Disney Confirms 3 ‘Star Wars’ Spin-Off Films on the Way

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) CEO Bob Iger recently confirmed that "at least three" new Star Wars spin-off films were in the works, running parallel to its three upcoming main films, Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Disney has stated in the past that the first two spin-off films (also referred to as "origin films" by Disney CFO Jay Rasulo) were tentatively scheduled for 2016 and 2018, to pick up the slack between the upcoming films in the new trilogy. Episode VII is expected to hit theaters in December 2015.

The first two spin-off films will reportedly star fan favorites Han Solo and Boba Fett, while fans have speculated that other future films might star Yoda or Darth Maul. What's clear is that Disney is planning on expanding its Star Wars Universe -- which it acquired by buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion in October 2012 -- the same way it expanded the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Source: Lucasfilm.

The economics of Star Wars
Many fans consider George Lucas more of a visionary than the ideal writer and director for the franchise. Lucas -- who wrote and directed Episodes I,II,III, and IV -- is frequently criticized for his writing style and over-dependence on CGI special effects in the later installments.

But whatever your personal opinion of George Lucas, his ultimate plan for Star Wars was brilliant. He first let viewers see the end (Episodes IV to VI), then when those kids grew up, he revealed the beginning (Episodes I to III). Now, as the kids who grew up watching Episodes I through III have kids of their own, Lucasfilm is releasing Episodes VII to IX -- completing a four-decade long domination of three generations of viewers.

By 2010, that master plan had generated $4.55 billion in box office receipts, $9 billion in action figures and toys, and $1.6 billion in video games from LucasArts. Disney plans to replicate that business model, double its efforts with spin-off films, and place it beside Marvel as its second universe of long-term revenue growth.

A clean slate
Disney made it clear that its new trilogy will not take into account events from the Expanded Universe (EU) of Star Wars -- which includes all the comic books, novels, games, and spin-offs that have accumulated over the past few decades.

This erases notable events such as Luke's marriage to Mara Jade (although Mara will possibly appear in Episode VII), her subsequent death at the hands of Han and Leia's son Jacen Solo, and the death of Chewbacca. Disney rebranded the entire EU as "Legends," simply meaning that those events never actually happened.

Mara Jade, one of the most well-known characters introduced in the EU. Source: Comicvine.com

A lot of longtime fans were upset about the reset, but it makes sense -- the average moviegoer would have been confused if the new trilogy included all of the events that occurred in the EU.

The business of origin films
The big problem is that "spin-off" and "origin films" have a lot of trouble measuring up to the original films. Two recent examples are Fox's (NASDAQ: FOX  ) Elektra (2005) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009).

Film

Production cost

Global box office

Rotten Tomatoes

Elektra (2005)

$43 million

$57 million

10%

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

$150 million

$373 million

38%

Source: Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes.

Although neither film completely bombed, both were poorly received by critics. Elektra was spun off from Daredevil (2003), but suffered because it just highlighted the fact that Jennifer Garner's Elektra wasn't actually interesting enough to carry a film without Daredevil. X-Men Origins: Wolverine made a different mistake, by altering Sabretooth's origin to the point that it didn't flow into his previous depiction in X-Men (2000).

The problems Fox experienced with Elektra and X-Men Origins: Wolverine highlight the mistakes that Disney could make with Boba Fett and Han Solo spin-off films.

Although Boba Fett only played a minor role in the original trilogy, his popularity prompted George Lucas to turn Boba and his "father," Jango, into central characters in Episode II: Attack of the Clones -- in which Jango was revealed to be the genetic template for the Clone Army. However, a Boba Fett solo film could suffer the same fate as Elektra -- he's just not interesting enough to carry an entire film.

Is Boba Fett an overrated character? Source: Starwars.com

Meanwhile, a Han Solo spin-off, possibly starring younger versions of Han, Lando, and Chewbacca, is an interesting concept. However, the actor portraying a younger Han Solo would face the daunting task of filling Harrison Ford's shoes. However, I believe that a Han Solo origin film might succeed if Disney hands the film over to The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who created the similarly themed, cult favorite sci-fi series Firefly.

