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Star Wars Prequels Movies

Why Disney Can't Give Us High-Def Star Wars Where Han Shoots First 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-find-your-lack-of-distribution-rights-disturbing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Lost amid the disappointment of the Star Wars prequels were the unfortunate edits George Lucas has made to the original trilogy when he re-released them. Lee Hutchinson points out a few of the worst: 'In Return of the Jedi, Jabba's palace gains an asinine CGI-filled song-and-dance interlude. Dialogue is butchered in Empire Strikes Back. And in the first movie, perhaps most famously, Han no longer shoots first.' Lucas flat-out refused to spend time and money remastering the original versions of the movies. But now Disney is in control of the franchise (and the business case for releasing different versions of the same films has been proven). So there's hope, right? According to Hutchinson: maybe, but not for a while. While technological advances have reduced the price tag for such an endeavour, lawyers will keep it expensive. It turns out 20th Century Fox still owns distribution rights to the Star Wars films. Because of complex and irritating legal reasons, Disney was not able to acquire those as well. Thus, Disney will have to get Fox's approval and probably cut Fox in for some of the profits, if they were to re-release the series."
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Why Disney Can't Give Us High-Def Star Wars Where Han Shoots First

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  • by crow (16139) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @01:49PM (#46967841) Homepage Journal

    If you look around, there has been a fantastic fan effort to create the Despecialized Editions that are as close to the original theatrical runs as possible for the original trilogy. They've mixed in the HD sources for the current releases with older footage to undo all the changes. It's pretty amazing.

  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Saturday May 10, 2014 @01:52PM (#46967867) Homepage Journal

    There are some very well done Fan Edits which take footage from various versions of the film and create a fan-friendly version. Han shoots first, no CGI Jabba the Hutt, etc.
    You can often spot the differences when they went from HD to a DVD or Laserdisc source to keep the story true to the original, but that's part of the fun.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:03PM (#46967955)

    Who cares if Fox has to be cut in, does Disney not really care about the results $3B in profit that would result from a HD recoversions of the untouched original?

    I think it's great there's any hope at all, from the headline I thought Lucas burned the originals.

  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:05PM (#46967973)

    From TFA:

    When Disney plunked down $4 billion at the end of 2012 for the Star Wars franchise, it didn’t actually get everything, because Lucasfilm didn’t actually have everything to sell. Disney can release whatever new movies it wants, or dress Mickey Mouse up in Jedi robes and have him wave a light saber at guests in the Magic Kingdom, or hand-wave away the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe—it paid for the rights to do all of those things.

    Turns out, what it can’t do is sell you new copies of the six Star Wars movies (aka Episodes 1 thru VI). "Fox owns distribution rights to the original Star Wars, No. 4 in the series, in perpetuity in all media worldwide. And as for the five subsequent movies, Fox has theatrical, nontheatrical, and home video rights worldwide through May 2020."

    When George Lucas filmed Star Wars in the late 1970s, he had to turn to 20th Century Fox to both finance and distribute the film; the success of the first film enabled Lucasfilm to finance the other five movies itself (though Lucas did require some additional assistance from Fox in fully funding The Empire Strikes Back’s production). Lucas continued to use Fox as a distributor for all of the six existing Star Wars films—and Fox retains those distribution rights under the Disney sale.

  • by Spottywot (1910658) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:09PM (#46967993)
    Harmys despecialized editions can be found here http://originaltrilogy.com/for... [originaltrilogy.com] This site invites you to create an account to get access to the torrent link, but the torrents for all three movies should be quite easy to find on the usual torrent trackers. They are all great quality hd versions with the original soundtracks. Happy hunting, with no need for Disney to intervene.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:22PM (#46968067)

    Do you have any idea how much money people are willing to pay for a faithfully restored version of the original trilogy??? Do you???

  • Fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:32PM (#46968119) Homepage Journal
    Can they give us an HD Wookie Life Day Christmas Special?

    I'm contractually obliged to mention this in every Star Wars thread on the Internet.

  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius.driver@m[ ]com ['ac.' in gap]> on Saturday May 10, 2014 @02:34PM (#46968129) Journal

    First implies an order.

    An order implies there is more than one.

    Han doesn't shoot *FIRST*, Han shoots.

    There is no "first," because there is no "second."

