Guess who feels the same way? Gary Kurtz, producer of the first two Star Wars movies and a man who can almost lay claim to co-creating the franchise with George Lucas. He has a long interview with the LA Times, which includes some pointed criticism of Lucas' handling of the property, such as a statement indicating that Lucas writes the films with the intent of keeping the toy brand strong:
What precipitated his leaving the franchise after the release of Empire Strikes Back? What else but those damn toys!
“The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse,” Kurtz said. “If it wasn’t for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder all the time.”
It's interesting to think about what might have been, of course, but given the amazing levels of post-release tomfoolery that Lucas has wrought on his creations, perhaps it's best that we don't give Mr. Lucas any more ideas that might see him fiddling around with the original trilogy more than he already has.
“We had an outline and George changed everything in it," Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”
The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.