Disney/LucasFilm seems to be taking a page out of the Disney/Marvel playbook, because they have made the bold move of renewing the new Star Wars animated series Star Wars Rebels before the show has even premiered on Disney XD.
Rebels is significant because it officially kicks off the new Star Wars canon and shared universe, which will then expand into the Star Wars Episode VII movie next year, as well as several planned Star Wars spinoff films. In such an ambitious design brand strength is everything, so Disney/Lucas seems to be investing heavily, early on, in Rebels - much like Marvel has done with its TV spinoff Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite some disappointing ratings.
Disney Channel's Worldwide President and CCO Gary Marsh offered the following quote along with the Rebels season 2 announcement:
The global expectations for this series could not have been any higher. I am proud to say that the team at Lucasfilm has delivered something that has surpassed even that incredibly high bar – artistically and thematically.
Brand strength flows from brand confidence - as demonstrated above.
Rebels combines Clone Wars showrunner Dan Filoni and X-Men: Days of Future Past writer Simon Kinberg, for the story of what happened in the years after Episode III and the fall of the Republic, as the Empire took hold of the universe, and a group of unlikely misfits banded together to start what would become The Rebellion.
The NY Times thinks that we've been critical of Rebels; but just to clarify: we haven't, so much as Star Wars fans have. The Rebels trailers we've posted have gotten less than universal praise (to put it mildly); the previous animated series, Clone Wars took a long time to make it onto a lot fans' radars - but where that serious was a darker, wartime drama, Rebels looks more happy-go-lucky and child adventurish.
Combined with the cartoony animation style, it's probably going to need some killer storylines and characters to win over a lot of fans.
Although, according to LucasFilm vice president of creative development Kiri Haret, everybody already loves Rebels:
We all love making ‘Rebels,’ so we couldn't be happier that it's moving into a second season. Our fantastic creative team is dreaming up new stories for the crew of the Ghost that will expand their experience of the galaxy and deepen their heroes’ journeys. The fan response to the show has been amazing, humbling and inspiring. We're looking forward to the adventure ahead.
All that overwhelming fan response for a show that hasn't aired yet. Nice.
Whatever the debates have been, they're about to be over; Star Wars Rebels hits the airwaves this Friday, and Disney/LucasFilm's big shared universe expansion begins along with it. No looking back. Season 1 will be 16 episodes; no word yet on how many eps have been ordered for season 2.
Will the reception be as rosy as Haret says? We'll see. Will the show have the fan acclaim and ratings to justify this early season 2 renewal? We'll see. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow and Clone Wars are all examples of shows that took a long time to find proper footing; even though Lucasfilm seems to have faith, let's hope Rebels doesn't keep us waiting too long for quality to kick in.
Star Wars Rebels premieres with the hour-long special "Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion" on Disney XD on October 3rd, 2014. It begins its regular series run a week and a half later on October 13th at 9 p.m. ET.
Sources: LucasFilm (via The Wrap)