In his first major public statement regarding Star Wars since selling Lucasfilm to Disney a year and a half ago, George Lucas has announced that he will be joining J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair for Star Wars: Episode VII. The decision comes after a string of production difficulties led to the ousting of Michael Arndt. “This is part of the continuing effort to make sure Star Wars is the best movie it can be,” said Lucas in his statement. “I’ll be stepping in to tweak the script and make sure J.J. feels comfortable with the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars.” Abrams could not be reached for comment, and rumors around the studio suggest Abrams could actually be on his way out. This follows stories several months back that he was uncomfortable with the principal production location, London.
Perhaps hoping to defray any fan concerns that Star Wars might not hit the just-announced May start date after all, Disney also announced two new cast members for the sci-fi giant. Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy, will be reprising his role as a ghostly Jedi apparition that, according to sources familiar with the project, will be a teacher at Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) Jedi academy, teaching students the art of meditation and discipline. “This was always part of the plan,” a Disney spokesperson said. “We know some fans were disappointed when Hayden was added to Return of the Jedi in the DVDs, but this was all part of fulfilling George’s vision, and that includes a major supporting role for Anakin in the sequel trilogy.” Also announced to be in the cast was Kevin Hart, who will be playing a member of the same species as Yoda with a pituitary condition that’s made him grow to nearly twice Yoda’s height. Apparently CG was considered, but in a return to older filmmaking form, Hart will be playing the character live-action, with makeup used to achieve the characteristic green skin and wide spread ears. “He just had the perfect body type, we couldn’t justify the CG expense,” said the studio.
In other Disney news, it was announced this morning that Disney Animation, in an attempt to build off the runaway success of Frozen, will be fast tracking a sequel. Responding to criticism that Frozen wasn’t “Disney enough,” the sequel will be called Arid and will be an adventure story wherein Elsa and Anna travel to a faraway desert land in order to consummate a marriage alliance with a trade partner, a nation called Kaarth. “We wanted to make sure fans got the love story they’ve come to expect from Disney,” said a spokesman. The movie will also return Olaf, and will feature the trio trekking across a desert to the massive city where their prince waits. On the way, Elsa will fall for the leader of a clan of militaristic horse lords and be left with a choice whether to stay and become their queen or go with Anna to woo the prince. Anna and Elsa have a falling out when Elsa stays, and Elsa, vowing revenge, takes her new army of horse lords in a massive war game for the throne of Kaarth. Backstabbing and plenty of intrigue is promised in what Disney is also calling a spiritual successor to The Lion King and its famous fight for domination of Pride Rock.
It was a truly monumental day of announcements from Disney. Mark this date. No, really. Check it and write it down, as we’re sure to be looking back on this date as the day when Disney took a great leap forward.