Before Disney bought Lucasfilm, creators, artists, and writers were free to add to the Star Wars universe without consequence of how it affected any other projects being worked on at the time. Once Disney was in control, all of these materials were turned into 'Legends,' as they renewed their focus on creating stories that will be part of the canon for the foreseeable future. Most pre-Disney properties were put outside of this jurisdiction, with Star Wars: The Clone Wars being deemed worthy of becoming canon. The animated series explored the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan in between Episode II and Episode III, but also introduced new characters, such as Ahsoka Tano, to the world.
Once The Clone Wars came to an end, Disney and Lucasfilm debuted Star Wars Rebels, a brand new animated series set before the events of Episode IV and the impending events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In Rogue One, fans of The Clone Wars will have the luxury of seeing an original character from the series appear as Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera. This is the first time this translation to the big screen has occurred and despite fans of the series and the lore being thrilled about this appearance, it does not appear as though this will be a regular occurrence.
IGN spoke to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy at a junket for Rogue One and asked her about other animated character getting the same treatment as Saw. Even though they have a large pool of characters to choose from and great characters on the small screen, Kennedy says that they are not isolating characters to force into live-action movies because that isn't their strategy at the moment:
You know, that really isn't the approach that we have. We don't sit down and start isolating a list of characters and then build stories around those. We really are starting with the stories themselves and then if some of those characters might come in to what it is we want to do or say we'll consider it then but that's not part of the strategy, no.
Kennedy's comments are surely not going to sit well with everyone who keeps up with Rebels or watched Clone Wars all the way through. There are many who would love to see Ahsoka make a big screen appearance, but as her fate on Rebels still hangs in the balance, there is not much of an opportunity for her to appear again outside of her own standalone film or a potential visit to Tatooine in an Obi-Wan movie.
Meanwhile, Rebels has completely focused on new characters that have not seen the big screen yet. Ezra Bridger, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, and Sabine have been the focus since the beginning and continue to evolve and change throughout this season. It would be great for the show's audience to see these characters on the big screen as well, but Rebels could very well end in depressing fashion with Grand Admiral Thrawn wiping them all out.
No matter how well-received these shows are, the amount of viewers it gets is merely a fraction of the viewership the films will have. Forcing Ezra, Kanan, or Ahsoka into prominent roles in a live-action film could mean that a majority of the audience is lost and is unaware of who these characters are. This does not mean a translation from animation to live-action is not in the cards, but it does complicate things. It still remains unclear just how big of a role Saw will have in Rogue One when it is all said and done, so if it is minimal, then Star Wars fans will have to ask themselves if that's what they want for characters who are stars in their own right.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 continues next Saturday at 8:30PM with ‘Visions and Voices’ on Disney XD.