Star Wars / George Lucas Business Lessons | Danny's Universe

As a young boy, I LOVED Star Wars.  I mean I really loved it.  

I had the action figures, the ships, several play sets,  the trading cards, the 45 and 78 records...

One thing I never had was the giant Millennium Falcon.  Yes, I had Han, Chewie, R2, 3PO, Luke, Leia and even Lando, but no full size Falcon.  

I kept my collection of figures and blasters in my handy-dandy, Darth Vader Collector's Case.

I even managed to get the Boba Fett figure after saving up my proofs of purchase.  However, those are stories for another time.

In this article, I will talk about the business lessons that Star Wars and George Lucas taught me.  

Attention Nerds: I'm not going deep into the minutia of fandom. 

However, when it comes to the original trilogy, I could do it faster than the amount of time it took Han to travel the Kessel Run!


Star Wars Business Lesson #1
Multiple Streams of Income
After the unprecedented success of 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, George Lucas (Mr. Star Wars) could have asked 20th Century Fox for a huge pay bump.

He'd proven that American Graffiti wasn't a fluke.  This was his second feature film hit in a row, and he was entitled to make more money for his next film.

Instead of demanding more cash for his services, George Lucas shrewdly bargained for 2 things that had relatively inconsequential value at the time.

1. Merchandising Rights 
When negotiating for the follow-up film, George asked for all merchandising rights to Star Wars instead of a bigger guaranteed payday.

In retrospect, this move seems brilliant.  Circa the late 70s though, it was a different story.  

Sure there was merchandising based on TV and Movies, but nothing like what was to come.     

In the 1950s and 1960s, little boys wore Lone Ranger masks, played with G.I. Joe action figures, and read Roy Rogers' and Batman comic books.

My frame of reference comes from a purely male perspective.  It was a different world than we live in today.  

All I know is that, (Beaver Cleaver voice) girls played with dolls, kitchens, and that kinda junk.  

Star Wars took the toy business to a level that even the Secret Order of the Emperor could not have prophesied. 

My Star Wars collection began with a few trading cards issued inside packages of Wonder Bread in the summer of 1977.  

Wonder Bread's Star Wars cards were the first movie merch that I remember.  I began collecting the cars only a few weeks after the movie hit the big screen.

When the 2nd movie of the original trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back) came out, things really ramped up, and as they say, the rest is history.

2. Sequels
The second part of George Lucas's merchandising rights negotiation was that he would retain the rights for any sequels. 

This meant lots of $$ when Luke Skywalker, and the other Star Wars characters changed clothes, got into a different spaceship, went to a new planet etc.  

I don't want to get into whether or not this was good for the overall story or not, but it sure gave me more things to ask for at Christmastime, and my birthday.

In a universe so rich with characters, gadgets, and locations, the opportunities for monetary gain were nearly endless.   

Industrial Light & Magic
George Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) as a division of the film production company Lucasfilm.  The visual effects studio was an entirely different entity than other parts of his company.

Without getting too deep into this additional stream of income, I should mention that besides Star Wars, ILM was also the original founder company of the animation studio Pixar Animation Studios.

Industrial Light & Magic has also produced special effects for nearly three hundred films including:
The entire Star Wars saga 
The Indiana Jones series 
The Harry Potter series 
The Jurassic Park series 
The Back to the Future trilogy
Several Star Trek films
Ghostbusters II
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Pirates of the Caribbean series
The Terminator sequels
The Transformers films
The Men in Black series
Marvel Cinematic Universe films
Wild Wild West
Most of the Mission: Impossible films
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and many others

That's not a bad client list for an extra stream of income, right?

Star Wars Business Lesson #2
Some partnerships are better than others, but one thing you can say about George Lucas is that he has partnered with some of the most well-known  individuals and companies in the world.

Whether working personally with individuals, or through licensing deals, George Lucas has pretty much had his pick. 

Most of us would practically give our right hand to work with Steven Spielberg, Kenner, Burger King, Disney, etc.

Some might question whether his partnering with Kathleen Kennedy has turned out to be a good thing, or not.  I suppose it all depends on your perspective. 

Of course he worked with the best-of-the-best when it came to making his films.  

Star Wars would have been very different without the iconic music, effects, etc. that came from the many talented people George Lucas collaborated with.

Star Wars Business Lesson #3
Every artist must find his or her own balance when it comes to art, money, the opinions of others, and many other things.

I personally felt sad for George Lucas when it came to how people treated him concerning his craft.  Most of whom were neither successful, nor had talent of their own.

On one hand there were guys like me who thought he was the greatest thing since Princess Leia in her ROTJ bikini.  

On the other hand, there were those who complained incessantly about every new artistic thing he did ranging from the JarJar Binks character to the entire prequel series.

When creating art, artists must take chances.  Sometimes, people like the results, and sometimes they don't.

Some will say, "Why feel sorry for him?  He's a billionaire!"  That's where the balance comes in.

If our entire goal is money and get a big payout, the chances are we will not get to a high level of success in any endeavor. 

Likewise, if we only seek artistic freedom and self-expression, it will be difficult to reach huge financial success.

Of course there are a few exceptions to every rule, but the lesson of balance is a good one.

Star Wars Business Lesson #4
Like vs. Love
As I said in my opening statement, I LOVED Star Wars, and so did millions of other people from all around the world. 

When I was 12 years old, I couldn't have imagined missing a Star Wars movie.

After watching The Force Awakens in 2015, I was hugely disappointed.  I won't go into all of the reasons for this.  That's what the rest of the internet is for. lol  

I haven't bothered seeing the last two films (yet).  I'm sure I will get around to it someday.  If not, no biggie.    

My point is, the 2015 film was ok, just ok.  I didn't love it.  

I know quite a few people who liked it, but I don't know of many who loved it.  The original films brought deep emotions.

It seems that the filmmakers this time around decided to put in a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, to appease this and that faction of fans, and that group of SJW, and blah, blah, blah.

What has been left, at least to me, is lacking in heart and soul.  

It's kinda like ice cream.  There are people who LOVE cookies and cream ice cream.  Some LOVE strawberry ice cream, or black walnut etc.

Lots of people like vanilla, but comparatively speaking not many say they LOVE vanilla ice cream. 

The lesson here is when we try make everyone happy, we often end up with a mediocre product at best.

There are many other business lessons we can learn from George Lucas and Star Wars, but this was my list.

If you have some business examples to add, feel free to do so in the comment section below. 

Thank you for reading,
Love one another

Disclaimer: I believe the philosophy I put forth here.  I believe my points are valid.  However, all situations are not equal.  If you are in dire need, please speak to a respected faith leader or professional counselor in your area.  The thoughts and opinions here are my own and should not take the place of professional advice.
Dannys Universe is intended as a fun and educational endeavor.

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