Star Trek Into Darkness and Super 8 director J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII will launch Disney's Star Wars universe on the big screen when it arrives in 2015. In the meantime, executive producer/writer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past) will help usher in the next generation of stories about the war against the Galactic Empire on the small screen with the animated series Star Wars Rebels.
Rebels, which is being co-executive produced by Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Greg Weisman (Young Justice), is expected to premiere on the Disney XD channel during the second half of 2014. However, before that happens, Disney will kick things off this summer with a full-length Star Wars Rebels TV movie on the Disney Channel, in addition to a series of shorts (one envisions something similar to Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon shorts, released between Episodes II & III).
Jedi News has the scoop on the Star Wars Rebels TV movie, which was mentioned in a Disney shareholder letter that was sent out this week. The full letter also details the company's larger plans to produce Star Wars content across multiple platforms (movies, TV shows, toys, theme parks, etc.), so we've only included the relevant excerpt that concerns the Rebels animated program.
"... While the world eagerly awaits Episode VII to open in theaters, we’re introducing Star Wars Rebels to television audiences this summer with a movie and a series of shorts on Disney Channel, followed by a continuing series on Disney XD..."
In addition, Disney has released a series of original illustrations for the Rebels TV show, as was designed by Amy Beth Christenson, a Lucasfilm Animation art department member, who is working on the series. You can peruse through all six posters/one-sheets (which includes another look at the show's main antagonist, known as The Inquisitor), thanks to Empire, IGN, TheForce.net, Mashable, Omelete and ET Online (via /Film).
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As you can see, this 2D artwork represents the kind of propaganda marketing that the Imperial forces will use during the events in Star Wars Rebels, which explores the growing rebellion against the Galactic Empire between the events of Episodes III and IV (i.e. the 15-20 years between prequel and original Star Wars trilogies). The drawing style harkens back to Ralph McQuarrie's visual conception approach on Episodes IV-VI, which Kinberg has said will also hold true for the animation style on Rebels.
Kinberg has described Rebels as being "less political than the prequels," so it should be interesting to see just how far the series goes to show what everyday life was like under the Empire's reign; that includes having ordinary (and non-villainous) citizens who are excited about joining the Imperial Forces, thanks to propaganda campaigns like the ones teased above. That would add a bit more complexity to the Star Wars universe onscreen, while also helping to better distinguish the franchise's new era from its past.
So far the Star Wars Rebels voice cast is reported to include Davis Oyelowo (The Butler), Freddie Prinze Jr. (24), Steven Jay Blum (Transformers Prime), Vanessa Marshall (The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) and Taylor Gray (Thunderstruck), so hopefully the TV movie this summer will serve as a good introduction to most - if not all - of their new characters, ahead of the TV series getting properly underway.
Star Wars Rebels is expected to air on Disney XD beginning in 2014.