Star Wars: Episode VII has a difficult task in front of it. J.J. Abrams’ film is tasked with adding new chapters to the beloved space opera saga, with continuing the story in new and interesting ways. Given the intense fan interest and scrutiny that is not going to be easy. The upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels, the first new addition to the canon since Disney bought out Lucasfilm, faces what may be an even tougher challenge. Set in the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, this story has ostensibly already been written. So how do you deal with that?
While Episode VII must adhere to events that have come before, Rebels must take into account what precedes the action, as well as what comes after. While doing this, the writers and producers must figure out a way to pull this off at the same time they keep some element of surprise. Following up the events of Sith and setting the table for Hope is a big job that presents a unique set of obstacles. Producers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg recently sat down with Slashfilm to talk about just how they went about addressing these issues, and where Rebels fits into the larger canon.
Filoni compares the situation faced by the cast of Rebels to key eras of American history. He says:
I think the way to look at it, Simon said this beautifully. He described the American Revolution as if this was a show that was about five guys that were locked up in a farmhouse somewhere fighting against the local British military and without any real knowledge of the larger political movements or what’s going on. I think that that’s really how you look at the truth of it with the Rebels. How do you get all these people together? We’re looking at one little small group that’s trying to stand on their own and how does that hook up to what you know is a rebel alliance in A New Hope? I think that’s one of the things that we’re gonna reveal as this story moves forward.
When Disney first bought Lucasfilm, one of the first things they did was cancel the fan favorite animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Rebels is essentially intended to fill that void, and the show has roots in its predecessor. Filoni continues:
We started this Rebel activity back in Clone Wars with an arc called ‘The Onderon Arc.’ Where we see the Jedi empowering local military groups to fight back for their own little planets. And in George [Lucas]‘s big scheme, it was these small groups that began the fledgling rebellion against the Empire. So we have this much bigger architecture of a plan that this is all setup against. So the same way you hear in A New Hope, ‘The Imperial Senate has been dismissed,’ we don’t see any of that stuff. They just say it. There are these bigger things that we’ve thought out in the background, but we would like to stay focused on our characters.
Going into Rebels, from the very beginning the people involved had an idea of how this connects to the larger story arc of the Star Wars universe. We’ve seen some of the connections already now that we’ve seen footage of familiar faces like Obi Wan-Kenobi showing up in trailers. Building up to this, they also took cues from another popular franchise, X-Men, when it comes to telling fresh, new stories while still working within specific confines. Kinberg says:
We have definitely thought about how it fits into the larger canon, yeah. And part of what you get to do when you’re working these kinds of worlds, we did with X-Men too as well, is sometimes change. I mean, obviously Days of Future Past is a perfect example of this. Because of things you do in the past, you know, you can’t change some of the canon, but you can surprise people inside of the canon. And so some of the show will try to do that. But for the most part it’ll fit very snugly into the original trilogy.
However this shakes out, it is going to be interesting to see Star Wars Rebels. The new series debuts this October on the Disney Channel, though it will ultimately move to its regular home on Disney XD.