Quietly things have been shifting at Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. One might say the mood is different in the house that George Lucas built. It started with the dramatic clean up of social media behavior by Lucasfilm employees. Then, despite the Herculean efforts it would take to get Indiana Jones 5 into production, everything was thrown at making the movie a reality. The head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, began scheduling appearances at the production of the movie, along with her husband, Frank Marshal, in a way that isn’t often seen for executive producers. Next, the bad news for Star Wars and Disney+ began subtly leaking from Disney… almost certainly in a soft, coordinated manner.
Is Indy the swan song for Mrs. Kennedy?
Kennedy is in the final year of her contract with The Walt Disney Company for presiding over the studio largely all about Star Wars. Her tenure has been a bumpy one. While her immediate box office success with The Force Awakens and Rogue One was monumental, things quickly devolved afterwards from a financial position. Whereas other Disney properties grew in popularity and economic importance, Star Wars began to diminish with the release of The Last Jedi. It was a steady drop until The Mandalorian.
If you’ve been following Star Wars, you’ve probably read articles like the one above. You know that there are people who defend Kathleen Kennedy, and those who despise how she’s performed. But the tenuous relationship she’s had with Disney was ultimately frayed when Favreau demonstrated just how popular Star Wars can still be with The Mandalorian, and yet that was somewhat squandered with the mishandling of Gina Carano. Whatever your opinion of the actress, the way in which she was terminated from the company was a public relations nightmare.
Now, however, things are beginning to change behind the scenes.
Of these heads, Feige is seen as the most essential executive, having proved his mettle with the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and streaming shows like “WandaVision.” After it was announced in 2019 that Feige would produce a “Star Wars” movie, there were rumors that he might assume more control of Lucasfilm. However, insiders say that Feige is fully committed with his Marvel duties and has no ambition to lead Lucasfilm or take more of a role.
In the above quote from a Varity article by Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly, you’ll notice the insiders they’ve spoken with are purposefully throwing Kathleen Kennedy (as well as Pixar leaders) under the proverbial bus. Kevin Feige, head of Marvel, is the real essential executive they say. And while they heap praise on other Disney executives throughout their exposé, Kennedy is essentially forgotten other than this throwaway mention. Her only reason for being included in the story is to say that Feige could have her job, except he doesn’t want it.
— Variety (@Variety) May 12, 2021
That lines up with what we’ve heard for the past few years. We’ve reported for the past year that Disney would likely be amicable to some easy way to part with Mrs. Kennedy. But what’s telling is that Variety is now putting that information out into the public sphere from their position as a trade publication; and make no mistake, Disney uses outlets like Variety to tip the industry as to where they’d like to go.
If you listened to the Second Quarter Earnings Report held by Disney last week, you may have noticed that they weren’t thrilled with Disney+ growth in “mature markets”. What are “mature markets”? Well, they’re essentially places where Disney+ has been launched longer than brand-new geographical locations — given that Disney+ is still a very new service, it’s kind of fun to listen to Disney refer to “mature markets”. The biggest “mature market” is the United States… and that’s also the place where Star Wars has, by far, the most significance.
— Tom Benson (@Tombenson1) May 14, 2021
So why do they call the United States a “mature market”? The answer is because growth slowed to such an extend in the Second Quarter that they seem to be readjusting their expectations for the increase in subscribers. Privately, sources say that Disney knows they have a Star Wars problem. Subscribers began either slowing down or dropping after the Gina Carano situation. The goodwill that was earned back for Star Wars via the Jon Favreau universe of Star Wars storytelling was decimated by a mismanaged Lucasfilm. Perhaps worse, the following release of “The High Republic” line of Star Wars fiction was an utter failure.
Consider the recent Star Wars material other than The Mandalorian. Star Wars: Resistance was a flop. Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures was mocked vociferously. The High Republic is perhaps the worst-ever received content since a certain holiday special. The Bad Batch has launched to lackluster excitement. Is there any buzz?
If there’s one thing that will get people like Bob Chapek to make big decisions quickly, its declining stock prices. And there’s no better way to drive down Disney stock at the moment than to fail on delivering subscriber-increasing Disney+ content.
Does all of this mean that Kathleen Kennedy is most assuredly exiting the role she’s held since before Disney purchased Lucasfilm? Not necessarily… we could see Kennedy getting a one-year, limited extension. It’s also possible she could be bumped to a legacy role. But financially, it no longer seems feasible for Disney to keep her on board. And her latest endeavor continues a pattern of incompetency.
We’re now hearing from sources, and from public reports, that Indiana Jones 5 is again running behind schedule. Whereas the movie was supposed to begin shooting this spring, we’re now finding out that the movie is still filling in casting holes!
The movie is now reportedly scheduled to not shoot with Harrison Ford until August, at the earliest, and may actually shoot after Guardians of the Galaxy 3 begins. Considering one injury to Ford could end the entire movie for good, the effort and money being thrown at the film is quite the gamble. And if Indiana Jones 5 can’t make it to theaters by its latest release date of July 29th, 2022… you could potentially be looking at a release date where Harrison Ford is closer to 81 years old.
I mean, we’re rooting for him, but this is becoming quite the unprecedented action film. Can you imagine an octogenarian cracking a whip in a summer blockbuster? More power to Harrison Ford if he can pull it off — the man is a legend after all. And people are staying healthy longer I suppose…
But all of this is to say that Indiana Jones 5 has been a mess to make, and they’ve delayed it to the point its at the very edge of impossibility. That’s sort of been Kathleen Kennedy’s ride at Lucasfilm, for better or worse. While she’s managed to stay afloat this long, don’t be surprised if the “Force is Female” executive is finally on her way out. And perhaps a Hail Mary Indiana Jones 5 film that actually turns out well for everyone involved would be just the way for her to ride off into the sunset? That would certainly explain the amount of resources going into such a high-risk film attempt.
And that’s the story. Let us know what you think in the comments below. And who would you like to see as a replacement if she does, in fact, leave the studio this year or next?
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.