Its an insult to see a fully realized and secondary world like the original Star Wars as a rough draft the way Lucas does. He is entitled to his very wrong opinion. Along with convincing himself Han always shot second.
Its kind of insane that he never liked the movie, the one that shattered box office records, made him a multi millionaire before the age of 40. Put Lucasfilm and ILM on the map. Changed the entire focus and direction of the film industry towards blockbusters.
In a sense, it makes sense that he feels that way. George has always been a perfectionist at heart, and of course, the production of the OT was riddled with compromises and technical limitations. Issues that seem small to us may have gnawed at him for those 20 years. He probably got uncomfortable just rewatching the OT and seeing those effects shots he wished could have been done differently.
Yes, it’s an alternate universe purely by virtue of being disendorsed by its creator. The way I see it, the original three films and any connected EU (Marvel Comics, Splinter, Zahn novels etc) are a completely separate canon that ends in 1997 at which point everything is rebooted.
That’s a good way of putting it. George and Lucasfilm essentially disowned the original films, so the Special Editions are basically the establishment of a new continuity (as well as being different films, in the same way that the cuts of Justice League are two separate films).