Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Reel Opinion: The Importance of Lucasfilm Phase Two


Kathleen Kennedy, the new President of Lucasfilm and successor to George Lucas, recently announced that the new merger with Disney will ultimately produce up to two or three films per year. This new high-rate of film production will kick-off with a seventh STAR WARS film in 2015.
More movies (especially quality movies) are always a good thing; especially when they come out of the studio(s) which have brought us TOY STORY, THE AVENGERS, and STAR WARS. However, this ambitious new plan goes beyond Buzz Lightyear, superheroes, and that far away galaxy.

It in the late 1960’s there was a renaissance going on in San Francisco as young filmmakers looked to experiment more and more with their craft; creating new technologies and moving the industry in different directions. In 1969, Lucas, with his friend and collaborator Francis Ford Coppola, founded American Zeotrope. Zeotrope produced Coppola’s THE GODFATHER PART II (1974), and APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), along with Lucas’ AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973), which would eventually pave the way for STAR WARS.
After the success of STAR WARS, Lucas went on to establish Lucasfilm, which would continue the ideas of Zeotrope in pushing film technology; things we take for granted today like digital cinema, CGI, THX and Skywalker Sound, and ILM all sprouted from Lucasfilm. Zeotrope would go on to focus on filmmaking, eventually earning 15 Academy Awards and 68 nominations since its inception.

The merging of Lucasfilm, the technology innovator, and Disney, the most productive movie factory ever, harks back to the original ideas of Lucas and Coppola. Disney will now have the advantage of nearly-endless innovative technology, and Lucasfilm will have the benefit of strong filmmaking and storytelling. Fifty years ago, Zeotrope and Lucasfilm changed filmmaking forever. There is no certainty that will happen again, but be damn sure the opportunity exists.
Even better still is Kennedy’s ambitious new plan. That many films per year can only mean more opportunities for talented filmmakers. Disney is not the type to hire any old meathead to helm their films, so it is reasonable to assume that the three films per year can and should be written and directed by some of the best names in the business.

Historically, the merger has brought things back full-circle, and there seems to be no ceiling. There is a bright horizon to look away to.

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