Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Genius of George Lucas

There are very few billion dollar ideas in the world that continue to generate money even after turning thirty. I don't think the track record of sliced bread is going to be broken but one of those ideas that certainly seems to be maintaining its stride is the brainchild of George Lucas; and that brainchild is the "Star Wars" franchise. Given that most people my age grew up with copies of the original films on VHS tapes, it's no wonder that the films (the originals mind you) have had such an impact on so many lives; and it's no wonder therefore that it continues to have an impact. Well, maybe not as much as it once did, but for some of us out there it definitely still draws us in to explore the universe that has grown well beyond the original three films. But what in that makes George Lucas the genius? Simply the fact that he retained the rights to the characters and universe thus ensuring that no matter what is created with even a passing reference to "Star Wars" he will continue to rake in the money.

Don't believe me? Well how about the latest phone fad to hit the wireless market here in the United States; the Droid available exclusively from Verizon Wireless. In it's initial releases, the phones didn't really have anything to do with "Star Wars" other than the fact that the phone's operating system was referred to as 'droid' which is "Star Wars"-speak for robot (short for android). Yet even that was enough to ensure that Lucas made some money on it. If you see the ads, at the very end there would be barely visible text which indicated that 'droid' was a trademark of Lucasfilm (George Lucas's production company) and thus, simply because they used the term, makers of these phones would have to pay Lucas and his company a ton of money.

As if that wasn't enough though, Verizon recently announced that a forthcoming updated version of the droid phone will not only feature a faster system, but will include exclusive "Star Wars" content and will be in the shape of that most famous of "Star Wars" droid characters, R2-D2. Now if that's not a surefire way to increase sales of the already popular phone then I don't know what is. There are those who scoff at these moves by Lucas; they claim that he's simply selling out his original idea for the sake of making money but I would simply push back that this is the only way in which he'd be able to continuously feed the desire that my generation (and now the next generation) have for all things "Star Wars".

When I attended the "Star Wars in Concert" concert recently, I was genuinely surprised at the sheer number of children who were in attendance. Not that I should have been surprised given that the newer films and television shows are definitely aimed towards a younger audience (which I find ironic considering they are supposed to deal with a darker time in the "Star Wars" timeline). There are cartoons and books and games all aimed at a younger audience while for us older fans, there are items like wireless cell phones. So say what you will about Lucas and his desire to make more money, it only works because many of us continue to be suckers for the universe he created. And by this time, even if we've moved past being fans of the universe (or ignore it because we feel that it's aimed too squarely at a younger audience) it's a machine that will still grow for years to come given that the next generation has and will continue to embrace it. And Lucas will continue to see visions of dancing dollar bills.



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