You'll have to forgive the rather inflamitory title, I couldn't think of another way to say this in such a short manner. When explaining why the OT DVDs would be the Special Edition versions of the films, here's what was said:
"This is about art and filmmaking" cute comment, makes Lucas's motivations here seem almost altruistic of the art... too bad it's bunk.Despite pleas from "Star Wars" fanatics all over the world, these DVDs will not contain the original theatrical version of the movies. Instead, the DVDs will include the much-debated versions director Lucas released in the '90s with new digital effects and plot twists that softened the character of Han Solo - even though DVD makes it easy to offer both the original and director's cut of a movie.
It's simply a matter of an artist's right, says Jim Ward, a Lucasfilm vice president and the executive producer of the set. "We realize there's a lot of debate out there," says Ward. "But this is not a democracy. We love our fans, but this is about art and filmmaking. [George] has decided that the sole version he wants available is this one."
Let me explain by posting a overview of the Special Editions.
In the mid '90s, the vault that contained, among other things, the master print of Star Wars, was opened and the SW print was examined only to discover it was badly deteriorating. Lucas decided that the print must be salvaged immediately or it would become unusable and thus lost forever, so he began the Special Edition project and intended to release the salvaged film for its 20th anniversary in '97. In order to salvage the print, ILM technicians would have to go in and digitally color-correct each frame.
Then Lucas got the bright idea that he could simultaneously go "fix" things he didn't like about the film's original version, such as the poorly-rotoscoped hover effect on the landspeeder as it passed through Mos Eisley, as well as add in a scene he cut from the original due to what he perceived as a lack of necessary filmmaking tools to properly complete the scene - this is the now-infamous Jabba scene - where Lucas had originally shot Han talking with an actor standing in for Jabba with the plan that the Jabba would be added into the shot as a special effect but found that no '70s effects looked convincing enough; Lucas had always regretted losing this scene and had made mention of it several times before the Special Editions had ever existed. Lucas and his producer partner for Star Wars, Gary Kurtz, had long since gone their separate ways and so Lucas brought on a relative newcomer as the Special Edition producer, Rick McCallum - who had worked on Lucas's Young Indiana Jones series and the film Radioland Murders. Lucas eventually ended up not fixing all the f/x gaffes (just the ones that bothered him), gutted many of the space sequences in exchange for CGI, and changed a few performances and sequences of the film.
Ironically and unfortunately, this "fixing" seems to have ultimately destroyed the very reason Lucas began the project in the first place - to salvage the original Star Wars for posterity.
As the buzz around the 20th anniversary "special edition" release of Star Wars grew during '96, Lucas decided he could also release the other 2 movies in the trilogy, and since he was already making headway with the Star Wars SE, why not give ESB and ROTJ a "special edition" treatment while he was at it? Granted, the master prints to ESB and ROTJ were in no danger of being lost due to deterioration, and Lucas had not actually "made" either of the films except for writing the basic outline for each, executive producing them, and rumor has it stepping in to direct & edit portions of ROTJ; for ESB, long considered the best film of the series by most fans, Lucas had actually stayed away from production most of the time; basically, the Special-Editioning of ESB and ROTJ was an arbitrary whim on the films' owner's part rather than a product of necessary film repair.
So Lucas altered portions of each film, adding in new sequences and new effects, changing and replacing performances, and even adding a new musical number to ROTJ, even though he was not the director, writer, or producer of either film. They were his by right of ownership and creation, and therefore his right to tamper with those creations took precedence over the rights of the actual artists and filmmakers who made those 2 films.
It seems a little hypocritical and two-faced then that Lucasfilm makes the claim that the SEs being the only versions of ESB and ROTJ available is about the art and filmmaking when Lucas himself is not the chief artist of either film.