Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Desolation of Disney: Can the Star Wars Universe Survive Episode VII?

I have been and always will be a Star Wars fan.  I also am rather fond of the Empire of the Mouse, otherwise known as Disney.  With that preamble, I am worried that the cancellation of the animated television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the indefinite delay of Star Wars: Detours presage a difficult period for Star Wars fans.

The tea leaves and rumors seem to indicate that the Prequel era is going to be mothballed for a while, the cancellation of Episode II and III 3D conversion while at least partially a ownership/distribution issue also serves to clear the theatrical decks for Star Wars Episode VII.  Will all Star Wars storytelling come to a grinding halt to make way for the Episode VII marketing machine, where every consumer channel will be flooded with related content?

How will this impact the two other main Star Wars entertainment vehicles the novel and comic lines?

As of now this is where we stand with future announced published materials:


I am hardly an expert on the comics, but Dark Horse has in recent years shifted to a story arc structure that makes most of their Star Wars series either stand alone mini-series or mini-series within a larger story.  There aren't any comic issues or series that have been announced after 2013.  

There are two key decisions to be made that will determine how drastic the changes will be for fans of Star Wars storytelling. The first question is whether the Expanded Universe will be transferred to an Alternate Universe or if it will simply be ignored and replaced going forward? The second question is whether all publishing channels will be devoted to the Sequel Trilogy era or setting up the Sequel Trilogy era by creating new stories after Return of the Jedi that replace the Expanded Universe? 

The beauty of having the current Expanded Universe and a television property like The Clone Wars is that while they are all "Star Wars," there are different flavors of Star Wars.  This allows fans who may be turned off by one product to find another product they can enjoy and spend money on.  A portion of fans may be turned off by the story of Episode VII and the Sequel era, the majority won't be, but you don't kill off properties and piss off fans that help keep the Star Wars franchise relevant in the long period of time between theatrical films.  If Expanded Universe books were not making the New York Times Best Seller list, then I could see justification for obliterating that storytelling universe, but as it stands now preserving the Expanded Universe in the form of an Alternate Universe seems like not only smart fan service by Disney but also the smart decision financially.  It strikes me that the best approach is balanced where the majority of resources and publishing slots  are focused on the Sequel era makes sense, but would allow for keeping a smaller say 25% of these slots and resources reserved for the EU/AU to keep the flame of those stories lit and keep those fans engaged.  

Was The Clone Wars sacrificed needlessly?  If you check out the plethora of Marvel animated shows and other Disney animated properties, there is a wide range of production quality. It would be hard to argue that any of these shows are more well done than The Clone Wars was. In many ways Lucas treated his company a bit like NASA.  By being on the cutting edge of technology and new production techniques Lucas spend more money but also created things that can be used by other film makers and members of the entertainment industry, much like some of the derivative technology that has reached the general population out of the space program.

On the flip side it may be that George Lucas was willing to pour much more money into his pet project to get it built to that level than Disney is willing to spend on one animated series out of many.  Without having a complete picture of production costs, revenue from the show (TV, syndication and home video) it is hard to perform the sort of cost-benefit analysis that they no doubt did within the halls of Disney.

The other aspect of the cancellation of The Clone Wars which makes very little sense to me is that in effect TCW was a giant feeder system for the next generation of Star Wars fans.  Many kids have grown up with The Clone Wars, it is "their" Star Wars and is central to their fandom experience.  How many of these children will be so turned off or upset by the cancellation of the series that they will not come back? How many will simply be apathetic after the loss of the series?  How many will come back but only for the films and how much money will Disney be losing in the intervening years from now until the tentative 2015 release of Episode VII?

How many of these decisions are being made at the Lucas Licensing level, the Lucasfilm level (Kennedy), and how many are being made at the larger Disney corporate level?