    There is no "second" because Greedo doesn't shoot at all.

    Stop with "Han shoots first" - start with "Greedo never shoots".

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @03:14PM (#46968257)

    Just as an FYI followup to this, Harmy has been working on the despecialized editions for years, so there are a few different versions hanging around. The latest version is v2.5. The improvements in quality from his first release to his most recent release are huge.

    He also did preliminary attempts at Empire and Jedi, but he only did a rough first pass on those, so the work on them is nowhere near the quality of his work on Star Wars. He plans to revisit Empire and Jedi once he's satisfied with the original.

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @08:05PM (#46969567)

    There only needs to be one. It's just that no-one has yet made it fully in HD yet.

    Nota bene:

    The version of the film that you might have seen on television in the 1980s, or on VHS in the 80s or 90s, is not the theatrical edition either. Lucas made several subtle changes to the editing, color and particularly the sound mix of the trilogy throughout the 1980s. Every time the elements came out of the vault he redid something.

    Frankly it's not clear if any of the 1977 theatrical source materials (the "intermediates" or the camera negatives) still exist. Lucas straight-up claims "the negatives were destroyed" in the process of creating the special edition, which is possible, but it would have been very careless and required him to go out of his way to destroy them. The "camera negatives" that most people refer to when they're talking about movie archival are the negative A/B rolls, which is the edited camera negative. It's almost impossible to re-edit a film from A/B rolls so it's never done, so either a film dupe is made of these, or the A/B rolls are transferred into some kind of HD digital workflow, which would certainly have been available around the time of the Special Edition.

    Fox, being the distributor, would have certainly produced several intermediate, theatrical-grade elements -- you take the camera negatives and the printing company makes positive -> negative -> positive iterations as a part of integrating the sound track and blowing-up the final image to the theatrical aperture. The intermediate positive in that process, the "IP" or interpositive, will have all the original color correction ("color timing") and reframings Lucas did; contractually Lucasfilm had to hand over a "fine grain IP" to Fox, this is what used to appear in all the contracts, it's the key deliverable, it's what Fox made all the release prints out of. (Nowadays producers just deliver a DCP to their distributor.) So, it stands to reason Fox is in possession of an IP somewhere.

    There's definitely an economic factor involved, they couldn't just transfer the IP, they'd probably have to do some restoration, and that's crazy expensive. Also there's no way they could release it with the 1977 Dolby Stereo mix, it would just sound too low-fi compared to people's expectations, they'd have to remix it into 5.1 or 7.1, and who knows if Fox would be able to obtain the rights to the source sound elements necessary to do this. I believe Lucasfilm retains physical possession of the sound elements for all the Star Wars films, but again as with the IP, Lucasfilm would have been required to deliver to Fox both a Dolby Stereo mix of the film, a stereo "M&E" or music and effects mix (for foreign countries to dub over with their native language), and stereo "stem" mixes, separate mixes of at least the dialogue, sound effects and music.

    If they had just a film print of the theatrical, unfortunately this would probably not be economical to use. Even if the print itself was pristine and unscratched, there will be some color issues after all this time, and release prints have a relatively high contrast and this usually makes the transfers not good enough for sale. Also, again, the only audio on a release print will be the Dolby Stereo, and optical Dolby Stereo at that, which never transfers very well.

    (I work in theatrical film post in Hollywood and have done some restoration work with films from the 1980s.)

  • Reality check. (Score:4, Informative)

    by westlake (615356) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @08:33PM (#46969711)

    Who cares if Fox has to be cut in, does Disney not really care about the results $3B in profit that would result from a HD recoversions of the untouched original?

    3.2 million copies of "Frozen" were sold on its first day of DVD and Blu-Ray release --- returning about $65 million gross.

    "Frozen" as a global cultural phenomenon is damned impressive even by geek fan-boy standards. I would expect an HD restoration of the 37 year old Star Wars to be financially viable ---- but, as these numbers suggest, not the pot of gold at rainbow's end.

  • Re: Despecialized (Score:4, Informative)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @01:25AM (#46970701)

    Adywan's Star Wars Revisited isn't better, it's got completely different goals. Harmy's goal was to rebuild the theatrical cut, Adywan's goal was to make a better special edition. Neither one is "better" than the other because they're completely opposite directions.

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