Look at what they have JJ Abrams doing right now; he’s prepping Episode VII while also simultaneously finishing up Star Trek into Darkness. I’m on the record saying Abrams is an inspired choice for Star Wars, but should his time be divided like this? I liked that they brought screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan back into the fold, but should they really be cranking out an endless number of stories in this universe?
When they announced the new trilogy and the new standalones, I was stoked. A new Lucasless trilogy? Awesome! And, guys like Joe Johnston had talked for years about wanting to make movies unrelated to the Skywalker family that still existed in the Star Wars universe. Letting fanboy filmmakers run hog wild in the Star Wars barnyard sounded pretty exciting. But, the announcement today sounded a lot like corporate overkill with dollar signs trumping common sense filmmaking.
Maybe my trepidation isn’t warranted. After all, Horn guided the Harry Potter series when he was in charge at Warner Bros, and that was a massive success both critically and commercially. Marvel is making two films a year and that seems to be working out okay so far. Pixar has been producing one film a year for some time, and, as long as those movies don’t involve anamorphic cars, everything seems to be okay. All I know is fans are only loyal to a point. The prequels aren’t good movies, yet they still made a lot of money precisely because they were the first Star Wars films in almost 20 years. The fans were starved for anything. Popping out a new movie every summer will work for a while, but if the films start becoming half-a--ed, I guarantee you the fans will stop showing up.
Let’s hope the studio that once produced Million Dollar Duck doesn’t kill the goose that lays golden eggs.