Disney's chief financial officer Jay Rasulo gave a presentation to an investor conference at the Bank Of America yesterday. While much of it - as you'd expect given the context - is dispiriting marketing speak about branding, merchandising and licensing opportunities, there was also one small but significant piece of intel about the new Star Wars films. We've known for some time that standalone films about famous suporting characters are in development alongside the trilogy beginning with Star Wars Episode VII. Now Rasulo reveals that those standalone films will be origin stories.
Reaffirming that we can expect a Star Wars every year from 2015 on, Rasulo's wording (only paraphrased by Variety) was that Disney will be alternating a trilogy film and "an origin story" annually. If you were an investor, you'd be reassured that that strategy sits alongside two Marvels, a Disney animation, and one or two Pixars.
Following The Lone Ranger debacle he says that budgets for each year's "one or two, maybe three" tentpole Disney live-action originals will likely be capped in future. But "of all our worries," he promises, "Star Wars is not one of them".
"The sky's the limit," says Rasulo of Star Wars. "There's incredible flexibility. It's an unbelievable palette to create from." And while he's talking there about licensing programmes that will "broker deals around the world" and encompass toys, "housewares" and huge new undertakings in Disney's theme parks, he does take a moment to insist that "the overall strategy is to put out a great film first".
Fox's attempt at its own Origins franchise with Marvel's X-Men collapsed at the first hurdle with the 2009 Wolverine movie. But with Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and producer Simon Kinberg developing their spin-off, Disney clearly have confidence in the plan.
Back in February, AICN's Harry Knowles believed he had a reliable source telling him the first Star Wars standalone would center on Yoda. If that were true, it would mean we can expect Star Wars Origins: Yoda in 2016. So we'll see...