As influential as “Star Wars” was for Hollywood movies, it made an even bigger splash in how Hollywood ties merchandising into its films. George Lucas made a groundbreaking merchandising deal with 20th Century Fox, turning down an additional $500,000 payment for directing the film in exchange for the movie’s licensing and merchandising rights. It gave Lucas total control of the “Star Wars” universe, including future films and any product licensing.
The immediate merchandising, which included seemingly every toy under the sun, more than covered Lucas’ gamble. Theaters continued to fill as “Star Wars” toys flew off the shelves, leading to two original sequels and cementing Lucas’ legacy in Hollywood. The licensing became the gift that kept on giving to the tune of $4 billion when Lucas sold the “Star Wars” franchise to Disney in 2012.
Lucas told The Hollywood Reporter he’s never been all that interested in the merchandising side of the franchise. He said:
“I’m just the movie guy. The branding and the licensing and that sort of thing, it’s fun. I like that there’s lots of great toys and funny T-shirts and really great gadgets and things that are fun. But at the same time, my main focus is on just making the movie.”
Although his focus might be on the movie, he knew what he had on his hands. When Mel Brooks came calling with the pitch of a “Star Wars parody” the only concern Lucas had was the merchandising tie-ins.