Lucas Cared More About Toys, Says Star Wars Producer

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Lucas Cared More About Toys, Says Star Wars Producer

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The original producer of the first two Star Wars movies says that Lucas's priorities shifted away from film making after Empire Strikes Back, which vastly changed the shape of Return of the Jedi.

Two men were present at the birth of Star Wars, one of the biggest media franchises of all time. One of them was George Lucas, and the other was Gary Kurtz. Kurtz served as producer for both Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, but said that after the second movie, Lucas cared more about the merchandising than he did about the films.

By 1980, the Star Wars toys made three times as much as the actual films so it was natural that LucasFilm's priority as a business was to protect that source of revenue, but Kurtz feels that this meant the movies themselves suffered. "The emphasis on the toys, it's like the cart driving the horse," he said. "If it wasn't for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn't be looking over their shoulder all the time."

The focus on merchandise had a huge effect on Return of the Jedi, Kurtz said. The original outline called for a much more grim ending to the trilogy, with the rebel forces in disarray, Leia struggling with her new responsibilities as queen, Luke walking off into the sunset, and Han dead in the second act. But Lucas didn't want that, Kurtz explained, and changed the outline significantly. "Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy," Kurtz said. "George then decided he didn't want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason."

While there's no shortage of people ready to criticize Lucas for the rather disappointing prequel trilogy, it's debatable whether Kurtz's darker ending would really have been a better way to end the trilogy. For what was effectively a series of fantasy movies in space, ending on such a somber note just seems incongruous.

Source: LA Times via io9

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that sounds about right

Lucas you fail and South Park was right about what you did to Indiana Jones

So that's why the empire was defeated by the teddy bear picnic.

Yeah, the somber ending would be crap IMO. I like the way Star Wars turned out, despite all the negativity this story brings up, and that's really all that matters to me.

I'm not convinced that such a dark ending as that would have been better for the franchise, but it is true that Jedi is substantially worse than the two movies that preceded it, and it's also clear that many elements of that film - the Ewoks and the ridiculously long space fight with all the new space ships in particular - are just there to allow for the creation of more toys.

Bobic:
So that's why the empire was defeated by the teddy bear picnic.

Maybe. I still think the effectiveness of the Stormtrooper helmet still is a principal cause of the defeat.

OT: Return of the Jedi was when the symptoms first became noticeable. It blew out of proportions the day Phantom Menace hit the silver screen.

That is my opinion anyway.

I like how the movie ended, even if the Empire was "destroyed" partially because of a bunch of baby bears. Han was too awesome of a character to have killed, and it would have changed a lot of the books that came out as well.

While I loved Return of the Jedi, it still wasn't as good as the first two that was for sure. Not sure if a bittersweet ending would have worked out though. I mean they go through all that trouble to rescue Han in the first part of the movie, and they were planning to kill him off in the end? Eh.

An alternate ending still would be interesting though.

deth2munkies:
Yeah, the somber ending would be crap IMO. I like the way Star Wars turned out, despite all the negativity this story brings up, and that's really all that matters to me.

If you ask me the somber ending sounds badass. I don't mind the absurdly happy ending, but something tells me that the somber ending wouldn't have the ewoks. Imagine. Just Imagine. A universe without ewoks...

In the words of a great man "merchandiseing is where the money is!" as in for mr.lucas star wars is a business nothing more.

Yeah, that ending would not have been as good. There was already a bittersweet element with Luke having turned his father back from the dark side right before his death: allowing everything else to be a celebration balanced that bittersweet ending perfectly. I wouldn't change a thing. Not. A. Single. Thing.

Didn't Lucas already admit that Ewoks were simply to sell toys?

But Return of the Jedi wasn't so bad. The prequel trilogy, on the other hand, was ONLY to sell more stuff. If it wasn't, they would have actually invested in a coherent story.

Not that it was bad by any means, I think that if there had been a balance between the darker ending and the space-teddy bears, RotJ would have been so much better.

Hell, if they had just replaced the Ewoks with Wookiees, and left everything else the way it was, I might have liked it as much as ESB.

But the prequels...

How would a somber ending be incongruous? I think it would have fit just fine. Luke having his Uncle and Aunt Killed, and the Empire being over whelming from start to finish of Empire Strikes Back... I think it fits just fine. I would have liked it. But I do like the current ending as well. Maybe we could have had two endings =P ALTERNATE ENDING. They could have showed it in two different theaters. That would have been awesome to see. Two theaters showing the "same" movie, just different endings.

Meh.
Personally, I would have liked to see both versions.
Though to be honest, the sad version might have obliterated some childhoods.

Johnnyallstar:
Didn't Lucas already admit that Ewoks were simply to sell toys?

But Return of the Jedi wasn't so bad. The prequel trilogy, on the other hand, was ONLY to sell more stuff. If it wasn't, they would have actually invested in a coherent story.

That was Lucas's story. The reason the first three films were good is because Lucas was generally kept far, far away from the script.

Good interview, but it fell apart for me when he talked about their original idea for ROTJ.

We can complain about Lucas' lust for money and his tasteless mechandizing and how he ruined the prequel trilogy but the fact is no matter how dissapointing TPM was we still went back for AotC and the third one. And we'd all go back for a new one too. So sounds like he made the right call.

metalhead467:
Hell, if they had just replaced the Ewoks with Wookiees, and left everything else the way it was, I might have liked it as much as ESB.

