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

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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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TAGS: comic con 2014, star wars, star wars rebels


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  1. Good lord! I’m all for giving the upcoming movies more freedom, but how the hell does that make it necessary for you to make the Expanded Universe non-canon? It doesn’t! And even if it did, that would only mean you have to make all Expanded Universe stories set after Return of the Jedi non-canon, and not the stuff between and before the movies as well!

  2. my thing is this, it was the Expanded Universe to some extent, kept the Star Wars legacy alive, unlike Star Trek, which still had movies and tv shows to keep fans sedated. So to just say it doesn;t exist because George Lucas didnt write it us absurd. Those are great stories from writers who cared and are true fans of a Galaxy far, far away. I like people who are a fans of the film but the stories go beyond, we the readers of the books, i believe are the true fans i loved follwing the adventiures of not just Luke, Han and Leia, but of Jacen, Jaina and Anakin Solo, also Ben Skywalker adn Mara Jade. Now i have to sit through movies who from the rumors are true and gving me a future where the last jedi has been a prisoner for 30 years?!?! and no one bothered to look for him, i was looking for something new from this point. These stories portrayed a richer tale from anything George could think of. i applaud his origianl concept.but i applaud the men and women who enriched it,kept it alive and made it better.

  3. Now that this topic is so strongly discussed on a lot of websites, I have to share my opinion with you. I will explain my opinion on several aspects of the subject matter.

    1.) Star Wars Universe = Multiverse?
    Why is it so hard for us to accept multiple alternate storylines while this concept seems to work fine for Marvel? The answer ist simple: Star Wars is a bit more conservative. It is reminiscent of Epics like “Lord of the Rings” which are defined by continuity. One of the most thrilling aspects of Star Wars was to dive deep into a fully-connected cosmos and explore the background of characters while they where heading through the newest story arc

    2.) Lucas’ concept of the sequel trilogy
    To be honest I didn’t read anything about Lucas handing over concepts for VII-IX when he sold Lucasfilm. But I read Michael Kaminski’s “The Secret History of Star Wars”. If you believe him, there was never a real concept for the sequel trilogy once “Jedi” was finished. The original Idea was to let Luke fail and let the “Other” Yoda mentions in Episode V fight against the Emporer in VII-IX. If you now take into accont that even the original trilogy had to be retconned once they came across the idea that Vader ist Lukes father in 1979 and that Lucas altered his original idea of Episode II and III due to the fan-reactions on Jar Jar Binks in Ep I, there is a reason to believe that Lucas’ concepts are not carved in stone.

    3.) Discrete Line between “Legends” and new canon
    As a lot here have pointed out, the idea to just make a clear cut doesn’t seem logical. It would have been a better choice to analyse the whole EU and one-by-one take books into the new canon or make them “Legends”. The only thing is, that there are slight contradictions even in the best works of the EU (eg. the account given about the Clone Wars in the Thrawn trilogy is partly incompatible with the version of the Clone Wars presented in the prequel trilogy. Maybe Lucasfilm just uses the strict separation to make sure that they can’t be blamed if they don’t take into account what was told in “The Truce at Bakura” on page 63. But maybe they will use the overall story arc of the EU anyway but will gloss over the tiny details (one can only dream). That would mean that they would take into account the Thrawn trilogy (which was tightly monitored by George Lucas), Dark Empire (which has a storyline which was partly conceptualised by George Lucas), the Jedi Academy trilogy and the New Jedi Order (the Vong Invasion). And that they will not simply throw all the characters out the window. If you look at the merchandise, i guess we should not abandon all hope that we will see eg. Mara Jade or Kyle Katarn again. Both feature in FFG’s recently published X-Wing-Boardgame and there are Action Figures of them.

    4.) Metaplots and story groups
    It is acutally past time Lucasfilm established a story group. A lot of big franchises use that (e.g. Perry Rhodan, the biggest German Pulp Sc-Fi novel series): a group of authors predefines a metaplot for a certain era and authors are invited to take certain pieces of that plot and turn them into detailed stories. All in all I think it is great that they are finally doing it. If they had done that in 1990, we wouldn’t have this “Legends”-issue. I don’t know if I will read all the new books – now, that I spent 20 years reading the old EU.

    I am sceptical but not too pessimistic that Lucasfilm will not trash the whole EU as many of us fear. Let’s wait and see

  4. shadows of the empire movie a must

  5. “…they can mean something to you, even if they didn’t ‘happen.’”

