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Disney and Star Wars: What we know, or think we know, so far …

Posted by on March 23, 2013 – 12:48 pm

Return of the Jedi (Lucasfilm)

Let’s take a comprehensive look at news and rumors surrounding the Disney era of all things Star Wars, and try to make sense of them all. Shall we?

Is the original cast (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford) returning for J.J. Abrams’ new live-action movie?

All signs point to “Yes.” Despite initial claims (some of which go back months before Episode VII was announced) followed by assorted predictable denials, this seems to be taking shape. Harrison Ford has been rather loose-lipped lately that he has a good feeling about this. And Nerdvana contributor Dustin Diehl’s inside source says it’s happening.

Is there any info at this point about the plot?

Sketchy, but our source says to expect a focus on one Solo child and one Solo grandchild. Other accounts say Episode VII will feature Skywalker and Solo heirs. Cosmic Book News has a source who says the movie will be about a “disciple of Emperor Palpatine” who “aims to rebuild the Sith Armies of the Old Republic and destroy the Jedi where the Skywalker children will be thrust into battle and face their inner demons.” They also say Luke Skywalker will be Grand Master of a rebuilt Jedi Order. Keep in mind that none of this is really mutually exclusive, but also remember that it’s very early in pre-production. Everybody and their Sith father has a rumor about Episode VII – if a British tabloid is to be believed, Darth Vader himself will be resurrected to play a pivotal role. At this point, however, literally anything is possible.

Daniel Logan on Twitter

Daniel Logan

What about those “spin-off” films?

Nerdvana’s source says not to expect a Yoda movie, as George Lucas insists that the diminutive Jedi Master was always meant to be a supporting player, not the star. There were rumors, quickly swatted down, that 300 and Man of Steel director Zack Snyder was working on a Star Wars adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The focus at this point seems to be Han Solo and Boba Fett. Daniel Logan, who played young Boba in Episode II: Attack of the Clones and in the animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is reaching the age where he may be able to convincingly portray a young adult bounty hunter on screen — and he has a fervent social media following. It’s even possible that crazy rumor about Darth Vader returning could refer to a standalone film depicting the Sith Lord’s early adventures hunting down fugitive Jedi. Stranger things have happened.

Whomever they focus on, it’s clear that we’re going to get at least a few live-action movies centered on specific Star Wars icons, in the vein of the solo superhero movies that surrounded Marvel’s Avengers. That’s no coincidence — it’s Disney’s strategy to make the most of these high-dollar acquisitions.

Will we see the rest of the existing Star Wars movies released in theatrical 3-D?

Possibly, but not for a while. Episodes II and III were set to come out in 3-D theaters this fall following last year’s similar treatment for Episode I. But Disney and Lucasfilm have postponed those plans to allow them to focus on Episode VII production. They have not been rescheduled.

Will Episode VII be released in 3-D?

We haven’t seen anything addressing this question one way or the other. Have you? Let us know!

Will Episode VII really come out in 2015?

That’s still the official word, but it’s notable that director J.J. Abrams hasn’t necessarily committed specifically to that timetable. In filmmaking terms, that’s a very short production window for such an epic property as Star Wars, unless pre-production is already pretty far along. Be hopeful, but don’t hold your breath. Still, it will come.

Will Abrams direct all three movies in the trilogy?

Our source says he will — and that he has an option for three more on top of that!

What is happening with Star Wars animation?

A lot, but it may not look that way right now.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was always destined to leave Cartoon Network after Disney bought the franchise, and many expected it to continue on Disney XD. Tim Curry was announced with appropriate fanfare as the new voice of Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious following the death of voice artist Ian Abercrombie, but he only got to feature on one full episode — the season five finale. But the series was just shut down during production of its sixth season, although we’re being told to expect those storylines to be released in some form such as “bonus content.” Whether there’s enough material to support a standalone DVD release or TV presentation is generally unknown.

One of the major threads involving Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano, who does not appear in the prequel trilogy’s finale, was basically resolved in the final episode of the TV series, as the padawan left the Jedi Order following a show trial on unfounded accusations of murder and conspiracy. Further underscoring the decline of both the Jedi Council’s influence and the Republic’s society, it was a grand finale the show and its cast and crew can be very proud of, wherever it goes from here.