I think fans and particularly Expanded Universe fans who have devoted much time and money following these amazing stories deserve to know more about the future direction of "our" Star Wars" universe.  I say our because unlike almost any other property the sense of ownership and community that grew up around Star Wars is unmatched.  There is no Lucasfilm as we know it or Star Wars Episode VII without the legions of fans like myself.

Will the characters and stories that have filled the Star Wars Universe simply wind down like The Clone Wars or will they survive if only in another form?  What say you Lucasfilm?

SOURCE: Wookieepdia for Publishing Information


  1. Interesting and good points, Pete. Good questions too. Will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months and years. I am tired of fandom being abused and taken for granted. Mind you, the fanboys and fangirls need to learn how to take a stand and stop just taking things as they come if they want to make a difference when it comes to affecting corporate decisions. Together, we are much stronger than they are and our collective dollars do make an impact ... but you have to be willing to take a stand.

  2. These are some really good points, but I think one of the main reasons Clone Wars, and I am guessing the Comics are about to be, was cancelled was because it was being produced by a competitor of the new boss. I remember reading somewhere that they are planning a new animated series already, and I am guessing the same will happen with the comics. I don't think Disney is afraid to keep putting money into something kids seem to love.

    I also think that the target audience of Clone Wars is still young enough that they will latch on to whatever comes next. And with kids having shorter attention spans than they used to, a new series might help retain more of them.

  3. Disney's recent decisions have quite simply been outraging. There was no apparent good reason behind the cancellation of the Clone Wars. We have to show them we aen't happy, and try to turn their decision around. Send e-mails, letters, sign the petition, twitter protests, everything to make them understand we doN,t want this cancellation, and that we don't want it to happen to other parts of the fandom. All the information necessary to do that is on this website:

    BlindseerJB, a big chunk of the Clone Wars fanbase is constituted of teens and adults that won't forget the cancellation anytime soon.

  4. I realize that a big chunk of the fans for the show were teens and adults. I think though that these were not the "target audience". By the teen years, most Star Wars fans are hooked on the spice and will take it in any form they can. I think the initial premise for the show was geared towards boys in the elementary level of school.

    I really did enjoy the small bits of the show I was able to catch, and I definitely plan on getting a hold of all of the seasons on disc so I can sit back and watch them all. I just think that this decision was based more on the fact that it was being developed by a direct competitor to Disney and that is why it has been cancelled.

    I also think that Disney most likely has looked at it this way. The original "target audience" of the show is now into their teens and hooked on Star Wars and will eagerly await whatever the next installment will bring once they get a taste of whatever it is. The adults who watch the show are probably even more hooked than those teens were, as they were drawn into a show that was never really aimed at them. I wanted to watch it just because it was Star Wars. So I think that if Disney can release a quality follow-up, that big chunk you are representing will find that many of the truths we hold are based on our current point of view.

    1. The Clone Wars was not actually produced by rivals from Disney; it was released on a rival network, but entirely produced by Lucasfilm. They could have moved it to one of their own channels, and the problem would've been solved.

      As for the target audience, it actually changes depending on the story. The show has arcs that are dark and mature, and arcs that are more kids aimed. It was originally clearly aimed at kids, but as seasons progressed there was an increase in the more mature material, a bit like the transition from episode IV to episode V. I do hope Disney can bring in a quality followu-up, but until now they have failed to impress me with their management of Star Wars, so I'm unable to get positive about that right now.

      And yes, you certainly should get your hand on the discs, it is overall a very good show. Season 4 was the best in my opinion. The first half of season 5 was dispointing to me, but the second half was, in my humble opinion, amazing.

  5. Interesting points. While reading this post, my 4 year old daughter came over to me and I asked her who her favorite Star Wars characters were. She replied, "Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka." Clearly, you are correct that The Clone Wars is the younger generations' "Star Wars". I do hope that Disney does not destroy the impact that The Clone Wars series has made on millions of kids, by discontinuing the use of characters like Ahsoka. Disney also runs the risk of losing the child demographic if Ep. VII is to far removed from the existing stories. Keep up the great posts!