Disney has two of the most lucrative brands in Hollywood with Star Wars and Marvel, but it is the galaxy far, far away they're more protective of, according to director Taika Waititi. Over the last few years, he's made comedic indie hits What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but it was his work in 2017 on Thor: Ragnarok that truly showed he can bring his unique sense of humor to any project. He's become one of the industry's most sought after talents as a result.
While he's since been working on a TV version of What We Do In The Shadows and a WWII satire Jojo Rabbit, Waititi also joined The Mandalorian as a director. The Jon Favreau-produced series is an exclusive to Disney's streaming service, and Waititi directed an episode of the show, which also features episodes by Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and more. As the only person to direct something Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars-related so far, Waititi is in the unique position of having worked with two of Disney's biggest moneymakers.
When Observer had the chance to interview Waititi at SXSW, they asked him which property the Mouse House is more protective over and puts stricter guidelines on. For Waititi, the answer was simple, saying, "Star Wars, yeah, easily." However, he explained earlier in the same interview that he was still able to bring his own spin to his episode of The Mandalorian despite this. He said:
"There’s definitely some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years from working with [Clement] and [Simms] and everyone else back home that I have brought to my episode. But I can’t… It’s a very sacred universe, the Star Wars universe, so I can’t do too much of it."
It is understandable why Disney and Lucasfilm are being more protective of the Star Wars universe. The franchise as a whole is one of the most iconic and popular properties of all time for a reason, and they want to make sure they do not diminish excitement by releasing lackluster products. They've so far stayed very close to the original trilogy and its characters in order to try and achieve this, with The Mandalorian having the potential to branch out and tell its own story that is largely disconnected. But, even if Disney is being protective of Star Wars to keep the brand popular, the galaxy far, far away can still take a page out of Marvel's playbook to see how it can continue to grow.
The MCU films have a somewhat standard approach and tone, but Marvel Studios has also been allowed to mix in different genres throughout the last 11 years of films. Waititi took the Thor franchise away from the Shakespearean elements and went full cosmic comedy with Thor: Ragnarok, and the results both financially and critically speak for themselves. With exciting voices like Waititi or Famuyiwa on board The Mandalorian, Waititi implying they are still letting him do his own thing (to a certain degree) is a good sign. And for the future of Star Wars, it would be smart for Rian Johnson's trilogy, the trilogy from the Game of Thrones creators, and the Cassian Andor Disney Plus series to do the same, not only to keep the franchise evolving, but to use the full abilities of the talent they bring aboard.