Star Wars: Detours, an animated comedy series from Seth Green announced at Star Wars Celebration last summer, is now on hold as well. TheForce.net reported last week that Lucasfilm’s Clone Wars team has been disbanded as part of wider layoffs and restructuring at the animation division, so it seems that Disney may be moving any Star Wars television production, animated or live action, under its own roof. In the same breath as they shut down The Clone Wars, Disney and Lucasfilm promised a new series set in a “previously untouched era” of Star Wars lore. What that will involve remains to be seen, but you can expect it to support, rather than compete with, the upcoming films.

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Is the live-action Star Wars TV series dead?

Definitely maybe. Just over a year ago we reported that it had the working title “Underworld.” This was longtime Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum’s project, and we noted that he had faded out of the picture like a Jedi spirit around the time Disney acquired the company. Only weeks later did Lucasfilm address his departure. IGN reported he was still involved with the series as recently as May 2012, when the public knew nothing of Disney’s plans to restart the Star Wars film franchise.

In January, Entertainment Weekly reported that ABC was looking at ways to fit a live-action Star Wars TV series into its lineup, which already is preparing to include an Avengers spinoff. Executives could decide that it would draw too much attention away from the new film trilogy — or even from S.H.I.E.L.D.

There were reportedly 50 scripts completed for the series, so it seems likely some of that material will see the light of day in some form — and in fact already may have done so. Coruscant’s criminal underworld featured prominently in the final episodes of The Clone Wars, and in a major video game that may or may not see release now …

What about Star Wars video games?

Frankly, this is a mess. In a time when you would expect Star Wars game after Star Wars game to be hitting shelves or online storefronts, hiring at LucasArts is reportedly frozen and long-anticipated games that were once pre-hyped into hyperspace, such as Star Wars 1313, may have been scrubbed. Kotaku has a compelling feature on the mystery surrounding the game, which may have been meant to tie into that live-action TV series that may also be in limbo, and what it all could mean. (Level 1313 made an appearance in the final story arc of the televised Clone Wars.) However, IGN’s editor just about said it all in a March 11 column scolding LucasArts and telling the company to get its act together.

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Will Dark Horse continue publishing Star Wars comics?

It may be too early to say. There is precedent that points to a move — when Disney acquired Marvel, it eventually brought its comics properties over from BOOM! Studios to that company. Dark Horse has had a long and successful relationship with Lucasfilm, and it won’t be severed overnight. But with a powerhouse like Marvel Comics in its portfolio, plan on seeing Disney move sooner or later to take advantage of its own channels — and that means Marvel.

How will all of this affect the vast Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels?

When the new film trilogy was announced, speculation immediately ran to the vast tapestry of characters and settings in the “Expanded Universe” of Star Wars fiction, specifically the novels such as Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy (which is widely credited with bringing Star Wars back to the national consciousness in the early ’90s, before the prequels came about), as well as the epic and tumultuous New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi novel series. You can expect this tradition to continue — there’s a lot of money in the EU. Lucas Books and Del Rey have a healthy batch of original Star Wars novels in the pipeline, many dealing with the “Rebel years” of Luke, Leia and Han, as well as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s time in watchful seclusion on Tatooine. This summer’s Crucible will look at the main heroes’ elder days, however — and there’s an opportunity that you can bet they won’t waste to tie into the new movies…

Even though the new films may not draw directly from his work, we don’t think that we’ve heard the last from Zahn about the Galaxy Far, Far Away — Nerdvana’s source says he is being eyed to write “three new books.” Will these be further examples of his popular original stories, or perhaps novelizations of the new motion picture trilogy? We’ll have to wait and see …

You can expect original Star Wars fiction to continue and be as diverse as it ever was. Be warned, though: Lucasfilm has shown it will discard “EU canon” when its convenient, and you can expect Disney to do the same.

Is Disneyland really going to open a Star Wars-themed park expansion?

The survey says — maybe. /Film reports on a survey sent to some Disney Parks Annual Pass holders that asks the loaded question: “How interested would you be in visiting a Star Wars themed land at the Disneyland Resort?”

What’s your favorite — and least favorite — development in this re-energized Star Wars universe? What do you think is the craziest rumor — or the most plausible? Is there something you’re wondering about that isn’t covered here? Sound off and let us know!