As Star Wars Episode VII goes through production, fans of the epic and expansive universe created by George Lucas have been worrying about what these new tales about a galaxy far, far, away will mean for the stories they already know and love. Episode VII will kick off a new trilogy of episodes - with separate spinoff films released between the main chapters - but the return of characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia means that the new films will cover time periods in the Star Wars universe that have previously been explored in other forms of media. So how can two versions of the same story co-exist? Answer: they can't.
However, the mythos established in the books, video games, etc. of the Star Wars "Expanded Universe" has been loved and supported for decades, having established characters and storylines that many fans wholly embrace as part of the Star Wars experience. That presents the new Disney LucasFilm (headed by Kathleen Kennedy) with the unique challenge of being able to tell their own new stories, without alienating those who swear by the established mythos of the EU. Today, LucasFilm is directly addressing how they plan to approach that issue.
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In a statement released to StarWars.com, Kennedy announced that the company is forming a master "story group" which will oversee and manage the larger Star Wars universe, coordinating events and storylines across all forms of media. Interestingly enough, the statement goes on to clarify that elements of the Expanded Universe will NOT be discarded, but could rather be refitted for the new universe currently being constructed. Check out some choice excerpts from the post, below.
Regarding the recently confirmed lineup of official canon:
While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.
Regarding the new universe management story group:
Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy's direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.
"We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon," said Kennedy. "We're set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before."
Regarding the status of the Expanded Universe canon in relation to the official canon established by the films:
In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in role-playing game material published in the 1980s.
Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new "Legends" banner.
The new canon for the continuing Star Wars universe will be first established in the upcoming animated series Star Wars: Rebels - as well as the new upcoming Rebels tie-in novel, Star Wars: A New Dawn, which will introduce some of the characters from the animated series, and will be set in the era between Episodes III & IV. Today, a cover for New Dawn was released over on the Star Wars Books Facebook Page. Check out the cover below, then read what the LucasFilm executives had to say about both Rebels and A New Dawn's significance in the new canon.
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STAR WARS: A NEW DAWN by John Jackson Miller
Our very first official canon novel set solidly in the legendary "Dark Times" between Episodes III and IV, A NEW DAWN will introduce readers to two main characters from the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels animated series—Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla—and will feature jacket art by Doug Wheatley, as well as a foreword by Dave Filoni, one of the executive producers of 'The Clone Wars' and 'Star Wars: Rebels.' It goes on sale September 2, 2014.
What's most interesting about these LucasFilm statements is the careful wording and line-walking being done by executives. Up until now, there have been growing rumors and evidence that Expanded Universe characters could appear in the new films - presumably some of the spouses and/or offspring of the Solo and Skywalker clans, since Episode VII is set 30 years after Episode VI (the appropriate time period) and the fact that those offspring characters have been very popular with fans.
For further evidence, just take another look at the rumors about Episode VII that were reported a few months back, and try to correlate those rumors with the latest official wording about how EU material could be used in official canon:
Right now they’re looking at using the basic descriptions of EU characters with different names. Luke’s wife will follow the same template as Shira Brie/Mara Jade. Red hair, Green eyes, attitude etc.
The same with the kids of the big three. [...] Jaina will be the inspiration for the Solo daughter, Jacen for the Solo son and Ben for the Skywalker son. Most of the new characters in the new continuity are based on characters from the old continuity. Fans should not expect to see Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn or Cilghal, but characters who are very much like them.
This can not be made clearer, the post [Return of the Jedi] EU launched in ’91 is dead. No story from Outbound flight forward counts. That’s why Bob Iger said they would use the 17,000 character for inspiration for new characters. Shira Brie and Mara Jade are the templates for Luke’s wife/Love interest.
The indication at the moment is that - as we predicted last year - EU history will be mined for ideas, but not exact renditions of the characters established in that wing of the universe. That system still allows the new Star Wars story group to finally incorporate versions of EU characters from time periods set during the six "core canon" films (Dash Rendar, Kyle Katarn), which would also service the longtime wishes of fans.
How do you feel as a Star Wars fan? Were you into the EU or not? Do you want to see its influence on new canon? And if EU material is used, are you okay with them altering it for the new projects?