‘Star Wars’ Creatives Explain Why Canon vs Expanded Universe Shouldn’t Matter

Published 9 months ago by

star wars episode 7 release date2 Star Wars Creatives Explain Why Canon vs Expanded Universe Shouldnt Matter

While movie audiences were left to wonder about the world of Star Wars that lived outside of the films, readers of the franchise’s ‘Expanded Universe’ had dozens upon dozens of novels rounding out each corner of the universe with George Lucas’ blessing. But when Episode VII executive producer Kathleen Kennedy explained that in order to give their upcoming films some freedom, they would not be following the future presented in the novels – thereby rendering the Expanded Universe non-canonical – fans were understandably upset.

As a result, the only canon stories that exist as fact in the Star Wars universe are the films, The Clone Wars animated series, the upcoming Star Wars Rebels series, and future novels. A selection of senior staff was on hand during Comic-Con 2014 to explain why fans shouldn’t see the EU as dead or meaningless – since they themselves still view it as a valuable resource.

When the decision was first made to not follow the story of Han, Leia, Luke, and their children that was laid out in the novels (and hailed as some of the better novels in the EU), many saw the move as essentially wiping the slate clean. The slight concession was made at the time to maintain the existence of the Expanded Universe under the banner of Star Wars ‘Legends,’ with writer Simon Kinberg (providing story direction for the franchise as a whole) promising that those stories could still be used as “inspiration” for canon projects.

Del Rey publisher’s Editor at Large Shelly Shapiro explained that fans shouldn’t be defensive, or see the move as an attack on the novels released under her supervision. The EU, she believes, is still important:

“Well first of all, we don’t want to just disappear stuff that everybody read and loved – including myself. Legends are things that are often told over generations so they’re not… they change constantly with the telling, so you can’t actually attribute an author to any particular one. Often it wasn’t someone who was actually there. You can go back to any of the legends… they’re pretty sure there was a ‘King Arthur,’ but most of the stories probably did not happen. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t kernels of truth in it.

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“Even though they would no longer be part of a Star Wars official history, they’re still stories that mean something, and they can mean something to you, even if they didn’t ‘happen.’ That they are legends. And legends are big, and legends are exciting, and legends are special, and you can read them, and tell them, and love them. And then we also read history, and we retell that, and love it, and that gets retold until it’s a legend too.

“So that’s why we called it Legends… So it wouldn’t get shoved off too far to the side, and treated like it never happened.”

The ways in which the fate of the original trilogy’s heroes (and their children) will or will not take their cues from the EU are not yet clear, with the first new dose of canonical Star Wars fiction coming with Star Wars Rebels and its prequel tie-in novel Star Wars: A New Dawn.

star wars rebels trailer Star Wars Creatives Explain Why Canon vs Expanded Universe Shouldnt Matter

Luckily, Rebels is being crafted under the guidance of Dave Filoni, supervising director of the other canonical animated series, The Clone Wars. He’s no stranger to the pressures of adding to the core series canon, and at the panel, Filoni explained quite plainly that no matter what decisions are made by Disney or the filmmakers, the stories embraced and shared by fans won’t simply cease to exist:

“When I was making Clone Wars, I always knew we were doing the ‘canon bomb,’ or the ‘continuity bomb,’ and I’d go into the office and be like: ‘wait until you hear what the Mandalorians are like according to George.’ And I would know a year or more in advance what that was going to do. But to be honest I still work the same way I did when I worked with George, which is: there’s an amazing group of talented artists and writers creating all of this stuff, and I still mine it all the time.

“When I see stuff I like I try to figure out how to get it in there. You can’t un-know this stuff; you can’t un-know stories that you’ve read. So when we come across ideas, all of those things are considered. We worked that way on Clone Wars all the time to include what we could… I think we try to keep the heart of things alive, no matter what.”

The continuing impact of George Lucas was something Filoni repeated, also citing the fact that stories concocted with the creator for Clone Wars are already planned to be explored in future novels. The producer of Rebels went on to explain that part of the fun with his previous series was including nods to the novels for fans, even if they had little impact on the story being told.


NEXT PAGE: The Star Wars Canon Debate Continues…

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  1. Wtf why didn’t they used the EU?
    I was so excited for ben sky walker,jacen, Jaina etc on screen like wtf Disney you made me hate the star war 7 trailer ugh :((( I WANT EU TO BE ON SCREEN!!!!!!!!! I hate you Disney well not really, just hating what you did ugh :(((

