Posted by Steve on December 17, 2018 at 04:00 PM CST
What a year it’s been in the Star Wars galaxy. While most of us are holding our collective breath for next year, which will go on record and be the craziest year of Star Wars ever, this current year, was not without it highlights, lowlights and everything in between.
Let’s look back at just some of the things that happened in various categories over the last 12 months starting with film and television…
I’m starting with television because this medium easily had the most to say this year either in direct products or announcements made. It was a busy year for Star Wars TV and this is the year where Disney/Lucasfilm definitely showed us signs that they are transitioning from standard formats, to a more digital age. The emphasis being placed this year on streaming, app functionality, and its YouTube presence is a clear and present danger to anyone who is stuck on a more traditional approach.
The year started off with the final seven episodes for Star Wars Rebels, which came to its conclusion in early March. We were witness to the death of Kanan Jarrus, the defeat of the Empire on Lothal and Thrawn and Ezra took a ride on some Purrgil’s off to the Unknown Regions. But the most significant events happened during the epilogue of the final episode where we saw Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano head off in search of Ezra, and in a late-season episode titled “A World between Worlds” where Filoni went avant-garde and gave us his version of Star Wars time-travel.
And while many of us thought (or hoped) either of those two threads would lead in directly to Filoni’s next project, he went in another direction and announced Star Wars Resistance in late April. Resistance, as we now know, takes places place roughly 30 years after the Rebels epilogue and features mostly new characters, focusing on events leading into and surrounding The Force Awakens.
A short time after this drop, we learned that Filoni would actually be stepping away from production slightly and handing over the day-to-day to other capable employees, namely Amy Beth Christenson and Athena Yvette Portillo. Many of us assumed he was working on other things, live-action being the hottest rumor, but what we didn’t see coming, at all, was what he announced at San Diego Comic-Con in July.
In arguably the biggest piece of Star Wars news this year, in any medium or platform, was that The Clone Wars series was returning for a seventh season. Even panel host Amy Ratcliffe was in shock when it was announced and word is from people who were in the room is that the reaction from the fans was more than palpable.
While we don’t have all the details yet, we do know it will be a 12 episode season, have 3 or 4 story arcs, and will debut with the Disney streaming service late next year. Based on the trailer and interviews with some key players, we know “The Siege of Mandalore” and “The Bad Batch” storylines are definitely in play. It was an incredibly well-kept secret which made the reveal that much more of an event and has fans of that series, which are many, on the edge of their seat ever since.
Meanwhile, with the premiere of Star Wars Resistance fast approaching in October, bad news hit as one of its voice actors (Rachel Butera) made headlines when she made light of a political scandal, resulting in her being fired from the show. Lucasfilm chose not to address it publicly and it was just recently that it was revealed, through voice credits only, she was replaced.
Resistance would premiere on October 7th with an optimal viewing push towards Disney streaming apps. It was a new style of animation for Star Wars, employing a 2D cell-shading type of CG rather than the 3D format we saw in past shows like Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars. By bringing in known characters from the films such as Poe Dameron, BB-8 and Captain Phasma, they were able to successfully launch a series with mostly new Star Wars characters once again.
The series would hit its mid-season break in early December and pass the time with 12 shorts featuring different characters from the show, airing on the Disney YouTube channel.
The fall also gave us the premiere of another fan favorite, a new LEGO Star Wars animation series which went by the name, LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars. The short series was from the minds of Bill Motz and Bob Roth and was a follow-up of sorts to their popular LEGO animated series, Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, which ended last year.
It was also heavily marketed as a streaming formatted series mainly with YouTube and the Disney Now app carrying the load. It was a short series, 5 shorts and 5 episodes, and involved many established characters from the world both Star Wars live-action and Star Wars animation. As of now, there are no known plans on future LEGO Star Wars animated series but I can tell you, the focus on shorter length, streamable-only episodes is likely the future.
Hovering like a cloud over all of this was the persistent and occasional droppings of news surrounding Disney’s forthcoming streaming service, due to launch late next year. We finally learned what the service would be called, Disney+ (plus), and what content we could expect to see, and also not see once it begins. This, when it launches, will be the future of all Star Wars TV shows going forward and already we’ve got a pretty good idea of what their intentions are.
