Star Wars has told stories outside of the movies for decades, but now that the franchise is resting at Disney, Lucasfilm has been focused on making sure the continuity across all media projects is more tightly connected. In the case of TV shows, Star Wars Rebels will air its third season later this year, and while several characters from both the Original and Prequel trilogies have appeared in Seasons 1 and 2, now there's a chance the show could somehow tie into future movies. How fitting, considering that of all the future movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is arriving this year and makes the most sense time wise to create a connective thread.
While speaking about the "cross pollination" of characters and content between the Star Wars projects with Moviefone, Star Wars Rebels executive producer Simon Kinberg hinted that the series could somehow "feed" into upcoming movies in the near future. He explained:
What's lovely is, obviously, we've brought in characters from Clone Wars in the second season, and we keep sort of bringing characters from the original movies and sort of deepening the relationships between our core characters, the Ghost crew. So it's trying to balance the two different things, like the original cast from the first season with Clone Wars, with characters from the original movies, and maybe even feeding into future movies.
Aside from showing a lightsaber designed the same way as Kylo Ren's, Star Wars Rebels hasn't had any prominent connections to the current Star Wars trilogy movies, That's not surprising, considering that The Force Awakens takes place over 30 years after the series. However, Rogue One is set directly before A New Hope, placing it only a few years after Star Wars Rebels. Season 3 will premiere sometime later this year, which means there could be enough time for them to introduce a character or two who will appear in Rogue One, whether they're a major or minor player. That's a best case scenario, but the franchise has a history of introducing certain characters in animation before a movie, like Boba Fett appearing in the Star Wars Holiday Special or Star Wars: The Clone Wars character Saw Gererra being played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One.
However, Rogue One isn't the only Star Wars prequel movie on the way. 2018 will bring the Han Solo movie, showing what kind of trouble the smuggler (reportedly being played by Alden Ehrenreich) got into in his younger years. For now, we don't expect Han Solo to show up in Star Wars Rebels, but there's always a chance a character, vehicle or concept from that movie will be introduced first on Star Wars Rebels. There's no telling how long the TV series will stay on the air, so while they're broadcasting, it's definitely wise for them to tie into the upcoming movies whenever organically possible, be it Rogue One, the Han Solo spinoff or even a different movie.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 will air on Disney XD sometime before the year is up, while Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters on December 16.