When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, little did it know it would need to reboot Star Wars less than a decade later.
Story lines involving beloved characters George Lucas first introduced in 1977 wrapped up in December’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, forcing Disney to figure out what to do with its sci-fi saga.
The company has built a robust business around Luke, Leia and Han Solo that has sold a lot of lightsabers. But without the familiar Jedi clan and their friends, Disney must spend the next several years introducing new characters and story lines that will keep new and existing fans of Star Wars satisfed.
It’s already given us a taste of what that might look like with bona fide hit The Mandalorian on the recently launched streaming service Disney+. Here’s what else is in the works:
After signs of Star Wars fatigue with Solo in 2018, Disney backed off plans to release a new Star Wars movie every year.
A new Star Wars film isn’t planned for release until December 2022, giving Disney some breathing room to build up anticipation. Details about the film are expected to be announced soon.
Two more cinematic Star Wars flagpoles have been planted for December 2024 and 2026.
While details are scarce, Rian Johnson, who recently scored with Knives Out and helmed Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is still expected to return to direct another Star Wars film or two, while Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is also developing his own Star Wars concept.
In fact, Lucasfilm is embracing Marvel’s cinematic universe for Star Wars with the next films not anticipated to be part of a traditional trilogy but rather a larger collection of stories with characters who weave in and out of movies over the next decade.
The move should help Disney expand its Star Wars fan base while loosening up the creative burden on filmmakers who’ve had to adhere to a strict plot that impacts the efforts of subsequent directors, as happened with Johnson and J.J. Abrams for the last two films in the Skywalker saga.
“We’ve got various things we’re looking at and various ways in which we can begin or not,” Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, who holds a tight grip over the future of the Star Wars franchise, told Rolling Stone in November. “The universe is never-ending. It’s liberating, it’s exciting, and it creates a lot of pressure and anxiety as well.”
Much of that stress is due to the fact that the films have pretty much powered Disney’s other divisions. How the studio proceeds will determine everything from TV-show and video-game spinoffs to new novels and toys that will appear on shelves.
Altogether, 12 Star Wars films, including the animated Clone Wars, have generated more than $10 billion at the global box office.
A second season of The Mandalorian is coming this fall on Disney+ and will bring back Baby Yoda, or The Child, as he’s officially recognized.
Additional Star Wars–themed shows also in the works will flesh out characters seen in the films, like Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi, to be played again by Ewan McGregor, and pilot and Rebel Alliance officer Cassian Andor, portrayed by Diego Luna in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Deborah Chow, who received high praise for her episodes of Mandalorian, will shepherd the Obi-Wan show.
Disney sees Disney+ as a way “to bring Star Wars to people in new ways,” according to Disney chief Bob Iger on a recent episode of the YouTube series The Star Wars Show. “It’s not the same places or the same characters.”
If shows on the streaming platform succeed, expect Disney to explore ways to adapt them for the big screen.
Meanwhile, the animated series Clone Wars has already had quite an unusual history.
Launched as a feature-length film in 2008 and debuting shortly after as a series on the Cartoon Network, the show came to an abrupt, unsatisfying end when Disney purchased Lucasfilm after five seasons.
The Internet clamored for more, inspiring Netflix in 2014 to pick the show up for a sixth season. With another incomplete story line, fans still felt dissatisfied. Six years later, they are finally getting the closure they desire: This February, Disney+ will begin weekly streaming of the seventh (and final) season’s 12 episodes.
The show will feature returning characters Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul in a conflict known as “the Siege of Mandalore.”
The series follows the end of two other animated series, Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: Resistance, which ended their runs in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
One of the more immersive Star Wars experiences these days is Disney World’s Galaxy’s Edge, a themed land meant to weave in new and familiar story lines from the franchise.
Inside the canyons of the outpost, parkgoers can pilot the Millennium Falcon, make and wield their own custom lightsabers, and grab a glass of blue milk after getting harassed by Stormtroopers.
Main attraction , open now at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, in Orlando, and coming to Anaheim’s Disneyland Jan. 17, is arguably one of the world’s most immersive ride experiences available to date
At almost 20 minutes beginning to end, this trackless fleet transport ride is one of Disney’s longest theme park experiences and throws riders directly into the clutches of the evil First Order.
Most of the stars from the recent film trilogy make an appearance of some kind to help, or hinder, riders’ missions.
Not far from Disney’s Hollywood Studios park .
Opening in 2021, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will bring guests on board the spaceship Halcyon for a twonight stay where they will be able to experience multiple character-driven story lines that can unfold across the hotel.
Their choices here will affect their stay, and even their day-trip to the land of Batuu at Galaxy’s Edge can have varying consequences. Or, for the less adventurous, one could simply chew on some galactic-inspired treats and gaze out the window at the passing stars and planets. May the choice be with you.
Also, in the parks, Star Tours continues its tradition of adding new quests and footage from the new films to keep it feeling fresh. Rise of Skywalker updates hit Disney parks across the globe to coincide with the film’s release.
For full immersion without full park prices, Downtown Disney and Disney Springs feature The Void’s “Star Wars VR: Secrets of the Empire” experience.
This four-person virtual reality experience combines state-of-the-art technology with elements like heat, wind, and water to truly trick you into feeling as if you’re a part of the action in helping take down the empire.
Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, released in late 2019, has been a major hit for the gamemaker. During an earnings call, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen projected the title will sell 6 to 8 million units by the end of the fiscal year this March. The Jedi-powered fantasy broke records for the publisher in its first several weeks of release, selling more digital downloads than any other Star Wars game to date. With such numbers and positive online reactions, additional DLC and sequels seem inevitable.
The game’s success has prompted a sigh of relief from EA, which has had an exclusive -year license to produce Star Wars games for Lucasfilm since 2013. EA has pulled the plug on two major titles during this time.
So while details on the next new cinematic adventure may seem far, far away, the Star Wars universe will continue to live and expand across many multimedia forms for fans to enjoy.
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