Friends, we are entering a Star Wars renaissance. The decision of George Lucas to step back, entrust his creation to Kathleen Kennedy and Disney has opened up the Star Wars franchise to unlimited cinematic opportunities. For longtime fans of the franchise this can be an unsettling time; much of what we think of as "our" Star Wars is an amalgamation of George Lucas' vision and the visions of a plethora of other creators operating under license from Lucasfilm in various mediums such as video games, comics, and books.
One of the most attractive features for me of Star Wars has always been the interconnectedness of the Expanded Universe. There was a wonderful cross-pollination among the early Expanded Universe books. The authors communicated, talked about characters and stories, and as a result we have characters created and used that weave in and out of the larger Star Wars story. This process was more formalized in more recent years through story conferences with editors and authors planning out some of the larger book series.
The sheer volume of Expanded Universe material meant that it created so many stories and characters that, no matter what drew you to Star Wars originally, you could find a character to latch on to and follow that character's story across multiple stories.
The way the Expanded Universe story grew has some unintended consequences however. It creates a universe as deep and rich as you could want, but the momentum of the narrative has carried the story to the extreme reaches both backwards and forwards on the in-universe timeline. The further these stories get away from the story that takes place Episodes I-VI, the harder it becomes for casual fans or the uninitiated to find their way in the galaxy far, far away.
This leads me to a concept that I think is on the top of the mind of the folks at Disney and Lucasfilm at the moment: accessibility. The reality is that for the Star Wars franchise to remain relevant and profitable we need to constantly be adding new fans. With the Prequel Trilogy George Lucas introduced Star Wars to a new generation. Those three films changed a lot of what many of us thought we "knew" about Star Wars. Some long time fans took these changes in stride, some liked the changes, and some very vocally did not.
In 2008 Lucas again introduced Star Wars to a new generation of even younger fans with The Clone Wars. The stories of Anakin, Obi-Wan and Anakin's new padawan Ahsoka Tano again changed what we thought we "knew" about Star Wars. Again the same phenomenon developed in how fans took the radical change to what we thought we knew about Anakin Skywalker. Some fans embraced the new changes and some fans freaked out. I am unabashedly a fan of The Clone Wars (despite my initial dislike of the animation style for the show); it grew and developed through five seasons and over 100 episodes to expand the Star Wars story on the screen in a way we have never seen before. The series also gave us a score of new characters that quickly became fan favorites.
In 2014 we will again be introduced to a revision of the Star Wars story. The animated television series, Star Wars Rebels is the product of executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman and their very talented team of creators. Rebels will tell us the story of a new group of heroes and villains, but will also tell us a stories about the formation of the Rebel Alliance. In doing so this series will again change what we think we "know" about Star Wars.
Star Wars Rebels isn't the only new Star Wars we are getting however as December 2015 will see the premiere of Star Wars: Episode VII, followed in the coming years by other films in numbered Saga series as well as stand-alone or spin-off films. Disney views Star Wars as an evergreen property; if handled properly there can be a demand for films set in this galaxy for the foreseeable future.
All of these new additions to the Star Wars franchise on the big and small screen will change what Star Wars is for each of us. For Star Wars there has been a single continuity with different levels of canonical priority. Going forward Lucasfilm has created a Story Group to create a single canon and manage the narratives so that they all fit together. With a goal towards accessibility it appears that this new single canon will begin with the first six films, incorporate The Clone Wars and then expand to Rebels, the new films and the new licensed materials going forward.
The beauty of this approach is that it gives casual or new fans an opportunity to quickly get up to speed with the story with the films and these two TV series to focus on. While it may seem for long-time fans that your Star Wars stories are being taken away from you, they aren't. Those storylines may never be completed anywhere except in your head, but there are worse fates. Nothing can remain the same forever, especially in the realm of storytelling. If we want more Star Wars stories we have to be willing to let go of some of the old Star Wars stories.
Yoda had some great advice that may be relevant at a time like this "Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is. Train yourself to let go... of everything you fear to lose." Don't become too attached to what you think you "know" about Star Wars because it is about to change: embrace the change and enjoy the ride. While you are at it embrace the new fans and don't be afraid to get in a spirited discussion about what you like and dislike, about where you agree and disagree, because after all, what would Star Wars fandom be without it?
By Peter Morrison
Visit Pete's terrific Star Wars site, Lightsaber Rattling, and listen to his fun new podcast, Rebels Report. Pete is a Star Wars expert known for brilliant analysis and speculation. He has grained notoriety in the fan community for his tireless enthusiasm for dissecting information and delivering insightful theories. Thanks to Mr. Morrison for contributing!