With that monumental acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney last year the possibilities seem endless. Giving a franchise like Star Wars the added boost of the Disney juggernaught means we’ll be seeing new Star Wars material everywhere, all the time. Already we know new movies are in the works, with Episode VII set to release in 2015. Plus there’s the oncoming storm of merchandising and theme park tie-ins. What else could be down the line? Remember that long rumored live-action, Star Wars TV show? The one George Lucas and Rick McCallum claimed to have over 50 hours worth of scripts, then shelved the project due to their estimates it would cost about $5 million an episode to produce? Yeah, that one, which was tentatively titled Star Wars Underworld.
Well, Disney now sees an opportunity for this proposed live-action series and their network, ABC. Entertainment Weekly has the scoop that at the recent Television Critics Association press event, Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment, had this to say,
We’d love to do something with Lucasfilm, we’re not sure what yet. We haven’t even sat down with them. We’re going to look at [the live-action series], we’re going to look at all of them, and see what’s right. We weren’t able to discuss this with them until [the acquisition] closed and it just closed. It’s definitely going to be part of the conversation.
All right, so ABC seems open to the idea, but what about that staggering price tag per episode? Seems a good chunk of the estimated price was due to licensing, which a network would have had to pay Lucasfilm for the show. Not the case anymore with ABC being part of Disney who now own Lucasfilm. So the price has come down a little, and maybe it’s enough to actually see some forward momentum happen.
There’s also the consideration of becoming too over saturated with Star Wars? I know, some of us couldn’t ever imagine such a possibility, but you don’t want a TV show competing with the movies, and vice versa. Lee added,
It’s going to be very much up to the Lucasfilm brands how they want to play it. We got to a point here with Marvel, a very special point, where we’re in the Marvel universe, and very relevantly so, but we’re not doingThe Avengers. But S.H.I.E.L.D. is part of The Avengers. So maybe something oblique is the way to [approach the Star Wars universe] rather than going straight head-on at it.
In addition to the news the Star Wars live-action show might not be as shelved and gathering dust as we thought, the EW article also as a little more info about its premise,
Sources say the live-action series centers on the story of rival families struggling over the control of the seedy underside of the Star Wars universe and the people who live within the subterranean level and air shafts of the metropolis planet Coruscant (the Empire’s urban-sprawl-covered home planet). A bounty hunter may be the main character. Set between the original Star Wars film trilogy and the prequels, the time period allows for all sorts of potential appearances from classic figures from the Star Wars universe.
What are you thinking? Are Disney, ABC, and Lucasfilm blowing more hot air or could this show really begin to take off? Is ABC the network you want to see something like this Star Wars live-action show on?
Welcome to another edition of Star Wars-y goodness, filled with all the latest news, rumors and random crap regarding Disney’s shiny new toy. This week, Warwick Davis says Ewoks are awesome, the Carrie Fisher in-again-out-again conundrum, the challenges of time and Episode VII and the retirement of a veteran Star Wars producer.
So without further ado, brace yourselves.
A short time ago, in a galaxy that looks pretty much the same as our own, there was a franchise purchased…
Remember all the hubbub about a Star Wars television show that would take place between Episodes III and IV and would focus on the underworld of Coruscant? It was rumored to be called Star Wars: Underworld and we’ve been told hours upon hours of scripts had been written but since it would be too expensive to make right now it’d be on hold for a few years. Well, there’s been an update, as in it’s no real update but producer Rick McCallum assures us the series is still happening…someday.
It all boils down to money. With where technology is right now the 50 scripts they have written would just be too expensive to film. They’re waiting for things to be more affordable. Affordable like $4-5 million per episode! That’s a freakin’ pricey TV show, what the hell would it cost now!?!
McCallum talked with IGN at Kapow! Comic Con where he gave them the update,
When do you think will finally see some of Star Wars: Underworld?
Could the live action Star Wars: Underworld TV series be what we have been waiting for? Maybe, just we are going still be waiting awhile. Long time George Lucas cohort and producer Rick McCallum (the dude that gave us the underrated Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show) recently dribbled out some information to Collider on the project that sounds promising. Ok, he called it ‘The Empire Strikes Back on steroids’. I know, but hear him out.
“Basically, it is like The Godfather; it’s the Empire slowly building up its power base around the galaxy, what happens in Coruscant, which is the major capital, and it’s a group of underground bosses who live there and control drugs, prostitution.”
That. Sounds. Awesome.
Maybe I am just starved for good Star Wars, but what McCallum describes sounds very promising. With 50 scripts ready to roll it’s safe to say there is a strong vision of what the show will be, and in his words, it will be darker.
“It’s much darker [than the movies]. It’s a much more adult series. I think, thematically, in terms of characters and what they go through, it will be…if we can ever get it together and George really wants to pursue it, it’ll be the most awesome part of the whole franchise, personally…It’s Empire Strikes Back on steroids.”
