5 Projects That Lay the Groundwork for Disney’s Purchase of LucasFilm
November 21, 2012
The Walt Disney Company bought LucasFilm a couple of weeks ago, but this isn’t the first time that Lucas and Disney have crossed paths.
In the late ‘70s, Disney’s “Imagineers” designed a space simulator attraction for Disneyland’s “Tomorrowland” based on the 1979 Disney sci-fi film The Black Hole. Once the film flopped, the ride was never built. (It was also slated to cost $50 million.) Almost a decade later, Disney approached Lucas about a Star Wars ride, looking to reuse some of its unused Black Hole developments. Lucas created Star Tours, which allows the park’s guest to blast off as “space tourists” and tag along on an attack on the Death Star.
It opened in January 1987 at a cost of $32 million. Disneyland stayed open for 60 straight hours to accommodate the throngs of fans eager to ride it over and over again.
Lucas and Disney were professionally close at the time of Star Tours because of Captain Eo, a sci-fi film that ran in Disney theme parks. A “4-D” production (the extra dimension is for in-theater effects, such as lasers and smoke cannons), it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starred Michael Jackson, and was produced by George Lucas.
The Indiana Jones ride at Disney parks
Disney started running a daily Indiana Jones-themed stunt show at its Hollywood Studios theme park in the early ‘90s, based on the adventure films co-written and produced by Lucas. The show proved popular enough to lead Disney to make Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, a full-fledged ride that debuted in Disneyland in 1995.
Special effects provider
Lucasfilms’s special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic, also helped produce the visuals for Disney-produced movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Rocketeer, and the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians.
Pixar was founded in 1979 as Graphics Group, the computer division of Lucasfilm. In 1986, GG was sold to Apple founder Steve Jobs (who redubbed it Pixar) after Lucas ran into money woes after a divorce. Pixar has since produced Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Brave, and other critically-acclaimed CGI feature films that were distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Disney bought Pixar outright in 2006 for $7.4 billion.