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When most of us think about Star Wars, we think about six theatrically released films, broken into two trilogies. When hardcore Star Wars think about Star Wars, they think about a gigantic, living and breathing universe with books, board games, animated shows, movies and more. So, when Disney first announced its acquisition of LucasFilm, many naturally wondered how much of that larger universe the new films would pull from and/ or rely on. Well, now, we finally have our answer: quite a bit but also nothing at all.
In a pretty straight ahead statement released on the official Star Wars website, the producers tackled the issue of the Expanded Universe head on. Apparently, LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy has formed a story group. Its members will now oversee all aspects of the franchise’s creative development. They will draw liberally from the Expanded Universe, but and most importantly, they will not be beholden to it.
That’s right. Let me just reiterate that. If the Star Wars creative team wants to do something that directly contradicts something else that happened in a previously released book, they’re free to do that. They will not, under any circumstances, however, contradict anything that happened in any of the six films or on Star Wars: Clone Wars.
"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."
That’s a decision that might piss off a minority of hardcore fans, but honestly, it needed to be done. The essence of Star Wars needs to remain the same, but the creative minds working on new projects need to be given space to work. They can’t be receiving an army of notes about random things that happened in books they’ve never read. Besides, books have already gone into graphic detail about what supposedly happened after Return Of The Jedi, and that would suck if JJ Abrams had to sit down and adapt those stories directly.
"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."
George Lucas may have had lofty ideas in his head when he started work on Star Wars, but at that point, he couldn’t have possibly realized how far his universe would expand. In fact, we know he didn’t have a multi-billion dollar empire in mind because he lost millions to Steven Spielberg betting against his treasured film’s success. As the money poured in, he was great about giving others opportunities to play in that universe, but now that Disney is steering the ship, we need to all realize changes like this are coming. Given how the last three movies turned out, change will probably be a good thing too.
Here’s an official video about the Expanded Universe that Kathleen Kennedy and company put up alongside the announcement.