This is real. All the information that follows (except the speculative final paragraph) comes from a Disney statement released this afternoon.
The Walt Disney Company today announced that it will acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. from George Lucas, who owns the entirety of Lucasfilm.
In addition, Disney announced that Star Wars: Episode 7 will be targeted for a 2015 release, with more Star Wars films expected to follow.
The deal, which will net Lucas a cool $4.05 billion, includes Lucasfilm companies LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. Kathleen Kennedy, current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, is slated to become president of Lucasfilm.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said Lucas, Chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."
The transaction involves Lucas receiving half of the sale price in cash and around 40 million shares of Disney. In addition to her new role as president of Lucasfilm, Kennedy will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars and will be executive producer on new Star Wars movies. George Lucas will serve as a "creative consultant" for future Star Wars films.
There's a lot of emotion surrounding the Star Wars franchise and its movies, so let's take a few deep breaths and examine where this sale leaves things. George Lucas will soon be even more of a billionaire than he already was, but will have significantly less control over the future of Star Wars. It's known that Lucas had almost complete control over Episodes I through III. Regardless of your opinions on Disney as a company, it did release The Avengers earlier this year, demonstrating that it can produce excellence given the right circumstances. And, really, Episode 7 can't be any worse than The Phantom Menace, can it? Today is certainly a turning point in the history of Star Wars, but things haven't been heading in the right direction for years.