Debuting with the service when it launches late next year, will be three shows of great significance, the already mentioned The Clone Wars: Season 7, the Jon Favreau live-action series The Mandalorian, and the most recently announced series, a “Rogue One” live-action spinoff. These pieces of information, in particular The Mandalorian, have absolutely dominated the Star Wars news cycle for the second half of this year. From character profiles/casting, to directors, to number of episodes, to set photos, this first ever live-action Star Wars TV series will have the eyes of the world upon it when it debuts.
The talk surrounding this new direction for Disney and in turn Lucasfilm, has overshadowed somewhat the series’ that Star Wars has produced this year, with Episode IX speculation being a close second. While not Lucasfilm’s intent, the focus from the audience this year seemed to be more on what’s in our future, rather than what’s happening in the present.
And with fans attention more divided than ever, it seems Disney/Lucasfilm is going all in with Disney+ and its online digital content strategy.
It was a weird year for a franchise that has and always will be a film-first one. We started the year off with Star Wars: The Last Jedi still in theaters and fans to this very day, are still talking, arguing in some cases, about it. It is perhaps the most divisive Star Wars film in the entire library, so much so that Disney/Lucasfilm, released a brand new Star Wars movie, and nobody noticed!
I’m partially joking but considering more people are talking about The Last Jedi online still than Solo: A Star Wars Story says a lot about what 2018 has been like for the Star Wars filmography.
The Last Jedi would end its run in the middle of April and accumulate over $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office. To say this film has brought out the best and worst in the Star Wars community is underselling it a bit, but a lot of the focus has been placed upon the online vitriol that came about shortly after its release. So much in fact, that it caused one of its stars, Kelly Marie Tran, to get off social media all together in a very public way back in June. That coupled with evidence of online Russian meddling makes the release of The Last Jedi perhaps the most memorable of them all.
And in what has been written about to the point of nausea, Star Wars, for the first time since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, would release a film in the month of May and not the more recent trend of December. This and many other reasons caused Solo: A Star Wars Story to underperform at the box office, certainly by Star Wars’ standards, and for the first time force the franchise to write off a loss.
The hard truth is, Solo is a good film with a lot to offer most any Star Wars fan. We got to see when Han met Chewbacca and Lando, we got to see the Kessel Run in spectacular fashion and we got the cameo of all cameos in the form of once thought dead Sith, Darth Maul. It gave us a fresh look at older established characters and exciting brand new ones that will one day be all-timers; I’m looking at you Enfys Nest.
Simple math shows that enough people didn’t go see this film for it to earn a profit, whatever their reasons were. And that diminished return has affected Disney and Lucasfilm’s output for the foreseeable future, and that comes from Disney CEO Bob Iger himself. It’s hard to believe but we only have one Star Wars film scheduled on the calendar and that brings me to Star Wars Episode IX.
We entered the year already knowing J.J. Abrams was returning to write and direct the final episode of the sequel trilogy. It was announced even before the release of The Last Jedi that Colin Trevorrow was out and Abrams was in. And while tidbits of information have and continue to trickle out, the biggest news to date likely was the casting announcement made back in July.
It confirmed some things we all assumed, such as the return of Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and even gave a few new names to add to the mix such as Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant and Naomi Ackie. And while the return of Mark Hamill confirmed our “Ghost Luke” suspicions and Billy Dee Williams donning the Lando cape again gave us all reason to celebrate, it was these thirteen words that had the most impact…
“The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher…”
Yes, Abrams and company with the permission of her daughter Billie would use previously unreleased footage leftover from both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to conclude her story. Carrie of course died before the release of The Last Jedi but had completed her scenes for Rian Johnson.
As of the time of this writing, we are still waiting, and rumors are persistent that we’ll get an Episode title and perhaps even a teaser very, very soon.
So, we are still one year away from the release of Episode IX and as we learn more, it’s clear this won’t be an ordinary release, but rather an event. But after that, who knows. It's amazing to think about next year at this time and all the crazy things we'll be talking about and how by then, the game will have completely changed.
Next up, we take a look at the world of publishing and online content for the year that was…