'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Made George Lucas Feel Betrayed, Says Disney's Bob Iger

George Lucas hasn't exactly been shy about his dissatisfaction with how Disney has handled the Star Wars franchise he sold them for $4.06 billion in 2012. But a new memoir by Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger reveals the contours of Lucas' feelings, including the director's first reaction to watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

"Just prior to the global release, [Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy] screened The Force Awakens for George," Iger writes in The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company. "He didn't hide his disappointment. 'There's nothing new,' he said."

George Lucas inspects the Second Death Star during production of "The Return of the Jedi." Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Characterizing Lucas' critique, Iger describes how "it was important to him to present new worlds, new stories, new characters and new technologies. In this one, he said, 'There weren't enough visual or technical leaps forward.'"

Iger's memoir also traces how Lucas was unhappy with the new sequel plans from the beginning, since he had included his own completed outlines in the deal, which were reviewed by Iger and other Disney executives like Chief Creative Officer Alan Horn.

"Horn and I read George's outlines and decided we needed to buy them," Iger writes, in excerpts from the book published by ComicBook.com. "Though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he'd laid out."

Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas at 'Star Wars' Celebration in Orlando, Florida in 2017. Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney

While Iger doesn't describe Lucas' plans for the series in detail, Lucas has previously shared his thoughts on what a sequel to Return of the Jedi would look like, most recently in a companion book to Avatar director James Cameron's documentary series, Story of Science Fiction. According to Lucas, his version of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy would have visited the "microbiotic world."

"There's this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed the Force," Lucas said. "If I'd held onto the company I could have done it,and then it would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did Phantom Menace and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told."

Lucas is alluding, in part, to microscopic organisms introduced in The Phantom Menace — midi-chlorians — which provided a biological explanation for the Force. Lucas has considered the Whills a part of the series lore from the beginning, with the name appearing in early drafts of the original Star Wars, albeit in a different form.

According to Iger, Lucas was reluctant to cede creative control, but ultimately agreed to consult on Disney's request. Lucas was reportedly upset when screenwriter Michael Arndt and Kennedy first shared plot details about The Force Awakens . This was the first time Lucas realized the movie wouldn't use one of his outlines.

"The truth was, Kathy, J.J., Alan, and I had discussed the direction in which the saga should go, and we all agreed that it wasn't what George had outlined," Iger writes. "George knew we weren't contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we'd follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded."

Whatever the merits of Lucas' criticisms, Disney eventually arrived at a rethink of their own. While The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Last Jedi all grossed more than $1 billion, 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story made less than half that amount. Despite its troubled production and a lackluster response from fans and critics, Iger says the problem was too many Star Wars movies.

"I just think that we might have put a little bit too much in the marketplace, too fast," Iger recently told the New York Times.

New and old "Star Wars" characters together in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Lucasfilm/The Walt Disney Company

While Lucas may not have liked The Force Awakens, he continues to consult on the series, including in conversations with J.J. Abrams regarding how the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker could write an end to not only the Disney trilogy but also the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy and Original Trilogy.

The Rise of Skywalker will open in theaters on December 20.