Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed that she set out to fundamentally change the Star Wars brand once Disney acquired the company.
Recently brought to our attention by YouTuber Itchy Bacca in his recent Star Wars Toy Story upload, Kathleen Kennedy appeared at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit in 2015, where she discussed how she set out to change the Star Wars brand.
During her appearance Kennedy was asked what role she played in making Rey the main character in The Force Awakens.
She responded, “It’s one of the first things J.J. and I talked about. And that we talked to Alan Horn about. It was a very early decision and choice and something that we worked a long time developing.”
Kennedy would then discuss her interactions with a number of licensing partners regarding putting a female character as the main protagonist in Star Wars.
She stated, “I think the interesting path we’ve had is the conversation that took place around consumer products. Because there were a lot of companies that were in palce who frankly didn’t initially feel that Star Wars was for girls.”
She elaborated, “And when you have a company situation where between Lucasfilm and Disney, we were all looking at this situation saying, ‘No, with Star Wars we have to change this. We have to make sure that we create products that are in a sense appealing to both boys and girls.’ What’s wrong with that?”
While she would initially claim she wanted products for both boys and girls, when she provided an example it was specifically for creating products for girls.
Kennedy said, “I mean even with simple things like t-shirts. There’s a fantastic story with this young woman who came to Lucasfilm in 2009. She plays the character of Ahsoka in both Rebels and she also had a role in Clone Wars. And she came to Lucasfilm in 2009 saying why aren’t their clothes that are tied to Star Wars for girls. And she struggled for quite a while and put a company together called Her Universe and it’s doing unbelievable business.”
Not only did Kennedy reveal she wanted to ensure that Lucasfilm was more of a girl brand, but earlier in the panel discussion, she also made it clear she wanted to also change the demographics of the company’s employees. In fact, she claimed she already had.
She stated, “The fact that the company was bought by The Walt Disney Company has been amazing because they very much support the fact that we are trying to grow in the work force a number of women in executive positions and in all positions inside the company.”
“And with the movies that we are making and with the protagonists that we are putting in the stories. So I get a huge amount of support with that,” she continued.
She then touted, “But we have 50% of our executive team are women. And six out of eight of the people in my story group are women. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people that would be surprised that we’re making Star Wars movies and the majority of the people involved in the development of those stories are women. And I think it’s making a huge difference in the stories that we’re trying to tell.”
The Lucasfilm president then detailed her goal of hiring a female director, “I also feel that it is going to happen. We are going to hire a woman who’s going to direct a Star Wars movie. I have no doubt.”
“On the other hand, I want to make sure that we put somebody in that position who’s set up for success. It’s not just a token job to look out and try to find a woman that we can put into a position of directing Star Wars,” she explained.
However, Kennedy would then reveal that there didn’t seem to be interest in directing a Star Wars movie from female directors.
She stated, “I have a huge number of men who call me constantly and tell me how much of a Star Wars fan they are and how much they want to get involved in anything to do with Star Wars.”
“I don’t have a lot of women who call and have those conversations with me. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t Star Wars fans out there and women who have been, their careers have been shaped by Star Wars if they’re in film. But it’s not in the same way that it is for men.
“So that’s one of the challenges that we keep talking about. Is if we do want to bring a woman in to direct a Star Wars movie, we want to make sure that it’s somebody who’s passionate and really, really wants to do a Star Wars movie. We don’t want to talk somebody into it,” she concluded.
Later in the video, after she just touted she wanted directors to be passionate about Star Wars, Kennedy would be asked if she was always a Star Wars fan.
She responded, “I was a Star Wars fan in the that I had already decided to become a film major in college when the movie came out. There’s no question that it was a groundbreaking movie.”
“What George Lucas created right from the moment New Hope was released I think anybody and everybody, certainly that was studying film like I was, recognized he created something that was a complete and total game change in the way that we tell stories,” Kennedy continued.
She elaborated, “And I think that’s something inside the company that I still find the most interesting. Which is that George recognized that taking stories to drive technology was one of the most important was one of the most important things you could do.”
“And that’s something that we continue to do. Is we develop our stories, we keep looking at where can we start to push the technological boundaries to do more than we could ever have imagined,” she concluded.
When asked what kind of legacy she wanted to leave behind, Kennedy made it clear what her goals were, “What I would like to have a part in probably moving forward is the innovative technology alongside the people, the resources of people, that we can bring into this.”
What do you make of Kennedy’s comments especially now that we’ve seen what her vision has wrought for Star Wars?