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Lucasfilm Deal Represents Shift In Hollywood


A surprise announcement yesterday from the Walt Disney Company. The studio that gave us "Cinderella"...


CINDERELLA: Oh, my goodness. It's midnight.

CORNISH: Ariel...


CORNISH: And "Snow White"...


SNOW WHITE: I'm sure I'll get along somehow.

CORNISH: ...has added a new princess to the family.


CARRIE FISHER: (as Princess Leia) Why you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.

CORNISH: Disney has bought Lucasfilm, the force behind two of the world's most successful movie franchises, "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones." The price tag, just over $4 billion and here's the real headline. Just when "Star Wars" fans had resigned themselves to the idea that the force would retire with its creator George Lucas, Disney now promises a new "Star Wars" film by 2015 with more to follow.

Steven Zeitchik is covering the deal for the Los Angeles Times, and I asked him what kind of role Lucas will play in the future.

STEVE ZEITCHIK: Well, that's, I think, I would say the 54,000 question, but it's I guess the $4.05 billion question because, you know, he's listed in this as a consultant. And as we know from across the business world, being a consultant can mean any one of a number of things to you're advising on a project directly to sitting on a beach and taking a phone call now and again.

So I think my own sense is, given how involved Lucas has been just on his own properties, is that it's going to tend more towards the former. But I think he'd also, as he said in his own statement, he's intent on making this a bit of hand-over. And I think the fact that he has Kathleen Kennedy, who's a very well regarded Hollywood producer, working for him and running the company, I think the sum of that will be offloaded. But I can't imagine he's going to be completely on the sideline.

CORNISH: Is Disney looking to essentially reinvent and reinterpret these franchises or will they be kind of handling it with kid gloves creatively?

ZEITCHIK: You know, a lot of people are really wondering that. And I think that, you know, it's funny, for all the jokes that we all make about, you know, Leia's now a Disney princess and, you know, will we have 101 Ewoks or the Little Mermaid Strikes Back, I think the actual recent track record of Disney is to be a little bit more hands off.

When you look at, you know, what Marvel, for example, which is run by a separate team of executives, a guy named Kevin Feige, who very much stays hands-on and Disney stays hands off, you know, well, I think there's a popular perception of Disney as being a kind of micro-managerial kind of company. I think their recent dynamic with a lot of bigger creative powerhouses that make these really big budget movies is to be a little bit removed.

Again, they're still a billion-dollar conglomerate so it's not going to be la-di-da. But I think they'll be a little bit more removed.

CORNISH: At the end of the day, is Disney essentially becoming a company that instead of creating or originating stories, they buy creators. I mean, you mentioned Pixar, Marvel, now Lucas. I mean, what does this tell us about where the company is creatively?

ZEITCHIK: Well, I think it tells us something very interestingly where the company is and, in fact, I think what it really tells us is where Hollywood is creatively. I mean, you know, there was time when studios - sort of the thing they liked doing most was making movies, was developing films, developing characters and really creating. I mean, Dream Factory and sort of all those cliches I think came about for a reason.

And what you're seeing now is a very fundamental shift in how, at least, this one very big Hollywood company and perhaps others do business where they're outsourcing a lot of the creative sort of enterprise. And what you're seeing now is a very fundamental and I think fascinating shift in how Hollywood does business.

CORNISH: Steve Zeitchik, thanks so much for talking with us.

ZEITCHIK: Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: Steve Zeitchik, reporter for the Los Angeles Times.



You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.