We always knew that George Lucas would license Star Wars to any and every merchandise maker in the world. But this is one even he never dreamed up.
Random House is preparing to publish six "Little Golden Books," one for every Star Wars movie in the saga. (Random House, in case you didn't know, has a longstanding publishing partnership with Disney.) The books feature "stunning retro illustrations," according to the publisher, and are recommended for ages 2-5. It's the best example yet of the "Disneyfication" of Star Wars.
Don't worry, we're not about to launch into a rant on Disney "watering down" or "changing" Star Wars. For the most part, Disney's doing a great job of carrying the Lucasfilm torch. The Force Awakens looks great, Rebels is fun, and the books and comics have been mostly good. And Star Wars Battlefront can't get here soon enough.
But this one seems... ill-advised.
Lest we forget, the Star Wars movies are grownup tales with violence and at times, they can be awfully dark. Mentors died. Hands got chopped off. The female lead (Leia) was turned into a sex object (Slave Leia). The Emperor tried to electrocute Luke to death. Anakin Skywalker murdered the entire Jedi Order, including all the children. Anakin later lost his limbs and was burned alive.
How exactly are those "stunning retro illustrations" going to depict those events in a way that's acceptable for young kids? Most likely, the Little Golden Books will glaze over the darker stuff, skipping some of it entirely and going cutesy with the rest.
But doesn't watering down the stories this way take away all of their dramatic impact? Is this really what Disney wants? To render the sacrifices of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon painless and therefore meaningless? Will the books turn Anakin's purge of the Jedi into a casual pruning? Will they make Slave Leia look like she's having a fun sleepover at Grandpa Jabba's?
It just doesn't compute. Regardless, the Star Wars Little Golden Books will no doubt be a huge success, which will likely prompt Random House to publish Little Golden versions of other Disney properties, like The Avengers. Or maybe the publisher will branch out to other Hollywood studios, and give us Little Golden takes on A Beautiful Mind, so kids can learn all about paranoid schizophrenia. Or Gladiator, the gentle tale of a Roman general whose family is slaughtered before he's sold into slavery.
Doesn't that sound like fun?
The Star Wars Little Golden Books go on sale on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. According to an Amazon product listing, a seventh Little Golden Book for The Force Awakens is planned for April 2016.