Director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII has an official main cast at last, with possibly more important casting announcements arriving in the near future. However, before Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm usher in a new era of tales set in a galaxy far, far away on the big screen, they will begin with the next generation of Star Wars stories on the small screen via Disney XD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels.

Rebels will be the first step that Disney and Lucasfilm take in establishing a new canon for the Star Wars franchise, though it also includes elements that originated as part of the multi-platform “Expanded Universe” content released pre-Episode VII. The show takes place over the years between the events of Episode III and Episode IV, following a ragtag group of characters as they battle the growing power and influence of the Galactic Empire.

In other words, the show – which features Star Wars: The Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni and writer/producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past) as executive producers – is, in many ways, to the Mouse House’s Star Wars universe what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to Disney/Marvel’s Shared universe; the obvious exception being that Rebels will take place several decades before Episode VII, whereas the S.H.I.E.L.D. timeline of events overlaps with the latest Marvel Studios film releases.

Nevertheless, besides how both shows offer a more intimate look at large-scale conflicts in their respective universes – Emperor Palpatine’s totalitarian reign in Rebels and major changes in global security on Earth in S.H.I.E.L.D., respectively – the pair also share certain tropes, with regard to character archetypes and the central premise (e.g. a family-like unit operating aboard a flying vehicle). You can check out new images of the Rebels crew – along with some familiar enemies – in the images posted below, courtesy of USA Today (click image to enlarge):

Rebels‘ cast of characters includes Jedi-turned “Jedi cowboy” Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), Mandalorian explosives expert/artist Sabine (Tiya Sircar), young con artist Ezra (Taylor Gray), smart-but-thuggish Zeb (Steve Blum), maternal Twi’lek pilot Hera (Vanessa Marshall), and the grumpy astromech dried Chopper.

As you can see from the images featured above, the characters and world designs in Rebels are something of a departure from those featured in Clone Wars; Kinberg previously described it as being a return to the visual template of Ralph McQuarrie (the conceptual artist on Episodes IV-VI), where everything is “a little more figurative, more of a feel of being drawn, less computer-generated.”

We’ll find out how these elements look in motion soon enough, as the full-length Star Wars Rebels trailer is the “big event” that’s been teased (or, at the least, one of the big Star Wars-related events) for happening this upcoming Sunday, May 4th (a.k.a. Star Wars Day). The Rebels preview will premiere online early in the morning at 3:01 a.m. ET/12:01 PT, before it airs during Disney XD’s LEGO animated special Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles later that night at 7 ET.

Be sure and check back on Screen Rant on Star Wars Day, for the full Star Wars Rebels trailer (along with our customary breakdown and further analysis of the footage).

Star Wars Rebels is expected to begin airing on Disney XD by Fall 2014.

Source: USA Today