Following its purchase of Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company released several films that “Star Wars” fans and others found unsatisfactory compared to previous franchise installments. Disney managed to create a few noteworthy stories as well, particularly with the release of “Clone Wars” and “The Mandalorian.” Should fans look forward to the handful of “Star Wars” shows announced for Disney+, or do they have reason to worry about the possible oversaturation of the franchise?
“Star Wars” History
Since the first film’s release in 1977, “Star Wars” has become one of the largest franchises in global pop culture. Inspired by other works of science fiction, creator George Lucas enjoyed decades in creative control of his blockbuster films. His involvement faded over time, however, and came to a halt when a new trilogy of films was put into production.
Currently, the franchise boasts a total of 12 official films and an extended universe of television shows, books, video games and even a theme park. “Star Wars” is presently the fifth highest-grossing franchise of all time, and with at least 11 additional projects underway, Lucasfilm and Disney certainly have their hands full. Is it really worthwhile to produce such a large number of “Star Wars” projects over the next few years? Some fans are skeptical that the franchise will ever return to its former glory.
Disney and “The Mandalorian”
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it set out to create a new sequel trilogy “for the fans.” However, while “The Force Awakens” was and still is the franchise’s highest-grossing film, it was met with mixed reviews. Newer fans of the franchise were delighted to see new and old characters introduced in the film, though many longtime fans of the franchise were disappointed that “The Force Awakens” seemed to be a watered-down repetition of the plot from “A New Hope,” the earliest film in the series. Lucas himself was also disappointed in the direction Disney was taking his franchise. “There’s nothing new,” he said in an interview before the release. “There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.”
A similar fate unfolded when Lucas’ 2008 show, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” was put aside after the Disney acquirement. Lucas had created the show, and he was a major contributor to its plot and storytelling structure, which were subsequently noted as large factors in the show’s success. As the show progressed and fell into the hands of various production studios, though, Lucas began to lose his hold on the series until he was brought on to contribute a bit more to the final season, which had been delayed due to the Disney acquirement.
Thankfully, Disney had additional plans for the direction of the franchise. As the company prepared to unveil its first streaming service, Disney+, Jon Favreau was busy overseeing Lucasfilm’s latest creation: “The Mandalorian.” Unlike many of the creative minds behind the sequel trilogy, Favreau feels an emotional connection and personal responsibility to the franchise. “We’ve grown up in this 40 years of the saga, and we all are working on it because we love it,” he said in an interview before the show’s release in 2019. “And so, the pressure I feel is more to the audience that I want to make sure that I’m throwing a good party for them.”
The Disney+ show centers around the frequent adventures of a Mandalorian who’s played by Pedro Pascal. The character is often called Mando, and he makes a living by traveling the galaxy as a bounty hunter. The end of the first episode took the audience by surprise when the Mandalorian discovered a baby with the ability to use the Force. Much to the delight of “Star Wars” fans, the creature seemed to be the same species as the great Jedi master Yoda, who is a prominent figure in the original trilogy. This baby, often referred to as “the Child,” took the world by storm. His cuteness brought in old and new audiences, allowing for longtime fans to get excited about franchise hints and references in the show, and younger fans to be captivated by the interesting array of characters.
From the beginning, “The Mandalorian” was met with massive acclaim Disney had yet to receive for its “Star Wars” films, and fans of the franchise had not been so taken with new content in a long time. Besides the lovable characters and relatively simple plot anyone could enjoy, what else played such a major factor in the show’s success?
Behind Mando’s Success
The common theme behind “Star Wars’” recent success? George Lucas’ input.
Since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, the creator of “Star Wars” had very little say in how Disney’s sequel trilogy played out. Lucas sold his studio to Disney in exchange for over $5 billion, along with the rights to his well-known franchises, such as “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars.” But the loss of creative control still hurt Lucas in a way he did not expect. “I’ve spent my life creating Star Wars, 40 years, and giving it up was very, very painful. But it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a little bit more to say about the [sequel trilogy] because I’d already started them, but they decided they wanted to do something else.”
Though Lucas did not take on an official role during the initial production of “The Mandalorian,” he now serves as a mentor for the show’s creator and producers, something he was not able to do for “The Force Awakens” and the other Disney “Star Wars” sequels. Addressing Lucas’ involvement in the show, executive producer Dave Filoni said in an interview, “I like to get more knowledge. He’ll give me some reminders, especially before I shoot something, about how many setups I should try to get in a day, and I might rack his brain for certain things about how to cover a scene.”
Lucas’s presence may very well be a key factor in what has made “The Mandalorian” such a hit. Although he served as more of a mentor figure for the production, his involvement on the show was still more significant than his involvement in the shaky Disney sequels. Reportedly, Lucas will also play an even larger role in the show’s third season.
The Key Going Forward
With the franchise’s rocky history and reputation on the line, how can Disney+ provide “Star Wars” fans with content comparable to the success of “The Mandalorian”?
Evidently, the most adored parts of the franchise were significantly impacted by Lucas, whether or not he was paid to do so. Now that projects such as “Lando,” “Rogue Squadron” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” will soon hit screens, fans of the franchise have reason to desire Lucas’ involvement in those productions as well.
Though the franchise can never outdo the magic of the original trilogy and the place it holds in fans’ hearts, it is still possible for future releases to succeed in exploring the vast creativity of Lucas’ original ideas. If “The Mandalorian” was any indication of the potential for these new projects, perhaps it will leave fans with a new hope for the beloved franchise.