Disney paid more than $4 billion in 2012 to acquire LucasFilm, the production company responsible for the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” film franchises. At the time, Lucas, the creator and driving force behind six “Star Wars” movies, was getting ready to retire, and Disney, led by then-CEO Bob Iger, was taking aggressive steps to broaden its appeal to consumers by acquiring well-known franchises.
"This is one of the great entertainment properties of all time, one of the best branded and one of the most valuable, and it's just fantastic for us to have the opportunity to both buy it, run it and grow it,” then-Disney CEO Bob Iger said at the time of the deal, according to USA Today.
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Talks on a potential sale began in 2011, when Lucas and Iger met for the opening of “Star Tours: The Adventures Continue” at Walt Disney World resort in Florida. The resulting deal, which closed in December 2012, granted Lucas more than $4 billion in cash and stock and established him as one of Disney’s largest shareholders.
Once the deal closed, Disney set about revitalizing a “Star Wars” franchise that was at a crossroads in its existence.
The first trilogy, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, gained an international following and were among the highest-grossing movies of all time. The second “prequel” trilogy, starring Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christenson and Natalie Portman, performed well at the box office but drew a mixed response from fans and critics alike.
“Star Wars” returned to theaters in 2015 with “The Force Awakens,” the first film since LucasFilm became a Disney subsidiary. In his 2019 memoir “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Iger notes that Lucas was disappointed when he learned that Disney had not used his story drafts in crafting its latest trilogy.
"George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we'd gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start,” Iger wrote, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Still, Disney’s vision paid off when “The Force Awakens” earned praise from critics and more than $2 billion at the box office. Sequels “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” were divisive among fans but generated more than $1 billion each.
The culmination of the “Skywalker saga” was just one of several “Star Wars” projects Disney launched in recent years. The catalog includes spin-off films “Solo” and “Rogue One” and the “Galaxy’s Edge” theme part in California. A television series, “The Mandolarian,” was a launch title when the Disney+ streaming service went live last year.