George Lucas Created The Illusion of A Master Plan
Star Wars long existed in the popular consciousness as a pre-determined idea; depending on when in the 1980s you asked him, George Lucas had always planned for six, nine or twelve movies right from the first drafts of The Star Wars, giving an air of greater creative oversight to the undertaking. However, that was little more than elaborate marketing spiel.
Yes, Lucas had plans for multiple trilogies and a vague idea of what each trio would entail, but it was hardly crystal clear and very open to major changes: Vader being Anakin Skywalker famously didn't come to him until the second draft of The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi was at one point going to end with Luke walking off into the sunset after the death of Vader but survival of the Emperor on the hunt for his non-Leia sister; and while his basic arc for the prequels (Beginning, love story, Vader) remained, he adjusted focus in response to backlash.
Read More: George Lucas’ Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Plans
All he really had early on was the idea of trilogies, but the public illusion of confidence allowed the idea to stick. That has, in turn, made his unmade treatments for the sequels (note: treatments, not scripts) somewhat legendary. In contrast to that, it's inevitable that Disney's alternative expansion would feel unplanned and scattered. And, while it may not have been envisioned by Lucas (who has been oh-so-careful with the wording of his praise of all post-purchase releases), that's not really true.
Lucasfilm Plans Much Further Ahead Than People Think
Lucasfilm right now is thinking years ahead at a time. Per Disney CEO Bob Iger, discussions for Star Wars up to 2030 have taken place and Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo says he spent time in 2017 directly working on projects that won't be public until 2021 (it's not clear if that's a film or wider canon material, but the implication is clear).
Tellingly, over five years since the purchase, we're still on something approaching the original gameplan; the first five movies - the sequel trilogy, Rogue One and Solo - were all rumored in the months following the deal, and the Boba Fett film that fell apart following the departure of Josh Trank is still on the cards, as is the long-expected Obi-Wan film. The only project that's remotely "new" (i.e. wasn't known about by the public in 2013) is Rian Johnson's standalone trilogy, but that will likely release almost a decade after Disney started the new era of Star Wars so is hardly a change (and if that does wind up being about the Unknown Regions, then must have been in the works long before The Last Jedi director got involved).
Simply put, everything is proceeding as Kathleen Kennedy has foreseen. There are adjustments along the way, but they're more character than plot (Snoke's death, Maz's Force powers), and minor on a production scale (release date changes have been by months alone, and while the director firings are very problematic, they've not slowed the machine); the river can change direction but the destination is the same. This is more than can be said of Lucas, a man who ended the Saga with Episode VI initially because he was fed up. Lucasfilm has a plan and has been following it all along.
It's further worth noting that this structure isn't just movies either; Star Wars is TV shows, books, games, merchandising and more. Everything is so tightly wound that it requires this foresight. As we know they're looking towards the mid-2020s seriously (at least), that means any adjustment in response to The Last Jedi would fundamentally impact the entirety of Lucasfilm.
Although that, of course, assumes, there'd be any desire to shift in the first place.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019