What’s In The Upcoming Star Wars 40th Anniversary Announcement?

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The merest hint of Star Wars news is enough to send the internet into a frenzy of speculation, especially with the trailer for The Last Jedi still on the horizon. Tomorrow will see the announcement of something new from the Star Wars universe, with Rey and Luke themselves, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill, set to appear on ABC’s Good Morning America to spill the good news (Disney's own ABC, hence the show of choice). Described in the brief teaser as “forty years in the making,” this tidbit of information has opened up gossip as to what this surprise could be. With the original film set to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, there’s certainly plenty of things fans would like it to be.

When Disney unveiled their slate of upcoming releases from now to 2019, there were two curious unnamed slots on the schedule that raised eyebrows. One, simply labelled “Untitled Fairy Tale”, is set for release this summer. There’s certainly a possibility that Disney have filmed an entire movie in secret just for this occasion – they’re one of the few companies in Hollywood with the money and clout to pull that off – but it still feels like an outside call. With Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios under their belt, as well as their own highly lucrative properties, Disney’s strategy is built upon impeccable marketing and months, even years, of building hype that dropping a surprise film Beyoncé style doesn’t necessarily gel with. That leaves a few other possibilities for this mystery release, with the most favored fan rumor being that of the remastered original Star Wars trilogy.

Disney's release schedule through to 2019.

There has been much talk of the possibility of a complete 4K digital remastering of the original trilogy since Disney purchased Lucasfilm. Indeed, George Lucas himself became notorious for his constant fiddling with the series to add new effects, replace dialogue, and generally re-mould the movies to match his original vision. Some decisions paid off, while others remain hot topics, like Greedo shooting Han Solo first. Some of the original digital insertions, like Greedo in A New Hope, have aged weakly, which is something Lucas was always keen to avoid, so a revamp would bring new shades to the classic story.

Debate has swirled for decades as to the artistic merit of Lucas’s alterations, and how they could impact film preservation and archival work in the future. In an article for Popoptiq, Mallory Andrews argued that “George Lucas’s actions have set a dangerous precedent for film preservation. Potentially, authors are able to manipulate their work, and present the altered copy as the ‘new’ original – an effacement of history that Lucas once called the actions of a ‘barbaric society’.”

These changes have been so extensive that many people, including some of the series’ biggest fans, can’t say they’ve truly seen the original Star Wars as it was released in 1977, before the name change to A New Hope or the various special edition tweaks. Some dedicated fans even released a digitally restored copy of Star Wars online, coming as close as possible to how the film must have looked 40 years ago. On top of the many questions this strategy opens up in regards to the public domain versus authorial control, this raises issues with how Disney use their much loved and staggeringly profitable canon for future releases. Disney are infamous in their extensive lobbying of Congress for the extension of copyright, allowing them to hold onto the decades old properties that have made them billions, and while the Star Wars universe isn’t at risk of slipping into the public domain any time soon, Disney are always keen to have reasons to re-imagine their classics to keep the money rolling in.

Both a full digital remastering of the series and a lovingly restored release of the first film in its original, groundbreaking state would delight fans the world over, and allow new viewers who came to the series with The Force Awakens to enjoy the beginning on the big screen. Many fans of the previous generation came to the films before the prequels as part of the cinematic re-release in the '90s, so it would be part of history for Disney to continue the tradition.

Star Wars Land at night concept art - cropped
Concept art for Star Wars Land.

Outside of their films, Star Wars is expanding in many ways, including the upcoming theme park land at both Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Both parks will include two themed rides and an immersive experience, with the tentative opening date set for 2019. Much of what fans have seen so far has come from D23, the company’s annual stockholders meeting turned fan convention, akin to E3, but that isn’t something most of the general public are privy to. Tomorrow’s Good Morning America news could signal the announcement of a solid date for the occasion. Construction is still taking place, but previews of the rides and sites would excite many fans and solidify Disney’s status as king of the theme parks (sorry, Universal Studios).

The potential of Star Wars is seemingly limitless in terms of its future, and Disney are fully aware of that, but there are also incredible options they can explore as part of the series’ rich and influential past. With the summer season upcoming and that glaring gap in their schedule, now would certainly be an excellent time for Disney to delve into the archives and bring the holy grail of sci-fi blockbuster cinema to the masses with the original cut. Whatever they offer in the morning, fans will be ready to devour.

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
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