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How will Disney and Lucasfilm Adapt the Star Wars Canon for New Films?

Filmmaker George Lucas meets "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

As we know, Disney now owns Lucasfilm and has committed to finishing the trilogy of movie trilogies, plus a spin-off or two. Fans of Star Wars may debate whether episodes 1-2-3 were any good or not, but we’ve almost all grumpily accepted that they are part of the accepted canonical elements of the Star Wars Universe (even Jar Jar Binks as much as we’d love to see him go down the memory hole).

Since almost day one after the first movie premiered, the Star Wars universe has expanded to include characters and plot lines that reach far beyond the movies. There have been novels, comic books, cartoons, a Christmas Special (yeah George, we haven’t forgotten about that one), and quite a bit more that occupies a realm we call the Expanded Universe (EU) hierarchy.

The movie canon and the EU have always remained mostly separate. But if Disney wants to go forward, they’ll have to deal with all the cruft of the EU. But the EU is huge and does not always jive with the canon, let alone with itself, hence the hierarchy. So how will Disney straighten it all out?

The answer is very carefully. As hinted at over in Celebration Europe and recently revived in discussions on Twitter, Disney and the Lucasfilm Story Group (aka the team in charge of maintaining what’s canon and what’s not) is in the process of drastically redefining the universe of Star Wars.

Leland Chee, a member of the story group has been tweeting about the changes. He said that the main goal is to selectively merge the canon between the movies and EU material creating one cohesive canon across the entire franchise, adding that “more so than ever, the canon field will serve us internally simply for classification rather than setting hierarchy.” This should mean a stricter, more orderly, universe going forward leading toward whatever stories are told in the movies.

I was once an avid reader of the Star Wars novels. I have my thoughts as to which should be made into movies 7,8, and 9. From the sound of it, JJ Abrams and team will be going in a different direction than any of the novels. They may choose to include certain elements (Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand ) and exclude others (the young Jedi Knights series (Leia and Hans’ kids(). But it’s good to know the members of the story group will be keeping a close eye on things.

Are you confident that the Star Wars universe is in good hands? What do you think should be in the first new movie – episode 7.

For further reading, enjoy this great op-ed on the subject at Ars Technica.

3 thoughts on “How will Disney and Lucasfilm Adapt the Star Wars Canon for New Films?”

  1. I’ve also been a great fan of both the movie series and the Expanded Universe.

    For the new trilogy I’d love to see at least hints from the famous Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, but as the protagonists of that trilogy remain Luke, Han and Leia (with the inclusion of Thrawn, Joruus C’Baoth and Mara Jade among others) I believe they might include hints of those stories (specially including Mara), but will go further into the future.

    As for the spin-offs I’d love for Han Solo’s story to be, at least in part, based on the great Han Solo book trilogy by A.C. Crispin.

  2. In my opinion, all the effort to nail down a “canon” for Star Wars-or any other fictional universe-is a waste of time. Look at Star Trek. Bantam published a few original Trek novels in the mid-70s, and then when Pocket Books got the license in 1979 they published several novels a year, as well as technical manuals and chronologies. There was also an ongoing Star Trek comic published by DC throughout the ’80s. However, it wasn’t until 1987, when Gene Roddenberry re-took the reins of the franchise as Executive Producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that any official statement of what was or wasn’t “canon” was made.

    So what happened during that period from 1979 to 1986 when Paramount was turning out a new Star Trek movie every couple years without any official Star Trek Canon Policy? Mass confusion? Rioting in the streets? Cats and dogs living together? Nope. Star Trek fans just happily read our novels and comics while waiting for the next film while realizing that the folks making the films were going to ignore those novels and comics and do whatever they wanted. And it sure didn’t hurt the movies’ box office receipts. The fact was that only a very tiny fraction of the people buying tickets to Star Trek movies cared about the canonicity of the various licensed books and comics-or were even aware of their existence.

    So, with respect to Leland Chee and others who have carefully curated the Star Wars “canon” for all these years, they were kind of wasting their time. The vast majority of people who saw and enjoyed the movies have never picked up a Star Wars novel or comic and probably never will. They’ve never heard of Grand Admiral Thrawn and they have no idea what a Yuuzhan Vong is. So when they show up for Star Wars Episode 7 a year and 10 months from now, do you really think they’re going to care whether that stuff is “canon” or not? (Hint: the answer is “no”)

    Only the Sheldon Coopers of the world are unable to enjoy a movie set in a fictional universe without an official statement of what constitutes the “canon” of that universe. And there just aren’t enough of those people to make it worth catering to them.

  3. Just make the Zahn trilogy into one movie. It picks up right after the Battle of Endor. And the story is the best one out there save for the original three.

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