The story was confirmed by THR, whose report includes the following statement from George Lucas:
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm, in a statement. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
We recently learned that Kathleen Kennedy, longtime producing partner of Steven Spileberg, had been chosen as the new co-chair of Lucasfilm. She will now become the studio’s president under the new deal, answering directly to Disney chair Alan Horn.
As for that new Star Wars film, Lucas will remain onboard as a “creative consultant” while Kathleen Kennedy wil serve as executive producer on Star Wars Episode 7 and future Star Wars movies. The release of Episode 7 in 2015 will kick off a new trilogy that Lucasfilm already has mapped out.
For all intents and purposes, though, this is a clear sign that Lucas is letting go of the beloved franchise. He stated earlier this year that he was looking to move away from Lucasfilm in order to make “experimental movies” in his garage, so this move isn’t exactly a shock. Disney has had a strong relationship with the company since Star Tours opened in Disneyland years ago, and the studio’s relationship with Spielberg/Kennedy likely gave Lucas reassurance that his franchise would be in good hands.
We all knew that further Star Wars films would be made someday, be it with a reboot, remake, or proper sequel. Disney has handled Marvel quite well, so hopefully they can do the same with the Star Wars series. A few entanglements will still have to be worked out, as 20th Century Fox is still set to distribute the 3D re-releases of Lucas’ Star Wars films over the next few years. The television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars is also owned by a Disney competitor, Turner Broadcasting, so it remains to be seen how these extensions of the franchise will be sorted out.
Update: A conference call with shareholders just ended, in which a few more details of the deal were revealed:
Star Wars: Episode 7 will be the beginning of a new trilogy that has been mapped out.
The treatment for Episode 7 is already completed, on which Lucas consulted.
Episodes 8 and 9 will be released approximately every other year following 2015, so expect the sequels in 2017 and 2019.
20th Century Fox will not be involved with these future releases.
Disney “really likes” the potential of expanding Star Wars into television on their Disney XD channel, so expect more than a few new animated series.
The studio’s concentration is on the Star Wars franchise, so as of now there are no plans to toy with Indiana Jones. The reason being that those films are tied up in some legal shambles with Paramount, who distributed the films. Indiana Jones was not part of the valuation of Lucasfilm when Disney was eyeing the acquisition.
Disney plans to leave Lucasfilm’s visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) “as it is.”