While most online fans greeted the decision to release a Star Wars movie every year as a positive move back in 2012, it turns out that in hindsight, Disney CEO Bob Iger sees that decision as a mistake. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the long-term Disney leader says that it was too much Star Wars in too short of a space of time:
“I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make films. J.J. [Abrams] is busy making [Episode] IX. We have creative entities, including [Game of Thrones creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, who are developing sagas of their own, which we haven’t been specific about. And we are just at the point where we’re going to start making decisions about what comes next after J.J.’s. But I think we’re going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.”
In terms of live action cinematic releases, the classic and prequel trilogies both saw three years gaps between movies. Since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, a new film has been released every year since 2015.
The release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017 saw significantly lower box office returns than had been enjoyed by The Force Awakens in 2015, with 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story bringing in very disappointing returns when compared to its budget, and the release of Rogue One in 2016. Additionally, Star Wars merchandise sales have been on a downward slide since 2015. Fan reaction to The Last Jedi was also mixed, with vocal fans criticising Rian Johnson’s entry in the saga, while Solo underwent significant production issues, with directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired during filming.
Whether any of these issues factor into Iger’s admission of a “mistake” is unclear, as he does not elaborate further. His acknowledgement will perhaps cause some relief to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who it is understood privately pushed for a slower release schedule, but has been the target of some fans online demanding changes to the production team.
While acknowledging the changing landscape of Hollywood, citing the success of inclusive movies with black and female leads, the article describes Iger as “the lead hunter” thanks to the commercial success that Disney has achieved under his stewardship. The Disney CEO acknowledges that the company has been asleep when it comes to the need to protect employees. “it’s high time that we all woke up to the need to protect the people that work for us and work with us,” he says in the interview.
The full article is worth a read, as the Disney CEO explains how the company will invest “more in content”.
His closing comments refer to the decision to serve alcohol in Disneyland for the first time as part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: “This just seemed like one of those traditions that if we changed it the empire wasn’t going to crumble.” While it may not crumble the empire, fans will have to trust that it will not later be viewed as a mistake.