In a video released today, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas explained that he decided to sell his media empire to The Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion because he believed it would "protect" Lucasfilm and its cash cow, the "Star Wars" franchise.
Sitting at a table alongside Lucasfilm co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy -- who will be Lucasfilm's president under Disney -- Lucas explained that in recent months, as he had mulled retirement and what he wanted to do with his life, he realized that the "perfect person to take over the company was [Kennedy]. I wanted to put the company somewhere in a larger entity which would protect it. Disney's a huge corporation. They have all kinds of capabilities and facilities. So there's a lot of strength that's gained by this....There's lots and lots of opportunities at Disney that we wouldn't have at any other studio."
Plus, Lucas added, "When I first made 'Star Wars,' everybody in Hollywood said, 'Well, this is a movie Disney should have made.'"
Disney, of course, has been bolstering its holdings over the last few years. Its major deals included the 2006 purchase from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs of Pixar Animation Studios and the 2009 deal for Marvel. By bringing Lucasfilm under its umbrella, Disney will now own the pre-eminent animation and visual and sound effects studios, as well as rights to many of the most famous characters in film history.
As everyone knows by now, one of the most important elements of the acquisition is that Disney will oversee the production of at least three new live-action "Star Wars" films, Episodes 7, 8, and 9. In the video, Lucas acknowledged that while he had long said he wouldn't complete the set of nine films he had originally envisioned -- he made six between 1977 and 2005 -- that "doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn [the franchise] over to [Kennedy] to do more. I have story treatments of 7, 8, 9 and a bunch of other movies, and obviously we have hundreds of books and comics and everything you can possibly imagine. So I sort of moved that treasure trove of stories and other things to Kathy. And I have complete confidence that she's going to take them and make great movies."
For her part, Kennedy said that she and her production team at Lucasfilm are already in the "fun part" of the process -- the early decisions about where the stories should go, and that "It's important that [Lucas] at least continue to be the little guardian angel on my shoulder" consulting about the films' direction.
To which Lucas quipped, "They're finishing the hologram right now."
In all seriousness, though, Lucas concluded that his decision to sell his media company -- including technology divisions like Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, THX, and LucasArts -- was based on his feeling that Disney would help the "Star Wars" films "have a longer life. So that more fans and people can enjoy them into the future. It's a very big universe I created, and there's a lot of stories that are sitting in there."