Over the past couple weeks, we’ve said goodbye to a few, mocked more, and, well, went a tiny bit overboard with the dramatics. Just another week in Star Wars fandom…
The events of the past month have made it clear that Star Wars is undergoing a major shift, and it’s made a lot of fans question the Disney sale. And those words – the “Disney sale” – are part of the problem. The sale is over and done with. What we’re going through now is more jarring, and a lot more ambitious. We’re going through a Star Wars reboot.
Kotaku reported and GameInformer confirmed with Lucasfilm that the company is in the process of shutting down LucasArts. Kotaku says that 150 have been laid off and both Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313 have been canceled. Variety is reporting that the layoffs are spilling over to Industrial Light & Magic as well.
Here’s part of the official statement:
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
This has expected for a while, and there was plenty of speculation that LucasArts was headed for the bin even before Disney was in the picture.
Ron Gilbert, creator and co-creater of several of the company’s most iconic games, says goodbye to Lucasfilm Games.
Here’s the instructions from Lucasfilm:
- Share this message with your Star Wars friends.
- Take pictures in your Star Wars costumes (UPDATE: or Star Wars apparel!) with your local landmarks.
- Turn in the pictures with a signed copy of the release form (email or fax) to firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-415-623-1107 (FAX: Attn: Mary Franklin). (Hint: don’t fax the photos!)
- Be sure to name the landmark, and area/city/country.
- You can start turning them in at any time. The sooner the better!
- The deadline is April 22nd to turn in pictures. But we’ll start putting them up soon after we get them
- Have Fun, and May the 4th Be With You!
With those last two points, I’m sure something big for Star Wars Day is planned! (Besides the 30th anniversary screenings of Return of the Jedi in Los Angeles.)
Grab that release form (Lucasfilm Personal Release 2013) and get out there and get some photos!
Extra Update: Please post on twitter or facebook or the like when you submit stuff!
Among the story arcs that will not emerge in this post-cancellation era is one that dealt with Boba Fett and the other bounty hunters who have menaced the heroes for several seasons. This story arc, which my source tells me was almost done, would have shown us the fates of Cad Bane and Aurra Sing.
It’s also being heavily implied that Lucasfilm Animation layoffs – or notifications thereof – went down on Friday.
Eric also had two takes on Lucasfilm Animation’s reaction to the fan reaction. (Which has since been… removed?) One was “shocked” by “tepid fan reaction;” The other “recognized the outpouring” of support.
It’s worth noting that these two accounts can be reconciled. I’m sure that everyone at Lucasfilm Animation, both current and former staffers, appreciates what support they’ve seen. The question is how much more support those staffers were expecting to see.
Unlike the ending of Clone Wars, reports of a possible LucasArts shutdown in the works are anything but surprising. While Kotaku’s report on the future of 1313 was mostly based on sources, the absence of the game – perhaps LucasArt’s hottest upcoming property – from any recent industry events is rather telling.
This week, another report from GamesIndustry International has been making the rounds. LucasArts told them that the speculation of a shutdown is “one hundred percent not true” and that “everything is moving ahead.”
Ex-employees are less optimistic, echoing much of what you’ll hear from gamers themselves these days:
The studio’s performance in recent years has not impressed former LucasArts employees. One ex-LucasArts employee had this to say: “The ‘business’ has been on life-support since the Star Wars license and subsequent development for their best title went to Bioware/EA. I’m frankly amazed that they’ve stayed in business this long. No stomach for truly original product, and slender means to produce their previous cash cows – Indy and Star Wars.”
If this does pan out, it’s not particularly surprising: Our own Stooge predicted the end of Lucasfilm Animation last week. Alas, as sad as it is, it only makes sense that Disney would eliminate a department that’s redundant to their own extensive resources. Our pal Bryan at Big Shiny Robot has a level-headed examination of the yet-unconfirmed moves:
But renewed calls to panic in this case aren’t justified. This seems wholly consistent with the plan we were upset about a week ago. What’s being done to The Clone Wars is unfair, both to the fans and the artists who create the show, and it will never hurt to voice your support, but being upset at a cat for eating a mouse (or in this case a giant mouse eating a television show) is to deny the nature of the thing.
That said, the letter-writing campaign that’s being pushed is far from useless: If you enjoyed The Clone Wars then, yes, make your voice heard. It may be too late to turn back the clock for Clone Wars, but it might make a difference for the remaining episodes, or show that there’s enough interest to sustain another show.
But it’s also time to sit down, take a deep breath, and make sure you’re presenting your case in a calm and rational manner. Panic only breeds more panic, and that’s not the kind of statement that’s going to make a good impression on the higher-ups at Disney – or anyone else.
UPDATE: The good news is, Bryan got word from Lucasfilm that the ‘bonus content’ that was promised – and deeply doubted – “will absolutely be made available to fans.”
Interesting SW publishing announcement coming up in near-future Entertainment Weekly magazine.
— J. W. Rinzler (@jwrinzler) March 14, 2013
Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler tweeted the above this morning, and it raises a lot of questions… Given Rinzler handles mostly nonfiction and art texts, my guess is a book on the company’s acquisition by Disney, or a new art book we haven’t heard of yet.
Of course, it could be pretty much anything up to and including the future of the Expanded Universe. (Not that that writing isn’t already on the wall. ) Personally, I think that topic may be a bit too obscure for a mainstream publication like Entertainment Weekly, but it’s certainly going to come up as we wait.
The next issue of EW is coming out tomorrow, but ‘near-future’ implies we’ll be waiting a bit longer. Hopefully not too long, because there’s little that sends fandom into a panic like announcing announcements.
Monday’s announcement that Lucasfilm was taking its animation division in a new direction, focusing on exploring a new series while bringing a graceful end for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and a hard stop for Detours, brought out a lot of mixed feelings from fans. Many, like Stooge and me, were sad and angry to see The Clone Wars get shut down at its peak. I’ve rounded up reactions from the voice cast of the show, as well as from bloggers and entertainment reporters.
In a great story on the Lucasfilm acqusition by Disney in Bloomberg Businessweek, George Lucas more or less admits that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are returning for the new movies:
Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”
That may be the big news out of this, but the article itself is a must-read on the process, with extensive input from Lucas and Bob Iger.