Earlier this week we saw the announcement of a new animated series, Star Wars Rebels. With Dave Filoni on board, joined by Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Young Justice) and spin-off screenwriter Simon Kinberg and a new look based on the art of Ralph McQuarrie? Exciting times.
Here are my thoughts on why it’s a good thing:
It moves the franchise focus forward in the timeline
A focus on the gaps of prequel era was all well and good when the Star Wars movies were ‘over,’ but now that the sequels are on the horizon, Lucasfilm and Disney have every reason to want to redirect that focus to an era a bit further along.
It’s almost their only choice, really. Heading straight to after Return of the Jedi could prove problematic while the new movies are still in their early stages. While I’m sure the folks at Lucasfilm have a basic idea of what shape the era is going to take, the details will no doubt be in flux until the first couple of movies are actually released – that’s not a place you want to start your brand-new cartoon.
The era between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, on the other hand? We know where it begins, with Revenge of the Sith. We know how it ends, in A New Hope. There’s even relatively little Expanded Universe material – a handful of books and comics plus The Force Unleashed and a few references to the early Rebellion (Garm Bel Iblis, etc.) in later works – but that’s not a whole lot, at least in comparison to what we have during and after the OT. That’s good news for EU fans, because although it’s quite entirely possible that Rebels will do with the existing canon as it will just like The Clone Wars did, what’s there is for the most part stuff that’s pretty small scale.
With sequels looming, Lucasfilm and Disney want fans of all ages familiar with and thinking about the original trilogy. The Clone Wars put the prequel characters in the forefront of kids’ minds by putting it on their TV on a weekly basis – now it’s time for Rebels to do the same with the original trilogy, even if Leia is the only one of the Big 3 we’re likely to see.
New start, fresh eyeballs
A new show with a new focus on a new channel is a fresh start for everyone. Old Clone Wars viewers, kids who haven’t shown much interest in looking past the prequel era? Star Wars fans and parents who are only really interested in the original movies? This could be a blend of both. The placement means they can bring in both elements from The Clone Wars and elements from the A New Hope-era Rebellion, plus characters that already straddle both like Bail Organa and Grand Moff Tarkin. Who wants to spend some time on Alderaan? In Rebels, we can!
You could even see Clone Wars favorites like Ahsoka Tano and Hondo Ohnaka. With Filoni on board I fully expect they’ll be a part of this show, even if introduced sparingly at first to allow the new cast some time to stand on their own.
Let’s say that Rebels runs five or six seasons – 2014-2020. Assuming everything remains on schedule, that takes us through Episode IX. The next show? Could take place between Return of the Jedi and Episode VII. In fact… I’d bet on it. Maybe I’ll get my salad bar after all.
No, Rebels isn’t my dream Star Wars series. But I can see how and why this is an attractive option for Lucasfilm right now: It just makes sense. It’s directing a wider audience back towards thinking about the original trilogy and opening up an era that hasn’t been much explored. It’s using Ralph McQuarrie’s concepts as an inspiration, promising a bold new look that recalls perhaps the most iconic Star Wars artwork out there. A little old, a little new – and what’s more Star Wars than that?