Disney Honors Lucas, Depp as Studio Prepares Big New Movies

George Lucas
Filmmaker George Lucas. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co. gave lifetime achievement awards to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas and actor Johnny Depp in advance of new films tied to the work of both men.

Lucas received the Disney Legends award for his long association with the company’s theme parks. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first new movie in the space-adventure series since Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, opens Dec.

18. Depp, whose award was a surprise, starred in four “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and will reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in a new installment set for 2017.

Depp thanked fans for letting “me do stupid stuff for a living and watching it.”

Disney bestows its legends awards on individuals who have made big creative and economic contributions to the company. The timing works especially well with the new “Star Wars” film just months away. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger handed out the honors Friday in Anaheim, California, at the D23 Expo, a biennial fanfest.

Others receiving the award Friday were composer Danny Elfman, who penned the soundtracks to more than a dozen Disney films and TV shows, and George Bodenheimer, who retired last year as executive chairman of ESPN after 33 years at the company’s sports networks business. Including the newest recipients, Disney has given out more than 250 such honors.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” could generate as much as $2.4 billion in worldwide box-office receipts, according to Anthony DiClemente, an analyst with Nomura Securities in New York. Lucasfilm may contribute up to $1.7 billion in operating profit and 71 cents a share in earnings in Disney’s next fiscal year, ending in September 2016. That profit estimate includes earnings from “Star Wars” merchandise, the analyst wrote.

Lucas’s work for Disney dates back to his production of “Captain EO,” a 3-D film featuring Michael Jackson that began showing at the company’s theme parks in 1986. The director also supervised the creation of “Star Wars” and Indiana Jones attractions in Anaheim, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando, Florida.

Director Steven Spielberg on Friday called Lucas “a dweeby Indiana Jones,” in a video montage before his award.

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