    — This makes no sense at all. What’s the point in me even finishing up reading the FOTJ books if it’s not even canon. What’s the point in any of that stuff still being sold if it isn’t canon? It’s basically nothing but a bunch of fanfiction now.

    “So it wouldn’t get shoved off too far to the side, and treated like it never happened.”

    — If you’re labeling it as non-canon, then it didn’t happen, period. I just don’t see why they would have to label the entirety of the EU as non-canon, just for a single story arc.

    I honestly feel like I’ve wasted all of my time on Star Wars – virtually everything I know about it, outside of the movies and a kid’s show, isn’t even real. Didn’t even happen.

  6. The EU was canon for me. If Disney won’t respect the old fans for their ongoing support and simply declare our stories to be some fanboy apocrypha, why should we bother with them? Declaring the EU to be “legend” would at least indicate the existence of our charcters. And if it was as important as they claim Christie Golden’s Sword of the Jedi trilogy could move forward. It isn’t. Because the mouse is blowing sunshine up your exhaust port. I knew Disney would screw this up the minute they bought it. This isn’t Marvel. We don’t reboot canon just to shake things up. I watched the first movie in theaters when I was 3. I lived and breathed Star Wars. I took in the new movies and even accepted Jar Jar but I would’ve been happier to just read the EU until I died than to have them jettison it like a Star Destroyer before it goes into hyperspace. Unless they rectify this massive misstep my fandom will have to come to an end.

  7. Disney is just as bad owners as George Lucas, only less satisfying with the Star Wars universe as a whole. George Lucas admits the EU wasn’t his universe even though he managed it, so forget Lucas and acknowledge the EU for what it’s sole purpose was: To explain what wasn’t explained in the movies and expand the characters unexplained backgrounds.

    Any Star Wars-trademarked asset owned by Disney is trademarked by the greedy company Disney is. Unlike the original Expanded Universe, those were all examples of writers’ work other than George Lucas who can write better than that god-awful Phantom Menace. The Phantom Menace was a trademark of George Lucas’ greed, and so will be the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Sure the Expanded Universe is similar to fan-fiction, but at least it came from fans who prove to be great writers who CHOSE to write how they expand the Star Wars universe.

    But this time, Disney owns everything and they’re experimenting with the sequel trilogy considering how much they bought LucasFilm for and how much they paid JJ Abrams to direct the first of the trilogy. I am not saying I despide JJ Abrams, but if they Disney controls all the assets of LucasFilm now, then I officially don’t trust them.

    • Woops, I meant the sequel trilogy is trademark of Disney greed.

  8. So basically everything that isn’t the movies or the recent CGI animations is an “alternate universe” in its own canon?

    Makes sense, if they used the expanded universe then they hadn’t even begun with Palpatine and he would be back with about a hundred clones/bodies he moved his spirit into.

    • well seeing as the film is set 30 years in the future AND the expanded universe is ALSO at about the same time period…there would be NO story involving palpatine as he was eliminated decades earlier…so your point is really a moot one….

  9. I want my money back from all the books I bought from Xwing series to the New Jedi Order series then. Waste of my time and money. Someone should set up a lawsuit against Disney. Lol. But I’m serious.

  10. I actually find their explanation even more off-putting. I definitely don’t like the explanation behind the tag “Legends” as though we’re getting second hand stories exaggerated over the years. I would have preferred that they just keep the Expanded Universe tagged as the Expanded Universe. Let it be a separate thing from the films (and a much BETTER thing than anything that has come out of the canon in the last decade). Still feels like a slap in the face to me.

  11. JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy have to much of a ego to use another story other than their own cause they cant take credit for it and Disney is to lazy to ready the EU. Director of the clone wars said he never read the books……then you shouldn’t direct or be apart of anything SW. the should have required all the writers of any of the cartoon series or new movies to have read all the EU. because by not doing that they just spat on the faces of the largest fan group in the world. I spent more than half of my life reading 178 EU books that now mean nothing i can not express how much of my life i feel has been thrown away in the past year!

  12. I am just glad that CBS/Paramount, did not wipe out all of the Star Trek books, animated series etc. Like J. J. wanted them to do.

    CBS/Paramount knew where their Bonanza lay, it lies in “Giving Fans what they want!”

    You can reboot into an alternate universe, take good canon movies and TOS episodes and back flip them twist them around and call it WONDERFUL and bad robots, but just don’t take away our Star Trek. And for that matter, don’t take away our Star Wars either. ;)