‘Star Wars Doesn’t Belong to George Lucas. It Belongs to the Fans’
^ a 2015 article from The New York Times.
The blurb (it is a lengthy article - though one worth reading in full; below is a snippet):-
'Mr. Lucas always knew his audience. In April 1977, the month before “Star Wars” opened, American Film magazine ran an interview in which he talked about who he wanted to reach. “Rather than do some angry, socially relevant film,” he said, “I realized that there was another relevance that is even more important — dreams and fantasies, getting children to believe there is more to life than garbage and killing and all that real stuff like stealing hubcaps — that you could still sit and dream about exotic lands and strange creatures.” His influences were a postmodern grab bag, from samurai films to “John Carter of Mars.” (Years later, Joseph Campbell was worked into the conversation, too.) Crucially, Mr. Lucas said, “I wanted to make a children’s movie, to go the Disney route.”
He specifically sought out science-fiction fans for “Star Wars,” and 20th Century Fox, its distributor, advised exhibitors to use science-fiction displays in public libraries to reach youngsters on summer break. Fox also urged exhibitors to try to rope in college students in language suggesting that this was a flick meant to be seen in an altered state: “If ever a motion picture was guaranteed to catch and send the imagination of college students soaring, it’s ‘Star Wars.’ ” Figuratively or through a cloud of smoke, the audience soared, and so did the box-office receipts. The film was a smash, conquering the public and critics — in May 1977, Time crowned it the year’s best — and remained in theaters throughout 1977, reopening in ’78 and in successive years. (Most studio movies now are in theaters for about four months.)’
'Mr. Lucas’s true genius may be in marketing, including of his vision. Like other filmmakers who came of age in the 1960s, when American directors became auteurs, he has strong views on authorship. In a 1997 interview with Wired, he addressed the studios’ and artists’ rights, arguing that a copyright should belong to “the artist” of a film and not the large corporation that owns it. “I solved the problem by owning my own copyright,” Mr. Lucas said, “so nobody can screw around with my stuff. Nobody can take ‘Star Wars’ and make Yoda walk, because I own it.” When asked about the changes that he had made to his earlier work, including to “Star Wars,” he said: “It’s my artistic vision. If I want to go back and change it, it’s my business, not somebody else’s.”
He could not be more wrong. If the past four decades have made anything clear, “Star Wars” the phenomenon doesn’t belong to Mr. Lucas or a studio, no matter what the copyright states: It is owned by the fans who — aided and abetted by him and his expansive empire — turned it into a sensation, a passion, a cult and, for some, a lifestyle. In 1977, when the first movie opened, a fan could buy tie-in promotional toys, T-shirts, posters, masks, books, comics and children’s costumes. And no wonder: It was a film, as Mr. Lucas said in 1980, written with “visions of R2-D2 mugs and little windup robots.” As the decades and sequels opened and closed, those mugs and toys multiplied into a seemingly infinitely expanding emporium of desire, a “Star Wars” alternative reality in which you could live, play (online and off) and dream.
In its narrative simplicity — its good versus evil morality, its cheerfully blank hero and bang-bang action — “Star Wars” became the ultimate toy, one that fans could spin in all sorts of directions. Its universe was at once specific and so broad that it inspired fan fiction in every imaginable form, tone and medium from comics to novels and movies. Years before the popularization of the idea of participatory culture, a term for those who are at once pop-culture consumers and contributors, “Star Wars” fans had staked their claim on this world. That engagement sometimes took Mr. Lucas aback. “It’s always amazing to me when people take them so seriously,” he is quoted as saying in Dale Pollock’s essential book “Skywalking” (1983). His movies, Mr. Lucas also said then, are “kind of dumb.” (In turn, the fans have lashed out at him, including for digitally fiddling with “A New Hope.”)
In the years since, Mr. Lucas has clearly embraced his destiny as a force. And while it may seem strange, given his hatred of the studios, that he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, he found it a perfect home. Mr. Lucas helped shape modern conglomerate cinema, to borrow a term from Mr. Schatz, but it was Disney that really pioneered cradle-to-grave entertainment. In 1929, Walt Disney sold the rights to use Mickey Mouse (soon called the “million dollar mouse”) on children’s writing tablets, signing his first licensing contract a year later. “The sale of a doll to any member of a household,” Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, said, “is a daily advertisement in that household for our cartoons and keeps them all ‘Mickey Mouse Minded.’ ” As it turns out, though, the real Force is the mouse that roared.’