With all the hubbub over Star Wars: Episode VII and the de-canonization of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there’s been plenty to dig into and debate about, but there’s one intriguing possibility that’s just floated back to the top of the rumor mill. When the big news came in October 2012 that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm (and thus Star Wars), once I picked my jaw up off my keyboard, one of the first thoughts I had was, “I wonder if this means they’ll finally re-release the unaltered, un-Special Edition-ed original trilogy?” So far there’s been nothing official on that front, but a credible-sounding rumor suggests that very thing may be on the horizon.
The rumor of the day comes from Bleeding Cool, who claim to have “intercepted” an email from within Disney’s marketing department, a message that suggests the Mouse is indeed planning the high-def home video release for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi that fans have been clamoring about for years. Up until now their pleas fell on the deaf ears of George Lucas, who seemed to have no interest whatsoever in giving the fans what they wanted. (That could be said about just about anything Star Wars after 1999 or so…)
But now that George is busy playing Jenga with stacks of gold bars, Disney has a brand spankin’ new Star Wars trilogy on the horizon, so what better way to drive excitement right clean into the stratosphere than to make fans’ dreams come true at long last? Just imagine: No horrible digital Jabba. No interminable musical numbers. No Force Ghost Hayden Christensen.
By all accounts the new trilogy is going to be very closely tied to the original — i.e., the one everybody actually likes — so it would make perfect sense to get those films out on Blu-ray and DVD sometime during the run-up to Episode VII’s December 18, 2015 theatrical release. Hell, Disney could even get two or more releases out of it. Not all of the changes made in the so-called Special Editions were bad, so maybe offer a “Special-ish Edition” that keeps some of the technical upgrades but nixes anything egregious. They could use focus groups: just put some die-hard Star Wars fans in a room, start playing the Special Editions, and whenever they start punching things and swearing in Aurebesh, you know that’s a scene that needs to hit the cutting-room floor.
Whether Bleeding Cool’s specific lead is genuine or not, I think an eventual re-release for the unaltered original trilogy is inevitable. This is Disney, a company that’s made billions off re-releasing old classics before putting them back “into the vault.” You can’t tell me they aren’t going to take advantage of the boatloads of money a proper Star Wars original trilogy re-release would bring them. To say nothing of the fact that Disney would instantly win the goodwill of many Star Wars fans who’ve grown jaded and cynical thanks to the umpteen Special Editions and the prequels. Their hearts would grow three sizes that day. And they might get in line for Episode VII even if they don’t like J.J. Abrams. (You know most of them are going to anyway, in spite of their protestations.)
It’s all just rumor and speculation at this point, but I’d say this is as close to a sure thing as you’re likely to get from the rumor mill. If Disney hasn’t given us the unaltered original Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray by the time Episode VII hits theaters, it might be time to put Mickey out to pasture…he’s clearly lost his mojo.