Do or do not, there is no try...
In conclusion, new spin-off films could quickly turn Star Wars into a second pillar of growth for Disney alongside Marvel. Since Disney started booking full profits from its Marvel films (starting from The Avengers), its Marvel films have grossed more than $4 billion over the course of four films in two years.

Disney's Studio Entertainment revenue has remained fairly unchanged since it acquired Marvel in 2009. The segment generated $5.98 billion in revenue in 2013, compared to $6.14 billion in 2009. Yet during that period, Disney gradually shifted film production to Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm -- letting those popular studios do the heavy lifting to avoid accidentally releasing in-house turkeys like Mars Needs Moms, John Carter, and The Lone Ranger.

However, Disney needs to plan its steps for Star Wars carefully, since missteps could alienate both longtime fans and new audiences. Let's just hope that Disney heeds Yoda's advice to avoid the "quick and easy path" when it comes to the future of Star Wars.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (7)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 10:24 AM, Njancek wrote:

    I don't think fans would be confused about the new movies if they used the EU, if they set everything up right and explained things properly.

    And even then, it would be a good way to pull some people *into* what was the EU. I honestly think it's a stupid idea to just say "Hey, let's just abolish decades of content for the sake of making it easier on us and newbs!"

    I guarantee what really happened; they hired on these new story-board workers, asked them what Star Wars knowledge they had, and the majority probably answered with "Uh, well, we watched I through III? :D" So the only thing they could do was instead of teach them the material they were working with, just remove everything else so it's easier on them e.e

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 10:48 AM, vocal75 wrote:

    I find mixed feelings about the EU. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed some of the novels and would be saddened to know that they are no longer 'cannon'. (I liked Thrawn more than Vader!) On the other hand, I wasn't a strong fan of a lot of the later material and am just plain ignorant of a whole lot of the more recent stuff. So, like the majority of potential movie-goers, I am fine with that stuff being ignored. Having said that, I do hope that they browse the EU material and collect a lot of the best ideas and incorporate those. Just like any other re-interpretation or re-boot, they can snatch up fun Easter eggs for those 'in the know', but spend the majority of their time focusing on making the best movie they can.

    I'm honestly hopeful about this whole concept. I've loved the Avengers Universe movies (most of them anyway) and it's turned into a trusted / anticipated brand for me. The spin-off idea for SW is potentially good, if the movies are done well (the one's cited above were simply bad movies, not flops just because they were spin-offs).

    Thanks for the article!

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 2:11 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    Contrary, to Mr. Sun's opinion Boba Fett is an interesting character on his own because with him you have to explore the entire Star Wars Criminal Underworld, the world of the Bounty Hunter. A world that is very interesting to many Star Wars fans young & old. In addition, chances are that Boba Fett's solo film would have him cross paths with Han Solo and visa versa.

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 6:05 PM, shoemaker17 wrote:

    Ditto. Never bet against Fett! He is my favorite character. I'm in the navy, and it saw another sailor with a Boba Fett tattoo from his ankle to the back of his knee. It was the greatest tattoo I have ever seen, and I HATE tattoos. Has anyone on here seen a tattoo of a movie character? Probably not. I think the Fett movie, if done well, has a legitimate chance at being a blockbuster. Han Solo is ok...

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 12:08 AM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    I thought Fett was a fairly interesting character in the EU. You know... before he got post-Jedi 'Legend-ed' with everybody else.

    And that's not why X-Men Origins: Wolverine was bad (changing Sabertooth's origins). It was bad because Wolverine had cartoony Looney Toons claws, will.i.cant.act was given far too many lines, they sewed Deadpool's mouth shut.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 5:53 AM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    Oh, and because Gambit -- one of the most fan favorite X-Men characters -- was barely used in the movie.

    Instead of allowing Gambit and Deadpool to shine, we were treated to such memorable characters as... ummm... that one woman, and.... huh... that guy... I don't know who any of these characters are!!! Lol.

    I actually do know who they are, but most people don't. Just making a point that when you have Gambit and Deadpool in a movie, the focus shouldn't instead be on these fairly minor Marvel characters. This should have been easy. How do you mess up a X-Men movie that has Gambit and Deadpool in it? Well... X-Men Origins is how.

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