Disney Moves to Bring ‘Star Wars’ Back to the Light Side

Two new trailers for ‘Star Wars:Rebels’ debuted yesterday, marking the upcoming release of the first new Star Wars project since Disney bought LucasFilm in October 2012. The purchase, estimated at approximately $4.05 billion, brought yet another round of backlash from fans, most of whom were still feeling betrayed after the horror that was the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.

Set between the stories of 2005’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and 1977’s ‘A New Hope,’ ‘Rebels’ aims to bring Star Wars back to where fans have always said it should be –set in a universe that includes all the gadgetry of a high-tech, sci-fi world but with scenic backdrops and stories that feel more like a gritty western. The departure from the broken down, clunky world of Luke Skywalker in the Original Trilogy into the CGI-infested world of Anakin Skywalker’s prequels was the downfall of the newer trilogy that flubbed its way through theaters from 1999 to 2005.

‘Rebels’ isn’t the first foray for the Star Wars franchise in the television space. ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars” ran from 2003 to 2005 on Cartoon Network, bridging the gap between the second and third films in the prequel series. It was hugely popular but too short lived for fans. Next came “The Clone Wars.” While they share names, the two projects are very different beasts in style and tone. Not only was the darker 2008 to 2014 series animated in CGI, it was canceled before it finished, eliciting a very vocal outcry from fans of the series.

February seems to be the month of hopeful Star Wars reveals, however, as Disney announced last week that the full catalog of ‘The Clone Wars’ episodes will be making the move to Netflix in March, along with a never before seen final season, a story arc that will terminate just before the climactic events of ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ All in all, these are smart moves by Disney. Despite Star Wars being seen as an evergreen property by the powers that be and the brand having made over $27 billion to date, asking around more popular fanboards, e.g. TheForce.Net, demonstrates that faith in the brand, at least under George Lucas’ tenuous grasp, has waned.

Longtime fans of the series, those men and women who remember how it felt to have the sounds of X-wings rip past their ears for the first time in 1977, have repeatedly called foul at a Disney that, at least at first, seemed more interested in squeezing every last bit of blue milk — if you’ll pardon the overt reference — out of a weakened franchise. At one point, Walt Disney Co. CFO Jay Rasulo made it clear that the folks at Disney will be expanding the galaxy far, far away into every ready medium, stating that “the sky’s the limit.” If you know anything about fandom, you know fans don’t like people tampering with what they love.

The two teasers released for ‘Rebels’ yesterday, aptly named “Spark” and “Ignite,” probably won’t seem like tampering, at least not to the average diehard Star Wars fan. Disney may be listening to fan suggestions that universe creator George Lucas ignored for so long; instead of making graphically-driven, story-deficient snooze-fests, Disney looks to be returning our favorite space-opera to dirty worlds filled with dirtier technology and morally ambiguous heroes being pulled into a war of good versus evil.

Is there room for nitpicking over animation styles, thematic points, and all the rest? In a creative space where fans naturally turn proprietary, there will always be room. That being said, ‘Rebels’ looks like those in charge finally understand we don’t want an overly emo, damaged lead character, nor do we want everything to look beautiful and brand new. We want the dirty, flawed galaxy we saw in 1977. Fans can be hopeful that when ‘Rebels’ debuts on Disney XD in the fall, the Force will be with us all.


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