When Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012, one of the first orders of business was to establish the Star Wars Story Group, which aimed to align all pieces of media in the galaxy far, far away to make them part of a singular, cohesive franchise canon. This means that all of the films, TV shows, novels, comics, and even video games are all connected and tie into each other in some way. For instance, Star Wars: Battlefront features a Battle of Jakku map, and the aftermath of that conflict can be seen during the first act of The Force Awakens.
Star Wars has long branched out from the big screen, but never before had everything been part of the same whole. The decision for forge ahead with the Story Group opens numerous opportunities creatively, and fans are already noticing several links between the various materials as they take everything in. It's a great idea that's so far been successful, and it was Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy who spearheaded the movement.
While on the Black Girl Nerds podcast, Lucasfilm creative executive Rayne Roberts discussed the formation of the Story Group and why Kennedy felt it was important to have:
I've spoken to [Kathleen Kennedy] about it, and what her initial idea was when she came into the company was, you know, she'd produced countless big franchise movies over her career, and a lot of times she'd noticed that there would be these ancillary books or supporting materials that would be developed to support these films, and the people that would go make those were not the same people who had been involved in making the movies, and there was this kind of disconnect. And so she was very intentional about saying, 'I want to create a central development team that has their hands in everything, so that all of the various media can be really intuitively and intentionally connected.'
In theory, the approach is similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only there seems to be more of a concentrated effort at Lucasfilm to establish strong connective tissue. Marvel is notorious for the growing division between its film and television departments, with references and crossovers happening infrequently (the Avengers still don't know Agent Coulson is still alive). This is also very different from the method employed by the DC Entertainment, which intentionally keeps the movies and TV shows separate for artistic purposes. Since the three franchises have all had varying forms of success, there doesn't appear to be any right or wrong way of doing things. Each property is built in its own way.
Roberts went on to explain the effect the Story Group has on Kennedy as the studio plots out the future of the series. Having a team in place to work with has been a great benefit to her:
I think it's been really comforting for [Kennedy] to know that the same team she works with to develop these movies is also in deep communication with everyone else. And we're continuing to get better and better at it, that's what's really exciting. I mean, we've had our first couple of years where we've created connectivity, but we've got a lot more ideas to come.
One of the most obvious ways Lucasfilm is illustrating that connectivity is through Saw Gerrera's inclusion in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That character was first introduced in the Clone Wars television series. Star Wars: Episode VIII director Rian Johnson contributed ideas for this year's novel Bloodline. In addition, recent reports about casting for the young Han Solo spinoff also suggest that Sana Starros, who initially appeared in the comic books, could be making the jump to the big screen. Just about everything with the Star Wars name is designed to be enjoyed by anyone, but for those fans that have been following the canon closely, the tie-ins are very rewarding and add another layer of entertainment.
In today's day and age of franchise building, it's extremely pertinent for the studio to have a plan as they roll out their slate. Lucasfilm seems to have it figured out with the Story Group, and as time goes on and they get a better idea of what works and what doesn't, they'll continue to evolve. It will be fascinating for fans to see how it all takes shape down the road, since there's already been plenty to be excited about. It's a great time to follow the Star Wars universe, and there's no telling what's to come.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Black Girl Nerds