When I heard that Disney bought Lucasfilm I felt excited and scared. I was right to have those feelings. Since the purchase Disney has made some bold moves. My fears were answered when we lost the Expanded Universe and people lost their jobs. Still, there is reason to be excited.
The Expanded Universe Gone
In April of 2014, the announcement was made that the EU was no longer canon. I felt betrayed and like everyone else I was angry. Where does Revan, Bane, Thrawn, or Starkiller fit into Disney’s Star Wars? First, we need to understand what the EU is and then put it into perspective.
Although products have been released since the first movie premiered, the Expanded Universe was not truly born until 1991 when Timothy Zahn wrote the first of the Thrawn Trilogy novels. Also in 1991 Darkhorse began publishing Star Wars comics, previously published by Marvel. Unlike the previous Marvel comics, the Holiday Special, and the Ewok movies, the works of Zahn and Darkhorse were considered canon by the fans.
Very early on it was determined that the films (and television) were considered absolute. Lucas himself considered the EU as a separate universe, but the fans thought otherwise. It wasn’t until 2000 that Leland Chee was given the task of cataloging the continuity to help keep the Expanded Universe cohesive. He developed six categories; these categories are like a hierarchy of canon. A higher tier can override a lower one.
Regardless of how Lucas felt about the EU, the fans loved it. It was a way to dig deeper into the Star War’s world and it became a shared experience. If we put it into a perspective of other large fictional universes I feel that we have been spoiled. Look at how Marvel and DC consistently reboot their properties. Even when they are not rebooting there are an incredible amount of inconstancies in the histories of their characters. The movies, animated television and comics are all considered separate canon. Transformers gets a new canon every five years or so.
Disney’s decision to wipe the slate clean is not a crazy or evil idea. It opens the doors for new storytelling in a once crowded space. Chee created the Holocron continuity database years after the EU was created. Disney’s Lucasfilm Story Group (which includes Chee) now has the opportunity track all canon as it is created. This should ensure continuity.
We had a good run with the EU and it is sad that it is gone. Remember, though, that the old stories are still good. There are hundreds of novels and comics that can still be enjoyed.
On December 21, 2012, Disney official owned Lucasfilm. Owning Lucasfilm also gives them Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, and LucasArts. One of the first things Disney did was freeze all development. Seth Green’s Star Wars Detours and Star Wars 1313 were put on hold. As well as the long rumored live-action series.
In April 2013 LucasArts was closed and 150 employees were laid off. It is, of course, horrible when anyone loses their job and it’s easy to label Disney as the villain. Keep in mind, though, that the game industry is notorious for closing developers. Look at this list of companies EA is responsible for shuttering. It is all too common for companies to restructure or buy out their competition only to shut them down. Often the general public does not notice or care, however when said company controls something as loved as Star Wars it is hard not to care.
LucasArts had been struggling for a long time due to internal problems. Poor management and failed partnerships led to layoffs and games being shelved. It is hard to predict what would have happened if Disney was not involved, but the direction LucasArts was heading did not look promising.
As far as my research has dug up all the other branches of Lucasfilm are still operating. It is upsetting to see so many folks at LucasArts to lose their job. I don’t hate Disney for it and it won’t stop me from buying Disney products. I do wish Disney would have gone with a different tactic, such as a multi-year downsizing plan similar to what industrial companies do. The closure was abrupt and no doubt has put the former employees in a tough position. I sincerely hope they find employment soon.
What we gain
It is perfectly valid for people to be upset at the decisions Disney has made, but let’s not dwell on the bad very long. We now get a movie every year and renewed interest in the franchise. Not to mention a theme park coming soon.
Episodes 1, 2, and 3 were received with mixed feelings. As well as the waves of enhancements made to the original trilogy. Episode VII has brought back an excitement for the franchise not seen in decades. It was truly magical watching my son watch Episode VII.
It can indeed be argued that the plot is similar (almost exact) to New Hope, however, no one can argue the success. As we move forward I hope that Disney takes as much care with Star Wars universe as it has with Marvel. Rouge One will be the true test as to how Disney can handle the franchise.