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How Avatar Could Help Star Wars (and Vice Versa)

Forbes' Scott Mendelson's got an interesting take

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My nerd cred is going to take a hit here: I have never seen Avatar.

Sure, I’ve seen snippets on television when it airs on a rainy Sunday afternoon; I know and understand the story. And, yeah, it looks cool, but for all intents and purposes–albeit from an uninitiated view–it reminded me of things I had seen elsewhere (Star Wars, Star Trek, Robotech, etc.) and I didn’t need another franchise in which to invest.

But having been to Walt Disney’s  “Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar” twice now, and seeing there how much my children (and my wife!) enjoyed the rides and accouterments in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I will reluctantly add the film to this weekend’s watch list. My mother-in-law says it’s great.

So what does this have to do with Star Wars, Bish?

Okay, so Scott Mendelson, my favorite Hollywood business reporter had a pretty impressive take regarding the intersection of Disney, Pandora, Star Wars, and the purchase of Fox. And he began with a similar family scenario, writing, “There is plenty to appreciate in Disney’s Pandora, including a boat ride, street entertainment and a lack of Disney-specific logos so as to sell the illusion. There’s (of course) a gift shop, too. That’s where the Disney merchandising machine will come in.

“If the deal goes through, you can expect to see Avatar merchandise, especially the interactive banshee toy that was the hot-ticket item when we visited in mid-January, popping up at Disney Stores nationwide,” he added. “If Avatar becomes a Disney property, the studio will make sure folks are aware of and interested in the world of Pandora.”

His case in point:

My kids had never seen Avatar. After an hour or so at Pandora, they A) wanted a Banshee toy and B) wanted to watch Avatar. So I showed them James Cameron’s 2009 mega-smash. My 6-year-old and my 10-year-old, who aren’t exactly pop culture junkies, sat enraptured for the entire 2.5-hour running time. So did I, as the movie holds up — in 2D 1080p on a 75-inch TV, no less — as a splendid big-screen entertainment. The dialogue isn’t quirky, and the plotting isn’t original, but the movie still works like gangbusters. It’s still a damn good movie.

But I’m burying Mendelson’s lede here… Assuming the sale is completed, Scott surmises that Disney will reissue Avatar sometime in 2020; with the primary purpose being to reacclimate viewers with the first movie in anticipation of the sequels.

“I’m sure this second film will do fine (especially overseas, where Avatar earned $2 billion in foreign box office alone) off the lingering popularity of the first film and the still-potent appeal of “never seen anything like this” big-screen spectacle. But if it’s not good, then that’s a problem for the next three sequels.

That part may be out of Disney’s hands, but it is in its interest that Cameron’s Avatar series be sea-worthy because if Avatar 2 delivers, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of Disney’s big-ticket brands, especially the Star Wars saga.”


Stay with me, as I had to re-read this a few times, too; the basic premise being the question of relevancy and sustainability.

Mendelson exposits, “Right now, there are no officially scheduled Star Wars movies after Episode IX in December 2019.

“And while I’m sure there will be more Star Wars flicks, Disney and Lucasfilm will be at an impasse after the end of the Skywalker/Solo saga,” he added. “Will folks still care about Star Wars without the explicit connections to the nine “episodic” Star Wars stories? Will Star Wars without Luke, Leia, Han, Yoda, Ben, and Anakin mean anything to general audiences, or will it just play like Dune or Jupiter Ascending with “Star Wars” slapped on it?”

I’d like to think that I’d know the answer; I’ve seen Solo (seven times) and Rogue One (nine times) in the theater a bunch. Hell, it was Rogue One deposited my butt in front of a laptop to write Star Wars. But, at least during the cinematic run of the second “Star Wars Story,” I was not exactly worried about finding a seat.

Mendelson said he didn’t know the answer either, but explained, “I do know that Disney would prefer not to have to deliver on its “a new Star Wars movie every year” approach that necessitated the Star Wars Story spin-offs. Avatar 2, Avatar 3, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 are currently slotted for December of 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025. A little musical chairs could easily create a scenario where every Christmas offers either a Star Wars “episode” or an Avatar sequel. Disney can do Star Wars for 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025 while Avatar goes 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026.”

The above is very interesting; as is the notion that Mendelson delivers that rotating “Avatar/Star Wars” scenario would lessen the blockbuster burden on its shoulders and increase the possibility that each franchise can provide an “event movie” every two years.

Now–in my own mind–that’s more than a little heartbreaking, as I would like to see a Star Wars movie every December. However, as someone who has lived through two prolonged cinematic droughts (BTW: All I am saying is that I am old, mind you), I prefer that financial viability co-mingle with imagination as the true Saga continues.

It’s a terrific take by Mendelson, be sure to read the entire piece. JB


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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.
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