It looks like the Walt Disney Co. is going to be betting a lot of money and theme-park real estate on the success and popularity of the coming J.J. Abrams film “Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens,” as well as its stand-alone “Star Wars” projects. Recently, the company’s chief teased expansions to the its theme parks based solely on the new movies.
Disney CEO Robert A. Iger, in a chat with Wall Street analysts about the company’s strong earnings this financial year, confirmed suspicions that the beloved theme parks are getting a science-fiction update, which will feature “Star Wars” prominently in the future. While he wasn’t able to give any details about the attractions, Variety reported he did say “ambitious” plans would be officially announced to the public in the very near future.
“The only thing I can share, which actually I don’t think we’ve talked about much, is that there is a fair amount of development going on at Disney Imagineering right now to expand the ‘Star Wars’ presence in California and Orlando [Florida] and eventually other parks around the world,” he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg Business.
It would make sense for Disney to try and turn a profit with the franchise any way it can after paying “Star Wars” creator George Lucas $4 billion for the rights to make more of the beloved films. The franchise’s future will consist of a new trilogy separated by three stand-alone movies within the “Star Wars” universe. Although the popular franchise is a pretty safe bet given its dedicated fan base, the company’s refocusing of its parks to include more attractions based on the new productions could be considered a risk.
After all, this isn’t the first time the franchise has been revivified to profit off new films. In 1999, Lucas attempted to capture lightning in a bottle once again by releasing a prequel trilogy to his original movies, which fans often call “The Holy Trilogy.” While the prequels were a financial success, many fans were disappointed with the direction “Star Wars” took in those productions. Now, with Disney at the helm instead of Lucas, the studio appears confident it can deliver the same timeless classics that made the original trilogy so popular -- at least popular enough to merit theme-park attractions in multiple locations around the world.
To quell fears, Iger made sure to remind analysts that the brief teaser trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has already been viewed more than 123 million times since its release in November. Obviously, that’s pretty clear evidence fans have an interest in seeing something new in this series. It’s also worth remembering that, at its core, Disney operates parks for children, and it seems likely the next generation of park-goers will be more impressed with an attraction based on a new film than one that came out in the 1970s.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney exceeded its expectations for earnings in the first quarter by quite a lot. Between Marvel Studios’ movies being released by Disney and the original 2013 hit “Frozen,” the Mouse House was able to boast a very successful fiscal year. This has likely given Iger and his fellow execs a mental green light to chase profits on anything that’s even remotely popular.