Yeah, Wookiees would have actually made much more sense in the context of the story, sense they've already shown that they could easily overpower a stormtrooper.

that makes way too much sense. like he said, the focus was on toy sales.. that totally explains the prequel trilogy. It was all about the toys.. the cart drove the horse, and the films bombed. The original toys were good because they were from a great movie. It wasn't because they were great toys in and of themselves. Lucas looked at every single character in the prequel and thought "What toys could I make out of these?" and hoped that they'd sell well. I'm pretty sure for the most part they did sell well though, I know I bought almost all of the Phantom Menace toys, including a 30 dollar Ebay purchase of Darth Maul. - yeah, it was a bad move, but I was a kid I guess.. or almost still a kid, and I thought the toys were neat.

I think the plot was ok and as Thaius says;

Thaius:
There was already a bittersweet element with Luke having turned his father back from the dark side right before his death: allowing everything else to be a celebration balanced that bittersweet ending perfectly.

Ending on a downer would have sucked, especially if there was no continuation to the story planned. Then again, I've always felt that the Star Wars universe is fundamentally tragic, especially as the universe was expanded and we learned that 1) technology used to be better but there was still pointless petty conflict and titanic evil forces in equal measure and 2) that there was no happy ending for anyone, just more hardship, invasive aliens and megalomaniac types causing trouble.

Oh yeah, boo, Lucas - putting money ahead of artistic integrity! Who do you think you are - a business? Well, I guess you're washed out as a film maker...

Thaius:
Yeah, that ending would not have been as good. There was already a bittersweet element with Luke having turned his father back from the dark side right before his death: allowing everything else to be a celebration balanced that bittersweet ending perfectly. I wouldn't change a thing. Not. A. Single. Thing.

I like you. :D

Count me in as well, I'm fine with the ending as it is and think that other ending wouldn't have been as good. I know the normal ending is a bit too happy but frak it, it works for me!

Logic 0:
In the words of a great man "merchandiseing is where the money is!" as in for mr.lucas star wars is a business nothing more.

Didn't Mel Brooks say that in SpaceBalls when he unvieled all the Spaceballs merch?

WHAT IS THIS!?

I could have gotten a bittersweet and poignant ending, one of my favorite kind of endings, but Lucas changed it!?

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE

I need to calm down with some Oldboy. Possibly do a run on Mass Effect 2 where everyone dies.

to me the movie and lucas earned a special place in hell for what they did to boba fett. they kill off one of if not the most popular character in the franchise in such a bitch way but killing han was considered to dark

The only thing that I hated from Return of the Jedi is the new Hayden Christen...whatever ghost.

Hubilub:

WHAT IS THIS!?

I could have gotten a bittersweet and poignant ending, one of my very favorite kinds of ending, Lucas changed it!?

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE

I need to calm down with some Oldboy. Possibly do a run on Mass Effect 2 where everyone dies.

OLDBOY <3 what a GREAT ending on that movie! I agree, I like those endings best!

My only complaint about RotJ is that the original climax was supposed to be on Kasshyyk. And wookies were supposed to bring down the empire. Other than that, it's fine. I think a dismal, bittersweet ending would have hurt the trilogy and everything worked out fine.

But wookies beating down the empire just would have made more sense. After all the empire had been using wookies as slave labor for decades.

Lucas is a hack, we all know it. He's an ideas man, not a storyteller.

Wellllllllll

he makes good toys =D I own quite a few. (plays with darth vader and stormtrooper figures)

Good morning blues:
I'm not convinced that such a dark ending as that would have been better for the franchise, but it is true that Jedi is substantially worse than the two movies that preceded it, and it's also clear that many elements of that film - the Ewoks and the ridiculously long space fight with all the new space ships in particular - are just there to allow for the creation of more toys.

The space fight was the best part of Return of the Jedi. I was so looking foward to seeing what they could do with new tech in the Revenge of the Sith, and instead all I got was Anakin and Obi talking in their chairs. Major dissapointment.

mrm5561:
to me the movie and lucas earned a special place in hell for what they did to boba fett. they kill off one of if not the most popular character in the franchise in such a bitch way but killing han was considered to dark

Boba Fett is not dead. He's still very much alive in the Star Wars universe and is still smashing peoples' heads in.

On topic: I like the way Return of the Jedi ended. If people were upset that Lucas killed Darth Maul, imagine how angry people would have been about Han dying. And for anyone who wants bitter-sweet endings, I suggest you read the books. Starting from the Vong war on, things are no longer "Everyone survives and they all live happily ever after." Some of these books are really depressing.

Ewoks>Jar jar, Originals> prequels, out of them all Empire Strikes back is maybe the best.

And I second the hate for Hayden Christen in ROTJ......................

Well, this proves that George shares more than dialogue writing ability with five year olds.

Empire strikes back was always my favourite film and I wondered why the tone changed so rapidly. It's a shame but i won't pretend I thought Star Wars was free of commercialisation (lol)

Personally I liked the way Return of the Jedi turned out. If we had the darker ending then who knows how the Expanded Universe would have been. Then again I'm one of the few people who actually cares about the books.

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