Tuesday, May 28, 2013

X-Wings, Rebels and the Last Big 30th

The past week has been a big one for Star Wars – it has been the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi, a moment of history for the Star Wars Saga. There has been the announcement of a new animated TV series – Rebels, set to debut in 2014. Finally a life-size X-Wing, constructed entirely of LEGO bricks was unveiled in Times Square, New York. Is this the biggest week for Star Wars since last October?

If anyone was in any doubt as to whether the general public are being reminded enough about Star Wars this year, LEGO rounded up selected journalists and took them to an airplane hangar to check out a LEGO model so jaw-dropping that certain LEGO Master Model Builders will still be smiling smugly to themselves for weeks. Then in Times Square, LEGO revealed the model to be a life-size X-Wing Fighter. It was surrounded by costumed Star Wars characters for New Yorkers and tourists to gawk at, and broadcast to the world on webcam.

The extremely impressive construction of the X-Wing couldn't have been more
appropriate. The reason that LEGO and Lucasfilm went for this publicity stunt was to publicise The Yoda Chronicles (a cross-promotional venture including TV, online content and LEGO products), however it also fit nicely with the other activity occurring. The X-Wing is one of the classic trilogy's most iconic vehicles, making it an apt choice to go alongside the anniversary of Return of the Jedi. More than that, it seems that it will also be one of the key ships in the new TV series Rebels.

Back in March, Lucasfilm announced on StarWars.com the end of The Clone Wars:

“As we enter into an exciting new era focused on the next Star Wars trilogy, Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming. We are exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or television programming.”
This quote suggested at the time that this new animated series would link in to the time frame of the upcoming sequel trilogy, however it turns out that the series will actually be set in the time period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope


Perhaps Lucasfilm under Disney will not be tying everything in to the new sequel trilogy time frame after all, but more moving away from the prequel era (particularly when coupled with Lawrence Kasdan's comment that “There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they’ve been missing”). That would be a shame, as part of the fun of the Star Wars galaxy is that there can be stories set at any point in the Saga, with a great variety of characters available.

It is reassuring to know that Lucasfilm Animation will be producing Rebels, rather than it

being handed to a different Disney division. Dave Filoni will be joined by Simon Kinberg and Greig Wesiman, both of whom have impressive resumes of their own. If the series follows the path of the later, character-driven stories in The Clone Wars and ensures that the emotion comes across, it should find a faithful audience.

The character choice will be key to ensuring the creative success of Star Wars Rebels – if it's all about seeing animated versions of Luke, Han and Leia constantly popping up, like The Clone Wars it will be a story we know the ending to. If it introduces new characters, new Rebels fighting new villains in the Empire, then it will be a huge

opportunity to expand the scope of Star Wars and show a broader audience just how many different stories there are to be told in the Star Wars universe.

The choice of Rebels, and the announcement of it at this particular moment, does suggest that Lucasfilm in its new phase wants to focus on the nostalgia and warmth that the public universally feels for the classic trilogy. Iconic vehicles like the X-Wing and TIE Fighter are instantly recognisable to almost anyone as being from Star Wars, whereas it takes the casual fan a few more minutes to recognise a Jedi Starfighter or Vulture Droid. A little more capitalising of this being an anniversary year would make sense too – after all, in a few years time we will be sitting down to watch the sequel to Return of the Jedi...

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