In a January, 1997 interview, that is, prior to the April/May releases.
CB: These films are classics. Why tinker with them now?
JW: Well, this is a very interesting question. If the Star Wars Trilogy is a kind of classic, why would we want to tamper with it? I'm not particularly in favor of coloring all the old early films in black and white and might come down on the side of saying, leave things alone. That's one side of the argument.
The other side of it is true for music also. For example, every time Brahms went to hear one of his symphonies played, he would go in the audience and listen to the symphony, and the next day he would go to the Bibliotheque in Vienna, get the original score out and make changes—he never could leave it alone. Some sage said that a work of art is never finished, it's only abandoned. That's really true of all of us; it's like one of our children. You never finish trying to groom it; the child could be 60 years old, and you're still saying, "Well you look better if you dress this way."
So I think George is well within the predictable and understandable and probably correct area of an artist's prerogative to continue to try to want to improve what he's done. He complained that he didn't have the animatics 20 years ago and he wants to do it now. So I think on the one hand don't tamper with it, and on the other an artist can, should and, I think, must be excused for wanting to continue to improve his or her work. That's the two answers.
The third answer could be for those traditionalists who want the original the way it is—it's there. They don't have to go; they can listen to the Brahms without his latest edition. So they can see the original version and they can also see the new, updated George Lucas wish-list for his work.
I think it's a wonderful question and the answer has to admit all of these possibilities for us to be fair.
So, there's that.