How much can Disney squeeze out its two most popular and profitable franchises, Marvel and Star Wars, without blowing them up? Not too long ago Disney had backed off from the apparent overexploitation of ‘Star Wars’ and had announced a “slowdown” in the franchise’s productions (an announcement that, given the titles confirmed today, seems almost a joke). The then CEO of Disney Bob Iger affirmed that “less is more” before a couple of controversial contributions to the series: ‘ Rogue One ‘ and ‘ Han Solo ‘, which ruined the idea of launching films with parallel stories in alternate years to the main trilogies.
But of course, at that time (the end of 2019, a little over a year ago) a series of events had not yet taken place that would change the landscape completely. On the one hand, a global pandemic that cast doubt on the future of theaters, forced the delay of all 2020 premieres and reinforced the power of streaming platforms . On the other, the surprising success of ‘ The Mandalorian ‘, a series that showed that there was space to tell stories away from the already exhausted Skywalker saga, without complications for non-fans, aimed at a majority audience and experimenting with different tones.
And finally, the tremendous turn of the wheel that Warner gave a week ago, announcing that it would release all its 2021 films both in theaters and on HBO Max, collapsing many ideas hitherto immovable in terms of exhibition windows. It will undoubtedly have been the event that has least influenced what Disney announced today, but it will undoubtedly have also confirmed that they are on a commercially viable path.
It is especially significant, therefore, that most of the productions announced today are series. In the case of Marvel, they are more distributed between theaters and Disney + (ten series out of 23 announced productions), but this is not the case with regard to Disney, which focuses almost exclusively on products to be broadcast through Disney +. Once again, the success of ‘The Mandalorian’ marks the content here, with animated series, stories set in various periods of the ‘Star Wars’ timeline and with a couple of direct spin-offs from the adventures of Mando.
What Disney proposes for Star Wars
These are the Star Wars series that Disney has in its portfolio, around three or four a year starting in 2021:
- ‘ Rangers of the New Republic ‘: By Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, with the tone of ‘The Mandalorian’ and centered in the same time frame.
- ‘ Ahsoka ‘: About Jedi Ahsoka Tano, another pseudo spin-off of ‘The Mandalorian’.
- ‘ Andor ‘: Based on the character of Cassian Andor, that is, prequel to ‘Rogue One’. They star Diego Luna and his faithful droid K-2SO. Premiere in 2022.
- ‘ Obi-Wan Kenobi ‘: It is confirmed that the series continues, since the ups and downs around its future have been constant. Hayden Christensen reprises his role as Darth Vader. Shooting begins in March.
- ‘ Star Wars: The Bad Batch ‘: Animation, starring a group of rebel stormtroopers from ‘The Clone Wars’. Confirmed for 2021.
- ‘ Star Wars: Visions ‘: This will have an anime-like visual orientation. Confirmed for 2021.
- ‘ Lando ‘: About, of course, fan favorite Lando Calrissian. It is not yet clear if he will get closer to the incarnation of Billy Dee Williams or that of Donald Glover.
- ‘ The Acolyte ‘: Directed by the person in charge of ‘Russian Doll’, a mystery series set in the times of the High Republic, prior to the Empire.
- ‘ A Droid Story ‘: With the collaboration of Industrial Light & Magic, an animated series that will feature a companion for R2-D2 and C-3P0.
- ‘ The Mandalorian ‘: Of course, it continues the popular series of the Mandalorian and his inimitable company. For Christmas 2021.
They are joined by ‘ Rogue Squadron ‘, a film directed by Patty Jenkins, which will be released on December 25, 2023.
Star Wars: Butt with the small screen
It is not difficult to see that Disney’s bet is clearly oriented to the small screen: when ‘Rogue Squadron’ arrives, it will be four years from the immediately previous one. The silence about the announced upcoming film projects by Taika Waititi, Rian Johnson, Kevin Feige or JD Dillard make it clear that where efforts are being focused is on series. There is nothing set in stone, much less now that it is more or less officially conceded that the structure of the next films does not necessarily have to come in trilogy format. But the lack of data on them is significant.
Keep in mind that the price of Disney + rises in March with the arrival of Star, the adult content of the Disney empire. The guarantee of a good number of proven commerciality series is the perfect reflection of Warner’s move to skyrocket HBO Max subscriptions, bringing all of its 2021 premieres to the platform. The streaming war is declared, and although Netflix is still a giant and unbeatable enemy, second place is hotly contested.
The balance point of all this, it does not stop being curious once the Skywalker universe is exhausted (no trace of Rey, Finn and company in the new ads), is ‘The Mandalorian’. It is not clear what hopes Disney had placed in them before its sweeping premiere, but it is clear how he sees it now: we have practically seen the pilot episode of the Jedi Ahsoka Tano series within the chronology of the series, and surely many of the characters from ‘Rangers of the New Republic’ will first go through ‘The Mandalorian’ to be tested. This also applies to directors: Waititi and Deborah Chow have rehearsed their vision of the ‘Star Wars’ universe in ‘The Mandalorian’.
Although it may seem that Disney is throwing itself into a pool of uncertainty with its new ‘Star Wars’ series, the truth is that it is moving on safe ground. It’s no longer just about supporting the success of ‘The Mandalorian’, it ‘s the use of characters much loved by fans (Lando at the helm) or bomb-proof concepts (for example, the series with R2-D2 and C- 3PO as protagonists). Only ‘The Acolyte’ is an enigma, not only because of its ‘mystery-thriller’ genre, but also because of its setting never explored in the movies. Possibly for this reason it is the most attractive proposal in the package.
And in the same way, there are all kinds of orientations and approaches: ‘The Acolyyte’ will have perhaps a more adult approach, while the plots and concepts of the animated series seem more oriented to the younger audience. The multiplicity of formats ( series with possibly independent episodes, minis of six chapters, sagas that can be extended in time ) is another clever way to avoid exhaustion.
In any case, at the moment everything is enigmas. Until the series begin to arrive, this new orientation of the ‘Star Wars’ universe cannot be felt: we must not forget, before declaring the death of the franchise’s creativity, that ‘ Star Wars’ has been generating additional material from the beginning nonstop in the form of books, comics, and so on (today, unfortunately, considered non-canon ). The universe created by George Lucas is rich enough to support it. What is clear is that, if there is a litmus test to prove it, it is about to come.