All the Ways Disney Has Dropped the Ball with Star Wars
On December 21st, 2012, The Walt Disney Company achieved the unthinkable and purchased Lucasfilm.
In the process, Disney became the sole owner of Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Disney paid $4 billion for the privilege and has more than made its money back already. But that doesn’t mean everything has gone smoothly.
Here are Disney’s worst mistakes thus far with the Lucasfilm brand.
Choosing the Wrong Directors for Star Wars VII-IX
We can tap-dance around this conversation all we like, but the reality is clear.
Some subsection of Star Wars fans believes that Disney messed up huge in selecting a director for one of the three films in the most recent Star Wars trilogy.
As a reminder, J.J. Abrams directed Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Afterward, Abrams passed the torch to Rian Johnson, best-known for the Knives Out franchise and, more recently, Peacock’s Poker Face.
Johnson helmed Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, which proved incredibly divisive among fans.
Still, the film earned an A Cinemascore, just the same as The Force Awakens. Similarly, critics graded both films in the same range.
Episode VII is currently 93 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while Episode VIII scores similarly at 91 percent fresh. These are highly regarded movies.
The same statement does NOT apply to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the climactic film in the third trilogy.
Critics only graded this movie at 52 percent, while audiences gave it a mediocre Cinemascore of B+, which is the same as a C under most systems.
Basically, Abrams made a good movie that shattered box office records.
Johnson, who is arguably even more talented, delivered a different but equally good — I would argue better – story that some fans disliked.
Disney panicked and returned to Abrams, which hadn’t been the plan.
Johnson reportedly had expected to direct before the Episode VIII debate intensified. Disney chose Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World.
Trevorrow’s work wasn’t appreciated, so Disney went back to Abrams, whose final film proved ultimately unsatisfying.
Indecision crushed the ninth film, which should have been a fitting resolution to three generations of Skywalker stories.
The Lord & Miller Debacle
Directorial conflict has become a recurring theme since Disney bought Lucasfilm.
That’s actually not unusual with Disney. Some very good directors signed on for Marvel projects, only to back out later.
These powerful Hollywood content creators learned that Disney executives expect to have input on the directorial process.
Some of them don’t want that kind of oversight and walk away rather than accept such interference.
Perhaps the most frustrating instance involved Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the dynamic duo whom Disney hired to direct a standalone Han Solo film.
Lord & Miller are responsible for some of the most entertaining movies of this century, including The LEGO Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and 21 Jump Street.
Right now, Lord & Miller are riding high as the writing duo for Spider-Man: Across the Multiverse, which is currently wrecking the box office.
Disney pursued the comedy duo to build a funny origin story for Han Solo.
After a time, Lucasfilm kicked Lord & Miller off the project. Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said the following:
“…but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon…”
Lord & Miller countered with their own statement:
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true.”
Then, they had the last laugh as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse earned only $20 million less than Solo despite costing less than one-third as much to produce.
Disney has meddled too much with its talent on Star Wars projects. Period.
That’s not the only mistake the studio has made, either.
Once Disney wrote a $4 billion check for Lucasfilm, CEO Bob Iger wanted to ensure a return on his investment.
Disney ramped up the production schedule for Star Wars, releasing a new film for five straight years.
This happened after exactly seven Star Wars movies had been made since 1977!
All these Star Wars titles quickly saturated the market and left fans venting that the production quality had slipped.
Most fans loved The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As for the other three – VIII, IX, and Solo – the argument gets messy.
Everyone has opinions, and mine are always in the minority here.
I’m not much of a Star Wars fan, but I think VIII is pretty good, while Solo is delightful.
Whether you disagree or not, the odds are good that at least two of these five Star Wars movies didn’t meet your (lofty) expectations.
That’s part of the problem here, too. Star Wars fans expect “Luke, I am your father…” kinds of moments in every film. That’s impossible.
For Disney’s part, it cannot even come up with a viable backstory for Snoke. Headlines like this have popped up over the years.
To its credit, Disney took a break after The Rise of Skywalker.
We’ll go at least five years between Star Wars movies after having too many from 2015-2019.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the success of Star Wars stories on Disney+.
The Mandalorian has won everyone’s heart with its introduction of Baby Yoda (I’m not calling him Grogu), while Andor has earned glowing reviews.
Disney needs to make more Star Wars movies the same way it creates Star Wars television, as the latter is better.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
How badly did Disney screw up here? I’ve already listed it as one of the worst Disney decisions of the past 25 years.
In doing so, I feel a bit hypocritical in that I believe this idea could work.
As a reminder, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is the fanciful name for the Star Wars Hotel.
What is Galactic Starcruiser? Well, that answer depends on who you ask, as Disney officials did a terrible job in defining the experience.
The gist is that you live out your own Star Wars story by boarding an intergalactic cruise ship on a journey to Batuu.
That’s the name of the home planet for Black Spire Outpost, the place you’ll find at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
So, there’s some recursion here. But the problem isn’t the forced tie-in between the hotel and the theme park.
Where Disney screwed up was in the pricing. Even the proponents of Galactic Starcruiser knew that Disney had asked too much of fans.
No hotel stay should cost $1,200 to start and $1,600 on average per night, at least not for a place without windows or a swimming pool.
Disney swung for the fences here and came up empty.
Strategists believed that Star Wars fans would spend any amount of money to live out their dreams.
For a time, that’s what happened, as Galactic Starcruiser sold extraordinarily well in 2022.
Once Disney ran out of wealthy Star Wars fans, the tide turned.
Now, the company will write down/off hundreds of millions of dollars and close the Star Wars Hotel for good in September.
This was a can’t miss idea that Disney inexplicably priced into missing. That’s unforgivable.
The Willow Reboot
You may not even know this show exists, much less that it’s a Lucasfilm production.
However, Disney thrilled fans like me by announcing that Willow Ufgood would return in a Disney+ spinoff of the 1988 movie.
How well did that decision work? Let’s just say that if you load Disney+ right now, you won’t find Willow on the service.
This series performed so poorly that Disney banished it from existence in exchange for a tax credit.
That’s right, folks. Disney bombed with the Willow television series so much that it chose a cash settlement rather than leaving it on Disney+.
That’s somehow a real thing that happened, and it’s not even the worst part.
Willow aired its last episode THIS YEAR! The grand finale debuted on January 11th, 2023.
Less than five months after its season finale, you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence that the show ever existed!
Disney has unquestionably financially benefited from Star Wars, but its mistakes have been REALLY bad ones.
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