  2. This decision doesn’t really bother me. I love the EU, and so many of its characters including the Solo Children and young Ben Skywalker. Grand Admiral Thrawn was awesome! There are also plenty of things I hated about it. Chewies death was soul crushing! Though Han’s depression filled bout of wanderlust and family abandonment afterward was very compelling. Which brings me to the thing I hate most from the EU, the Yuuzhan Vong. In addition to killing Chewy the Yuuzhan Vong killed Anakin Solo, and even Jacen in a way. The destruction of Ithor made me sick. Plus they just don’t seem to fit the Star Wars Universe well. To me anyway. Plus those early post Return Of The Jedi novels were absurdly campy and ridiculous. My kids playing with their figures have come up with better plots than the Emperor Reborn.
    I kind of like the “Legends” concept.
    I think that outside the films, Star Wars is kind of what you make it. What is “Canon” anyway? The Dark Horse Clone Wars Comics, the 2-D Clone wars cartoons, and the 3-D Clone Wars Cartoons, all supposedly take place between Episodes Two and Three, but they don’t always jive together very well. Some Characters have completely different fates. They don’t always jive with the films either. Anakin had a young loyal apprentice for two years, and in Episode no one ever mentions or hints at it?
    In my Star Wars, the Killiks (or maybe the arcitects) had a force sensitive who predicted Alderaans destruction and made a DNA ark for all life on the planet a long time ago. Then the republic finds it and the Ithorians terraform a world for it. Voilà! New Alderaan.
    I say make Star Wars what you want.

  3. Honestly – Star Wars feels relatively dead to me without the EU. I know that’s a strong comment, but I mean it both literally and figuratively.

    The materials now considered cannon are trending more and more heavily toward being outright ‘young adult’ or even ‘childrens’ material. Clone Wars started it, Rebels is even lighter, and the canon books are… vapid, thus far.

    It was the EU that added the gritty, occasionally ‘grimdark’ (for better or worse) elements to the fiction. Without the EU, we’re left with an incredibly shallow Star Wars universe that has no history, and which is leaning precipitously toward being truly Disney-fied. The history of the Sith, the Old Republic, the fleshing out of the Mandalorian histories, all gone – and these are more of a loss than the EU material that came after the Battle of Yavin, as they had come to form the soul and context of the Star Wars universe for most fans.

    I’ll continue to keep up for awhile. How long, I don’t know. I’m sure many will think I’m missing out, but I have a suspicioun that my lifelong love of Star Wars is soon coming to an end.

    • I agree. The EU just had too many great stories (pre and post ROTJ) to just toss away.

      I truly hope that they will continue giving us stories under the Legends banner again soon one day.

      • EU Definitely had a lot of crap, let’s be honest. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Vong, though there was a lot of really good character development during that period of time. And that’s one of the things that’s really annoying me about this decision. Is it Lucas’ vision for how Star Wars would have gone? No. He said so himself. But after the credits rolled on Episode VI, Star Wars belonged to the fans (In spirit, anyway. Obviously not legally…) The EU books picked up where that story left off then went back in time to fill in the gaps to flesh out the rest of the story. This franchise goes WAY beyond the tragedy of Darth Vader (As Lucas has called Star Wars), and the EU takes us there. Ignoring the EU and putting it in this “Legends” category which in my opinion equates to “Mythology Limbo”, is a real slap in the face to all of us who spent years upon years (and hundreds of dollars…) on the books, investing our time and money into a universe that we cared about deeply, despite some of the stupid plot holes and cheesy stories. To come along and invalidate it all, placing it under this new banner, and thinking that somehow you’re doing it justice makes me a little sick. There was plenty of room to work within the EU to produce three new movies. The books, after all, are in roughly the same time period that the movies are picking up, anyway. There really was absolutely no reason for this move.

        • Agreed. The move was ill-conceived and not well thought out. It should have remained canon for the fans to enjoy.

  4. An open request to Disney:
    I saw the first Star Wars movie in the theaters when I was a child and I have been a life long fan of the series. I can’t count the number of times I have watched the original three movies. To me they are still classics.
    I played quite a few of the Star Wars games, but I must admit, I have not read a great deal of the extended universe novels. I did have the honor of being a student of one the the EU Novel authors, and I understand the worth these books have to their fans and their creators.
    That said, in my opinion, Star Wars needs a REBOOT!
    George Lucas took what was a fascinating story and created a nightmarish mess between changing the history when the prequels came out, then changing things again in the Clone Wars animated series, then AGAIN in the Clone Wars CG Animated series. Add to that the myriad of novels that have come out, many with conflicting details, and there is no way Disney could pick this mess up and make it all work as is.
    I think they should keep the story set out in the original three movies and declare everything else, (YES including the prequels), non-canon.
    Re-do the origins and the clone wars so they make sense and are interesting!

    IF Disney were to reboot the franchise, I have a few requests:
    2. NEVER mention Midichlorians…ever…EVER!!!!!!!
    3. NO VIRGIN BIRTH FOR ANAKIN. It was a bad idea from the start, it has not gotten any better.
    4. DO NOT actually detail Anakin’s history. The reason Darth Vader was fascinating when he first appeared in 1977 was his mystery. You had no idea what he was or if he was even human. Once the mystery was stripped away, (and he was revealed to be a spoiled brat), he stopped being interesting. Hint at his history, give snippets of it, but keep it a mystery.
    5. Re-do the Clone Wars. As it is, Order 66 and everything surrounding the mindset of the clones is one big mess. Redefine it so it works…and keep it gritty.

    I know none of this will get through, and I will no doubt get flamed by fellow fans, but I had to try.


  5. The Expanded Universe was full of retarded crap and I’m glad they dumped it.

    • Thank you. Finally, someone else understands.