Image Used Courtesy of Lucasfilm, Ltd.
It appears Episode IX was going to be the climax and finale of Leia’s story. Kathleen Kennedy nearly admitted as much in a recent Vanity Fair article, when she stated that Leia’s role was going to be “really significant,” that the production of the film had been shaken by Carrie’s unfortunate passing, and that things were going to have to be “rethought.” This led to many concerned fans voicing their outrage that Leia’s story might not receive a proper ending. While I am concerned too, I have to believe that Lucasfilm will want to do what’s right by the character. Leia is too important to the Star Wars story to not have her final moments be momentous. The real question is how to do this when you don’t want to recast Leia (and possibly upset fans who will struggle to accept a new actress as the iconic character) or digitally recreate her a la Tarkin in Rogue One (a move that seems slightly more ghoulish given how recent Carrie’s passing is).
Leia’s ending is a story that could be difficult to tell in the realm of live-action cinema, but thankfully Star Wars has a cowboy hat wearing savior up their sleeve: Dave Filoni, a man who spent years under the tutelage of George Lucas and may know more about the inner workings of Star Wars than anyone else alive (possibly barring Pablo Hidalgo). Given their vast experience telling high-quality Star Wars stories, Filoni and his posse could finish Leia’s story in animated form.
Filoni and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels teams have added so many strong female characters to the canon that they should be trusted to bring the First Lady of Star Wars’s story to its close. Filoni and his crew have demonstrated time and time again that they can create strong, deep female that fans care about. From Ahsoka, who grew so strong that she willingly left the order that defined her life so she could find her calling, to guilt-ridden Sabine, who struggles with the shame she feels over what she did while in the service of the Empire but who fights to atone for those wrongs, Filoni and his team have created strong women who resonate with and inspire a whole new generation of fans the same way that Carrie did as Leia back in 1977 and still does today.
The biggest barrier to finishing Leia’s story is that many fans and Lucasfilm itself seems like it does not want to recast or recreate Carrie Fisher in order to finish her tale. I think that’s perfectly understandable. To recast Leia could seem in poor taste given how much Carrie often expressed that she is Leia and Leia is her and to digitally recreate her so close to her passing would seem like digital necromancy done in extremely poor taste. That’s why ending Leia’s story through an entirely animated story is such a great idea. Leia was already featured in the Star Wars: Rebels episode “A Princess on Lothal,” and it was generally well-received by fans. While it’s true that it still wouldn’t be Carrie playing Leia, I have every confidence that Dave Filoni and his team would treat her finale with the reverence and gravitas that it deserves. They could observe Carrie’s mannerisms in the films and her vocal cadence and use that to create an animated character imbued with the soul of Leia that Carrie delivered right into our hearts through her performance.
A possible point of contention with Filoni and company finishing Leia’s story is the timing of it all. They’re still finishing Star Wars: Rebels, and while they are generally working quite a few episodes ahead of those the fans are seeing, would they have time to complete an animated story that finishes Leia’s tale in time for it to be released alongside Episode IX? It depends. Episode IX is currently set for a release date of May 24th, 2019. That gives Filoni and his animation miracle workers roughly two years until its release. While that may seem like plenty of time to us, animation can take quite a bit of time, and if we wanted a longer, film-length story, it would take even longer. To get the job done, some steps would have to be taken now.
Filoni and team have already started the process of finishing Star Wars: Rebels, so they may be halfway to nearly done with that show's final season. There have also been rumors of an animated series to follow the conclusion of Star Wars: Rebels that deals with the characters from the sequel trilogy or the stories told in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. If those rumors turned out to be true, it could be advantageous to our Leia story. It might be that Filoni and team have already been playing around with character models of an older Leia, Luke, and Rey and the crew.
There’s also Filoni’s involvement in the upcoming Forces of Destiny project to consider. We already know that they have a Rey model done in that art style, even though she was wearing her Jakku scavenger outfit in the short screened at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. In Hasbro’s booth, they did have a figure under the Forces of Destiny brand that had Rey in the outfit she’s wearing at the end of The Force Awakens, so even though we haven’t seen an animated short with her in that outfit, it could be that they’ve already created the asset for Rey in her Ahch-to look. It might even be possible that they’ve constructed other sequel trilogy characters, including General Leia. Perhaps this team could work with members of Filoni’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels teams to create Leia’s ending.
Lucasfilm Animation has a tremendous wealth of voice actors who could play an older Leia. They could pull in Catherine Taber, Anna Graves, or Nika Futterman from Star Wars: The Clone Wars to give it a go. If those wonderful voice actors don’t quite nail, there’s also the chance that a Star Wars: Rebels one might work out better. Besides the voice of Leia herself, it’s also likely that Daisy Ridley and other actors from the sequel trilogy would be willing to voice their characters as well. Ridley is already voicing Rey as part of Forces of Destiny alongside Dave Filoni. Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Adam Driver voiced their characters in both The Force Awakens playset of Disney Infinity and Lego The Force Awakens, so they would probably be willing to reprise their roles. This also solves a major hurdle that occurs when casting major actors because they can be on location for another film and still record their dialogue for an animated project. It also helps that the lure of completing the story Carrie Fisher started would be incredibly strong. The voice actors from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels would want to do their part because of how Carrie has inspired them, and the cast of the sequel trilogy would want to do it to honor their friend. The project would become a celebration of Carrie’s life by all the actors who have ever lent their talents to the saga.
Let’s assume that Filoni and company work even harder than they already do, spurred on by their dedication to Carrie, and complete the project, so it can release alongside Episode IX. That would be amazing. Disney could promote it so everyone would know that this was the place to see Carrie Fisher’s legacy as Leia fulfilled. They could air it on ABC, so even more people could see it. It would be a great moment in Star Wars television and provide a nice counterpoint to the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special.
On the flip side, let’s assume that the project would take too long, and Filoni and crew wouldn’t be able to complete it until after Episode IX releases. Leia’s end would be like Obi-Wan’s mention of the Clone Wars: a tale to be told at a later date. To many fans, that would be unacceptable. It would be disappointing. If those same fans were to take Luke's advice and just breathe, they might find some peace despite a little bit of a wait. If Disney were able to announce an animated project like this prior to Episode IX’s arrival and promise that it would be out soon after the film’s theatrical run, it might take some of the sting out of not having Carrie not appearing in the final film of the sequel trilogy. At least her performance would be celebrated one last time, and her character’s story would get the finish it deserves. I for one would rather wait for an extraordinary ending than settle for a quick but mediocre one.
Lucasfilm and Carrie Fisher have put in too much time as the stewards of Leia’s character to drop the ball now. Lucasfilm owes it to Carrie to finish what they started together. She deserves to look down from Heaven and see Leia’s story end in such a way that she proudly says, “Shit. They saved the best parts for when I’m gone,” or something else profoundly more witty, biting, and humorous. What a send-off for the character, too. To have so many talented directors, cast, and crew members working their hardest to deliver a story worthy of Leia. It would be amazing, and I know they could do it because they would give all strive to do their absolutely best work because to all of them, Carrie was royalty.
What do you think of ending Leia’s story through an animated avenue? Share your thoughts with me through Twitter at @mapplebee7567. You can also share your thoughts with the whole Far, Far Away Radio crew on Twitter at @farfarawayradio.