Two surprises for "Star Wars" aficionados today: George Lucas has sold off LucasFilm to the Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion, and a new "Star Wars" movie, Episode VII, is in early development.
Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said during a conference call this afternoon that "Star Wars" episode 7 will "take the place of our tent pole [film] in 2015."
The deal brings together two of the best-known names in the movie business. In a statement after the deal was announced, Lucas said it was "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."
Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said an Episode VIII and Episode IX would also be on tap. He added that the plan is to release a new "Star Wars" feature film every two to three years. Iger said that the transaction was accompanied by "an extensive and detailed treatment for the next three movies."
No details were offered on the call about the possible script line for the next movie.
Kathleen Kennedy, the newly appointed co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become the studio's president. Iger said on the call that Lucas will continue to serve as a consultant.
In his statement, Lucas expressed confidence "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."
Of course, the unanswered question is how Disney's ownership will affect the quality of the scripts. Lucas has received no small amount of criticism for the quality of recent installments in the "Star Wars" saga. Discussing things it disliked about "The Phantom Menace," for instance, Time magazine noted three dozen Web sites and fan pages overflowing with hate for Jar Jar Binks, a character that appeared in "Episode 1: The Phantom Menace," "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," and "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."