It looks like we don’t have to wait until October to get a glimpse of Star Wars: Rebels. The new animated series from Disney and Lucasfilm will set the stage for Star Wars: Episode VII in December 2015. The same production team and animators who made The Clone Wars are also bringing us Rebels, so it seems fitting that they would kick off the new series just like its predecessor…with a movie.
According to a recent shareholders letter, Disney and Lucasfilm will launch Rebels with a TV movie on the Disney Channel this summer. It also seems that Lucasfilm will produce a series of short films for the cable network as well. From the letter:
After months of public speculation and anticipation, we announced the official release date for the next feature film, Star Wars: Episode VII, will be December 18, 2015. So far we’ve kept the details to ourselves, but we’re thrilled with the story and committed to making an incredible movie, and we should be releasing more information as production moves forward in the coming year.
As with Marvel, the rich universe of Star Wars has tremendous creative potential for the entire company. While the world eagerly awaits Episode VII to open in theaters, we’re introducing Star Wars Rebels to television audiences this summer with a movie and a series of shorts on Disney Channel, followed by a continuing series on Disney XD. Our success in building a robust pipeline of original Star Wars content for various platforms will be an integral part of our long-term strategy to leverage the franchise across a variety of our businesses, from theme parks to consumer products.
The original animated Clone Wars movie was released in theaters in August 2008, just before the series premiered in October on the Cartoon Network. The strategy was to build awareness for the TV series, while releasing the first Star Wars movie in theaters since Revenge of the Sith in 2005. The result was somewhat mixed. The animated film gross $68.2 million worldwide, against a $8.5 million production budget, and was mainly aimed at children rather than adult fans. Critics panned it and called it worse than the prequel trilogy. Entertainment Weekly also named the Clone Wars animated movie one of the worst movies of 2008. Ouch!
It seems that Disney and Lucasfilm don’t want to repeat that experience, which may be why they’re going the television route. It’s doubtful, but not out of the question, that Disney would release Rebels theatrically, but it makes sense to keep the animated series on TV instead. This direction would surely cater to Rebels‘ target audience, children, while at the same time “lowering the bar” when it comes to a critical response. If the movie is good, it’s a win-win for Disney and Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Rebels takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, a few years before the start of Episode IV. The Galactic Empire is taking over planets in the Outer Rim, and a band of teenage renegades start to sabotage the Imperial stranglehold on the planet Lothal. The TV series will also follow the very early stages of the Rebel Alliance.
Star Wars: Rebels will air sometime in 2014. The movie would premiere on the Disney Channel sometime during the summer, but then move to Disney XD in the fall.