McCallum says the show was envisioned as a Sci-fi Deadwood from the start. So… does that mean f-bombs and savage beatings? Not quite.
“Obviously, we changed it for where we couldn’t go in terms of language. It was to be serious performances, very complicated relationships, unbelievable issues of power and corruption, greed, vanity, pride, ego manifesting itself at levels that only equal the world that we live in now, but, as I said, on steroids.”
Alright. I’m sold. When does it come out? I want to set my Tivo now.
“This is the best way to put it into perspective: we did Episode III—which is one of the larger of all the Star Wars films in relation to set construction, visual effects, the amount of visual effects and everything else—and that was made for $100 million which was unheard of even five years ago, because had it been made by any studio or anywhere in the United States it would have been easily double that price. So imagine an hour’s episode with more digital animation and more visual effects and more complicated in terms of set design and costume design than a two-hour movie that takes us three years to make, and we have to do that every week and we only have $5 million to do it. That’s our challenge.”
Hang on, ‘a challenge?’ This sounds a little more that just a challenge, can you even do this on a TV budget? That is a lot of digital work to pack on to the small screen, and McCallum was just starting to describe the assload of work involved.
“[George has] come up with so many extraordinary digital characters that are onscreen for 30-40 minutes. Most people who love movies and kind of understand the process realize that if you do a character like Gollum or Jar Jar or any major digital character, that costs twice as much as having Tom Cruise in a movie. You get 150 people working for two years on a 40 minute performance and they all make serious money, you just add it up; that’s gonna be a serious $20-30 million character. That’s our problem, how do we get that down?”
Sounds really time consuming and expensive, right? Almost to much for TV. Well, McCallum isn’t done yet.
“[With] digital 3D matte paintings, how do we cut the time from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 days? On a television budget, on television screens it doesn’t have to be film res, but each one of these are major challenges for us. How do we get virtual set software? Because we can’t build any of this stuff. I mean we could do it if we did it in a traditional format where we have one set with all the characters, but George doesn’t work that way. We have 40-50 set pieces per hour, every minute and a half to two minutes there’s another set. Well we can’t build that and do that every week, that’s virtually impossible, so we have to come up with virtual set software and an environment that allows us to be able to do that on blue and green screen and be able to turn those backgrounds around really, really fast. We’re getting there, but it’s not perfect yet and it’s still too expensive.”
Come on man, give us something to go on here. I want this TV show, I want this TV show now.
“It’s not a challenge that I think can be dealt with in the next year or two years, I think it’s gonna be a little bit more longer term goal.”
Damn it and damn you. The first Star Wars related production I have been excited about in decades and it’s still so far out of reach. At the very least we can see that they are working on an incredibly ambitious TV show here, maybe the most ambitious ever and something that could quite possibly be the Star Wars we’ve been waiting for.
Rick McCallum, one of George Lucas‘ producers, recently spoke with IGN about the up-and-coming Star Wars live action television show.
Its name? Drum roll, please…
Star Wars: Underworld
According to McCallum, the series has a place in the Star Wars time line:
They take place between Episode III and Episode IV, that 20-year period when Luke is growing up. It’s not about Luke, but it’s about that period when the Empire is trying to take things [over].
It may be a while before we’ll actually see this series in the works because Lucasfilm is looking to keep costs capped at $5 million per episode and the ability to get all the effects done well with minimal cost apparently doesn’t exist yet. You may or may not like to know that they’ve already got screenplays written up for 50 hour-long episodes… so all you Star Wars bastards out there are just going to have to sit tight on that cock tease until they’re ready to give it up.
Check out the interview after the jump for more deets!
A little while back when George Lucas was promoting Star Tours he talked about the 3D conversions of the Star Wars films as well as the progress of his Star Wars live action series. At that point we were told the series was being shelved until technology advanced to the point he could make a visually compelling series for a fraction of the cost. Well, in a recent interview with producer, Rick McCallum we finally learned a time period attached to that shelf period,
We have 50 hours of third-draft scripts, but the problem we have is there is a lot of digital animation; we don’t have the technology yet to be able to do them at a price that is safe for television. Since we would be financing them, it would be suicide for us to do this [now]. So we are going to wait three or four years.
McCallum also describe what we can expect from the series,
Basically, it is like ‘The Godfather’; it’s the Empire slowly building up its power base around the galaxy, what happens in Coruscant, which is the major capital, and it’s [about] a group of underground bosses who live there and control drugs, prostitution.
So, space hookers? Maybe we’ll get too see what happens when you’re addicted to death sticks, too. Whatever the live-action Star Wars series ends up being we’ve got at least five years to wait to be horribly disappointed. Or pleasantly surprised, who knows, Lucas can’t be completely washed out, can he?
I suggest in the meantime you watch Clone Wars and remind yourself what a good Star Wars series can be.