Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Star Wars spin-offs to be origin stories

Disney's chief financial officer Jay Rasulo gave his presentation to an investor conference at the Bank Of America last week. While much of it – as you'd expect given the context – was the usual dispiriting marketing speak about branding, merchandising and licensing opportunities, there was also one small but significant piece of news about the upcoming Star Wars films. We've known for some time that standalone films about key supporting characters are in development alongside the trilogy, beginning with Star Wars Episode VII. Now Rasulo reveals that those standalone films are to be origin stories.

Reaffirming that we can expect a Star Wars film every year from 2015 on, Rasulo's wording (only paraphrased by Variety) was that Disney will be alternating a trilogy film and "an origin story" annually. If you were an investor, it would be reassuring to know that this strategy sits alongside two Marvel offerings, a Disney animation, and one or two Pixars.

Following The Lone Ranger debacle he says that budgets for each year's "one or two, maybe three" tent pole Disney live action originals will likely be capped in future. But "of all our worries," he promises, "Star Wars is not one of them".

"The sky's the limit," says Rasulo of Star Wars. "There's incredible flexibility. It's an unbelievable palette to create from." And while he's talking there about licensing programmes that will "broker deals around the world" and encompass toys, "housewares" and huge new undertakings in Disney's theme parks, he does take a moment to insist that "the overall strategy is to put out a great film first".

Fox's own attempts at an origins franchise collapsed at the first hurdle with X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. But with Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and producer Simon Kinberg developing their own spin-off franchise, Disney clearly has confidence in the plan.

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