Disney to Acquire LucasFilm, Release Star Wars Episode VII in 2015!

If you just felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in confusion and were suddenly silenced, that was just the reaction to the breaking news that Disney is going to acquire LucasFilm for $4.05 billion, and release Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015.

Usually, this is the point where we say the rumors were true, or lies, or misleading, but near as we can tell nobody knew about this particular bombshell, or if they did, they were keeping their mouths shut about it. The Star Wars continuity will now be owned by the same company that owns the Marvel superhero lineup. The mind boggles at the possibilities. Star Wars at Disneyland. Star Wars crossovers with The Avengers (pretty damned unlikely, except at a photo op). More Star Wars movies, without George Lucas necessarily in complete control.

Star Wars, the original trilogy, released on home video without the special edition add-ons? It could be on the table. Or it could be off the table completely to appease Lucas, we don't know yet. It's all speculation, but for once the speculation is utterly fascinating and plausible.

Coming Soon broke the news with a press release, the matter of fact tone of which belies the potential significance of this development:

"Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. "This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value."

"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. "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."

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future."

To reiterate, George Lucas actually said, "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers." While he will remain a creative consultant on upcoming films, the new Star Wars movies (words we never thought we'd write) will be executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy, the producer of Schindler's List, The Sixth Sense, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

The staggering number of possibilities, previously limited to George Lucas's personal preferences for the franchise (as was his right, as the head of LucasFilm), are now seemingly endless. Anyone could end up directing a Star Wars movie. The films could continue forever, whether or not that turns out to be a good thing. And again, maybe, just maybe, the special editions will cease to be the final word on the original, classic trilogy.

It's a brave new world. Let's go live in it.

CraveOnline will be back with more Star Wars: Episode VII news. Yes, we actually will. May The Force be with you.