On the same day that scores of celebrity mourners were gathering at the neighboring L.A. homes of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher after their deaths last month, fans and filmmakers were weighing the fate of Fisher’s most iconic character, Princess Leia.
Cody Christensen, a fan from Cedar City, Utah, has his wish: The father of five daughters has launched a Change.org petition to “Make Leia an official Disney princess.”
“After the tragic loss of Carrie Fisher, we feel that it is only fitting for Disney to do away with the rule that an official Disney princess must be animated and make Leia a full-fledged princess,” Christensen writes as part of his petition, which has gained more than 50,000 supporters. “This would be a wonderful way to remember Carrie and a welcoming to one of Disney’s new properties that is beloved by millions.
“What we are asking,” Christensen continues, “is that the Walt Disney Corporation hold a full ceremony inducting Leia as the newest Disney princess as well as a special service in memory of Carrie Fisher.”
What makes this well-meaning campaign a bit awkward is that the Disney Princess line isn’t about coronation into some regal circle as much as it is about marketing. The official Disney Princess designation was first bestowed upon the company’s animated royalty two decades ago to move plastic product. This is less about legacies and more about tchotchkes. Why peal the court trumpets of composer John Williams simply for merchandising Belles and whistles?
(Perhaps a better tribute would be Make Fisher a Disney Legend, just as Star Wars creator George Lucas became a part of the Class of 2015. Disney Legends is a hall of fame recognizing individual creative contributions to the company.)
HBO, which will debut the documentary “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” on Saturday, recently reaired its televised version of Fisher’s one-woman show, 2010’s “Wishful Drinking.” In that performance, Fisher — in noting her sometime love/hate relationship with Leia — points to some of the more embarrassing marketed likenesses of the princess-warrior and space slave, including a model figure that she pivots to show off its decidedly adult creep-shot angles.
In that live performance, Fisher notes that she does not even own her own likeness, at least within the Star Wars universe — it’s owned by Lucas.
Or at least it was, until 2012, when Disney bought Lucasfilm, and thus its full Star Wars franchise, for about $4 billion. Now, it’s the Mouse House that decides how Fisher’s “Leia face” will be deployed.
All of this figures into creative meetings set for next week to determine Leia’s future in the Star Wars films, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Fisher returned as Gen. Organa for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” of course. For December’s spinoff film, “Rogue One” — which is set immediately before the events of 1977’s “A New Hope” — the younger Leia’s likeness was digitally recreated.
Because “Rogue One” also featured a digital re-creation of Grand Moff Tarkin as “performed” by Peter Cushing (who died in 1994), the film has raised anew the issues about the challenges and ethics of posthumous appropriation of an actor’s likeness.
Fisher, according to multiple reports, had shot her scenes for this December’s “Episode VIII” Star Wars film. Yet the Hollywood Reporter says that a larger role was planned for Leia in 2019’s “Episode IX.” Her future scenes, the industry trade reports, were set to include a reunion with sibling Luke Skywalker and a “confrontation” with her son.
“Episode IX” director/writer Colin Trevorrow — who reportedly will meet with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy next week to talk creative options — could help decide to scale back Leia’s role. And of course, Leia’s appearances could be a CGI creation, which would rear the head of not only technological possibility, but also — yet again — the issue of ethics.
Perhaps no one could have found this all as entertaining as Carrie Fisher herself. She always appreciated that in Hollywood, even amid moments of humanity, business always rolls on.