For many of the world's diehard Star Wars fans, the news yesterday morning might at first have seemed like a joke that had gone viral, perhaps something dreamed up in the bowels of the satire publication The Onion. But it wasn't the case. Not only is Disney buying Lucasfilm, but it is also planning to release a new trilogy of Star Wars films, with the next – the seventh in the series - scheduled to launch in 2015.
Few would argue that George Lucas's beloved, generation-spanning galactic empire still remains sacred territory. While the special effects overload of the prequels drew the ire of many, the subsequent TV cartoons, remasterings, 3D releases and "brand extensions" - including the recently announced Angry Birds Star Wars - have become regular, painful reminders for fanboys of the big business behind the Death Star. But under the control of Disney - not a company known for leaving characters alone in the interest of sentimentality - many believe Star Wars could become a wholly different beast. Hans Solo's "I've got a bad feeling about this" has been regularly quoted on Twitter since the announcement.
Disney has said that after a new trilogy, starting with episode seven, it will make a new Star Wars film every two to three years. While some have stated their joy at the idea of new stories, much of the focus online has been one of disapproval. One fan expressed his sentiments with the image of a three Death Stars forming Mickey Mouse's head, while others repeated the phrase "Princess Leia is now a Disney princess". The YouTube video of Emperor Palpatine growling his line "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen, hahaha!" has been enthusiastically doing the rounds.
Whether the new Star Wars goes the way of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (ie commercially successful yet creatively bland mulch) or Marvel Comics (capitalising on each character to make a never-ending series of sequels) remains to be seen. Let's just hope Disney does the decent thing and keeps Jar Jar Binks well away.