Star Wars Rebels marks the beginning of the Disney/Lucasfilm Star Wars universe on the small screen, and the Disney XD show is already off to a strong start. Reviews for the two-part pilot, “Spark of Rebellion”, by and large praise the series for having recaptured not just the look – see the visual homages to the original Star Wars trilogy included in the “Igniting a Legacy ” featurette (as embedded above) – but also the feel and spirit of George Lucas’ original Star Wars movie, by chronicling the adventures of the spaceship Ghost’s motley crew.
Those elements were carried over into the series’ regular episode premiere, “Droids in Distress”, and judging by the early numbers, the Rebels pilot left many a regular viewer feeling happy and eager to continue watching the show (after “Spark of Rebellion” drew sizable ratings over the proceeding weeks). “Droids in Distress” aired on Monday night a week ago, and drew 1.03 million total viewers, making it Disney XD’s top animated series premiere since the channel launched in early 1999. Moreover, Rebels performed well where it counted – the 6-14 age bracket, which made up about 481K of the total viewers.
Rebels‘ popularity with the under-18 crowd is all the more important, seeing as the next era of Star Wars entertainment needs to appeal to more than the adult Star Wars fans, in order to reach the heights of multi-platform shared universe success that Disney and Lucasfilm are targeting. As noted in the video below by Freddie Prinze Jr., who voices the Jedi-in-disguise Kanan on the show, Rebels has so far offered that same cross-generational appeal that helped make the Star Wars property so popular to begin with.
So far, the storytelling in Rebels has remained accessible to those who enjoy space opera genre thrills and soap opera in general, while also providing Star Wars fanatics the immersive experience they prefer – with the incorporation of references to lore and the larger Star Wars universe that have actual history behind them. You get a taste of the former in the first of the above two clips, as the characters Hera (Vanessa Marshall) and Sabine (Tiya Sircar) fend off mysterious creatures that can only survive in the darkness.
The latter clip, by comparison, offers something for the hardcore Star Wars fans to go with the classic Star Wars lightsaber dueling, as is given a spin (quite literally) with the addition of the mysterious villain, The Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs). Rebels‘ antagonist, a Sith-like master of the dark side of the Force, remains a curiosity not just for his yet to be revealed backstory, but also because rumor is the character is connected to the storyline in Episode VII (which arrives next year).
Simon Kinberg (screenwriter for X-Men: Days of Future Past), who co-created Rebels with Dave Filoni (Star Wars: Clone Wars) and Carrie Beck (Lucasfilm’s Director of Creative Content Strategy), has indicated that the animated Star Wars series connects not just to Episode VII, but also the earlier Star Wars films. The latter has already proven to be true, as the events in “Droids in Distress” helped to plant the seeds from which a larger organized rebellion – one that includes the main characters on Rebels – against the Galactic Empire will eventually grow.
As for what elements/characters in Rebels may return in Episode VII, that will surely become more apparent in time. After all, Ezra (Taylor Gray) is only about to begin his formal Jedi training with Kanan, and there could be big things on the horizon for both Force users. Not to mention, we’ve only just started to learn about Zeb’s (Steve Blum) history, while Sabine’s and Hera’s respective backstories remain very much mysteries – and who knows what role either character will ultimately play in the formation of the Rebel Alliance.
Star Wars Rebels continues tonight with “Fighter Flight” at 9 p.m. on Disney XD.
You can catch an encore showing of Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion (featuring a new Darth Vader scene) when it airs on ABC next Sunday at 9/8c.