The Star Wars franchise is poised for a big comeback right now, with popular Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels already paving a smooth road to the upcoming sequel trilogy, which kicks off with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens next year.
As the Star Wars brand evolves into a fully-linked shared universe of main chapters, spinoffs and TV/game/book tie-ins, the possibilities for storytelling are wide open to the imaginations of both the franchise's brain trust and its many fans. Of course, any grand plans for the future need to be carefully orchestrated and guided in the present (see: Marvel & DC's plans until 2020) - which is why talk is already turning to the Star Wars animated series coming after Rebels.
/Film has word from their sources that Disney/LucasFilm is already planning the animated series that will follow Rebels. The site's source drops the following blueprint for what's to come:
- Rebels will likely run 3-4 seasons.
- The new series would therefore arrive around 2017 - 2018 (presumably before Episode VIII's release).
- The new animated series will be set in the same timeline as the sequel trilogy (i.e., 30 odd years after Return of the Jedi).
The only real previous example to draw from is the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. That show (made by a lot of the same creative minds behind Rebels) ran for five seasons on Cartoon Network, and was given a "Lost Episodes" season 6 on Netflix. Rebels has enough storytelling material to run for a similar length, but if this rumor is true, it would seem that Disney/Lucas wants to freshen things up with each new movie episode.
We've long heard tell that the plan would be to release episodes every three or so years (in keeping with tradition), while releasing spinoff films in between episodes to keep the universe expanding. There was never really much discussion about other platforms like cartoon series getting new installments, but it really makes sense, if one thinks about it. Rebels (and its lead-in novel, A New Dawn) released a year before Episode VII, so it's easy to believe that if Episode VIII arrives three years later (2018), then a new animated series (and perhaps books series) would indeed be aimed for 2017 - with 2016 keeping up momentum via the first Star Wars spinoff film.
A Possible Timeline
- 2014 - A New Dawn novel & Rebels animated series
- 2015 - Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- 2016 - Spinoff Film (Star Wars: Bounty Hunters?)
- 2017 - New Animated Series (and book?)
- 2018 - Episode VIII
New event films every year or so, with an animated TV series (and eventually maybe live-action ones?) offering deeper examinations of characters and world during the interim. That looks like a surefire pattern for keeping the Star Wars universe relevant and exciting at all times, without risking over-saturation (a problem comic book movies may soon face).
Right now, the Rebels animated series is impressing Star Wars fans and casual viewers alike; but the suggestion of a new series, at this early stage, shouldn't be taken as insult so much as good planning. By 2017, the magic and relevance of Rebels may be waning - or at the very least, new revelations by way of The Force Awakens may indeed have fans eager to get a deeper sense of this new chapter of the saga. After Episode VII the timing may be perfect for a general switch in focus - and all the better if the brain trust embarks on a show with years of thought and development behind it.
...Plus, let's not discount the obvious: If Rebels turns out to be a strong brand for the franchise, then Ezra, Chopper, Zeb and the rest of the gang will be getting further adventures - so long as it's feasible to continue them. After all, it's a big galaxy - and it's only getting bigger. Lots of room to play in this sandbox.
Star Wars Rebels currently airs Mondays @9/8c on Disney XD.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will be in theaters on December 18, 2015.