The Trouble With George…
Not being an industry insider, I don’t know if the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney was to be expected. I was surprised though; for the same reason I believe the Star Wars franchise has been underwhelming : it’s all about George.
When he finally made his mythical mash-up, stream of consciousness western-on-the-outer-rim, George Lucas unleashed a monster that was bigger than any of his creations.
What followed is as much a lesson in brand leadership as it is a manual on how to write really bad dialogue. Despite being the accidental author of a twentieth century phenomenon, surrounded by brilliant people and awash with money, he never accepted anyone else could ‘do’ his creation better than him. He wouldn’t (probably couldn’t) even delegate the task of designing the alien creatures. And yet, beyond the perimeter of Skywalker Ranch, the best bits of the franchise have been reinterpreted for new audiences and new generations with humour, sophistication and reverence by toymakers like LEGO.
The best brands recognise that heritage is only as valuable as the lens through which today’s audience views it. Effective delegation means the best strategic and creative partners are challenged to be better than their clients when it comes to writing and directing the brand’s story.
Following the success of ‘Star Wars’ in 1977, George Lucas was unable to handle the stress of making its sequel ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980). Instead, he engaged Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett to write the screenplay and hired the vastly more experienced Irvin Kershner as director. The result: TESB is widely regarded as the finest film of the franchise. Compare it with the insipid dialogue, wooden, self-reverential acting and dull predictability that typified the latter trio of films: there was never going to be a scene as dramatic or a line more moving (to men of a certain age)than “Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son!”
Empowered agencies should take the awesome responsibility for moving a brand’s story forward very seriously. They can’t afford not to. Nowadays, they are even accountable, thanks to the blistering impact of social media. And nobody wants to be the architect of another Consignia.
The best partnerships are rewarding. Take Lurpak’s reinvention as the go to brand for gourmet cooking at home; the ignition of Samsung or the redefining of Skoda: successful commercial outcomes as well as pretty advertising.
So Disney have a job to do. My view (as a fan – I queued round the back of Bromley Odeon to see Star Wars in 1977) is that it’s a good thing. A shame it didn’t happen pre-1999.
Finally, for a textbook lesson in storytelling, try ‘Tangled’ (2010) The heroine’s eyes are scarily big, but the artistry of the plot is breathtaking. These writers are skilled and accountable. They work in a critical environment where the objectives of the project are clearly defined and nothing is indispensable (except size of eyes). It’s commercial, for sure, but Disney are smart enough to handle this expensive new toy with care. And there is a precedent: Pixar’s extraordinary WALL-E, was made during their tenure.
When the relationship is right, everyone: clients, agencies and consumers, should expect plenty of magic.
By Andrew Piper, Group Creative Director