Over the past decade, the idea of a shared cinematic universe has gone from kids' sandboxes and playgrounds, to the big screen in a major way. The charge was led by Marvel Studios when it laid the seeds for a bigger universe by having Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark share a scene with William Hurt's General Ross during The Incredible Hulk. Beyond a tease by Nick Fury in Iron Man, this was a seminal - and often forgotten moment - in the modern history of growing cinematic landscapes.
Since then, other properties and studios have gotten into the act, including Warner Bros' DC Extended Universe and most notably of late, Star Wars. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, a brain trust of story editors were created to plot a new, cohesive story line for the entire galaxy of stories. They simplified their canon by resetting all story elements from the Expanded Universe, outside of the theatrical films and The Clone Wars TV show. Since that time, the new Star Wars canon has grown in exciting ways, including novels, movies, comic books, video games and a second animated TV series in Star Wars Rebels.
Lucasfilm's newest release, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been a huge hit at the box-office. However, its biggest success may be the way that it serves as connective tissue for many other story threads throughout the galaxy. Aside from clear connections to A New Hope, Rogue One featured several cameos and Easter eggs for fans of Disney XD's Rebels TV show. In an interview published on Star Wars. com, the Lucasfilm Story Group's Matt Martin explained the philosophy behind the cross-pollination of story elements between Rebels and Rogue One in particular:
"We’re very committed to the idea of the shared continuity across all Star Wars storytelling in all media, so knowing that Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels take place around the same point on the timeline, and both involve the early Rebel Alliance, it just seemed like a natural fit to make those connections. And it’s a reciprocal thing; elements of Rogue One could naturally find their way back into Rebels. We obviously had to be mindful of not spoiling Rebels since that story is set in the years before the film, but the restraints can come off a bit when working on Rebels in this capacity. This is only the second movie since the formation of the Story Group and this unified story world, so it almost feels like Rogue was a coming-out party of sorts. Rebels and Rogue One are all just the start of a larger strategy that we’re all very passionate about."
Lucasfilm seems to share a similar approach to universe building as Marvel, most notably because they both have created a collection of storytellers and gatekeepers that keep their sprawling continuities in check. In 2012, Lucasfilm's Story Group was created by producer Kathleen Kennedy and headed by Development Lead Kiri Hart. The Story Group has helped navigate the pitfalls of shared universes that others have found difficult to overcome. This is where the various connections are plotted years in advance for all of the films, TV shows, books, video games, and more, in an effort to create a completely cohesive storytelling landscape.
Marvel has found success by methodically building their universe since it's - more or less - unfolding in real time. An advantage that Star Wars has over other world-building franchises, is that the property is inherently a fantasy, a space-age myth. The seven "Skywalker" episodes released to date give the universe an established timeline, while the ancillary TV shows and spin-off films will ultimately fill in the gaps in storytelling at any point in time.
Rogue One's "coming out party" of connected storytelling should become even more apparent in next year's Episode VIII and in the upcoming Han Solo spin-off movie, as modern audiences will have become even more accustomed to the new Star Wars expansive universe and all of its unanswered questions. So grab your popcorn and watch this grand Star Wars story unfold.
Source: Star Wars.com