How Disney Awakened the Star Wars Brand

Let’s look at how Disney used The Force of franchising to sweat billions more Galactic credits from Star Wars.

Making movies is big business but carries even bigger risks. There are massive profits to be made, but the stakes are high, even for giant companies like Disney.

And, while audiences love a big screen blockbuster, for every Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s a Lone Ranger ready to vaporize the company silver.

So, how do you mitigate your risk and deliver the films that get audiences queuing around cinemas, crashing streaming servers and stripping stores of merchandise and toys?

Well, by finding, exploring and mining a successful film’s universe. 
Use The Force

So, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... okay, 2012 isn’t so far away, but it seems like forever ago now, right?
With the rise of streaming channels and cinema audiences globally in decline, The ‘House of Mouse’ needed a change of strategy. 

What was needed was fewer remakes, reboots and risky original pictures and more bankable prequels, sequels and spin-offs.

What it needed was The Force of franchising.
Rebel Alliance

Star Wars had been created by filmmaker George Lucas, who was as protective of his space baby as an Ewok would be of its only youngling. 

The first Star Wars film took the world by storm in 1977 and earned Lucas untold riches through marketing and merchandising that appealed to children and adults alike.
But, after the success of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the franchise stalled in 2005 after three prequels received mixed reviews from fans and critics.

Even so, surely Lucas would never ever sell? Well, seven years later, he did!

Disney gambled Mickey’s mansion on turning around the space franchise’s fortunes. The firm exchanged $4.05 billion of Galactic Credits for the ‘keys’ to Lucasfilm, the Millennium Falcon and the rest of the Star Wars treasure.
Jedi Mind Tricks from George?

Perhaps, especially if you factor in he reportedly took only half of the sale in cash and the rest in Disney shares. By 2018, CNBC was reporting Disney had recouped its investment, with money pouring in from new licensing agreements, theme parks and sales of merchandise, apparel and toys. 

Five years on, and it’s clear that it’s the development of individual characters’ stories in movies and in TV mini-series that’s expanded the Star Wars franchise and sent Disney's (and Lucas’s) wealth into orbit.  

But this is only half the story. A team of Swiss data scientists calculated there are 21,647 characters in the Star Wars universe (and counting). So, from the Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi to The Book of Boba Fett and Andor, it seems that where there’s a Star Wars character, there’s a lucrative spin-off waiting to happen. 

That’s at least 21,647 reasons for us creatives to raise a glass of Jawa Juice and toast this Rebel Alliance.

- Scott Faulkner