Well that was a terrible day to schedule a work roadtrip.
To set the stage, I was sitting in a Taco Bell yesterday grabbing a quick bite to eat when I get a text from Nanci. Actually, several texts. Here’s a screencap of how the conversation went:
We are far less wholesome people than you think we are.
I drove home and recorded a podcast in which I didn’t say a whole lot because I was still working out just how I felt about all this. Well, the next day I’m still trying to figure it out, but I think I’m getting there. Originally this post was going to be a collection of thoughts on what I think this all could mean for the franchise and the fandom, but I wound up writing about a thousand words on just the impact on the Expanded Universe. So. Introducing Part 1! How this big frakking news impacts the EU. I’ll have a post up later with a scattering of thoughts on everything else. To the jump!
The Impact on the Expanded Universe
With a bit of time to actually let the shock dissipate, I think I can say that I wasn’t surprised Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. The writing has been on the wall there for a while. For the last seven or so months, Lucas has talked explicitly about leaving behind major blockbusters to work on smaller-scale projects. If anything, he’s been hinting at this for years. Kathleen Kennedy was brought into Lucasfilm in an official capacity and a re-org took place to have people report to her. Things have been changing at Lucasfilm for an awfully long time, so a purchase by Disney should come as no surprise.
The announcement of new films, however, came right out of left field.
There’s a lot of different fan reaction to the news as a whole, but especially this bombshell. Some are incredibly optimistic about the prospect of new films. Some, like Bria, are concerned. There’s merit to both sides. On the one hand, new films! On the other hand, there are people who are perhaps a bit gun shy over the prospect of new films because of varying different opinions of the quality of the last set of movies. Then there are those of us who have invested a lot of time and feelings into stories and products that aren’t G-canon, and yes I’m in this group. We’ve got questions far beyond ‘what will the quality of these films be?’ We want to know what will the impact be on the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe could be. Will the films adapt wholesale books? Elements? Completely overwrite the Expanded Universe?
Admittedly, my first reaction was more along the lines of “there goes the Expanded Universe.” That, obviously, is extremely hyperbolic. There’s no way that anyone with Lucasfilm Licensing is going to say something like Heir to the Empire doesn’t matter anymore and is hereby relegated to Infinities hell. What will likely happen, however, is that the little statement in Pablo Hidalgo’s Essential Reader’s Companion stating that the Expanded Universe is a parallel canon becomes a whole lot more important.
If I were to wager a guess, we’re going to finally see an acknowledged multiverse approach to Star Wars and the Expanded Universe as it exists now may occupy one such universe. There’s countless other fandoms that have used this approach to great success. Heck, look at one of Disney’s other properties: Marvel. In that company you’ve got the Earth-616 primary continuity, the film universe continuity, and a few other heavily populated canons that all run alongside each other. With care, it’s an approach that can add a lot of fascinating material, stories, and characterization to the Star Wars mythos.
Still, no one knows what’s going to happen at this juncture. Hell, 48 hours ago if you asked me if I thought there was going to be an Episode VII I would have either rolled my eyes or laughed hysterically. What exactly will the new films do to the Expanded Universe? What will the Expanded Universe do to the new films? Hell if I know. Hell if anyone knows right now. If someone tells you that Lucasfilm is adapting The Thrawn Trilogy into these films, they’re full of it. If someone tells you there’s absolutely no way any Expanded Universe material will be adapted for these films, they’re full of it.
Personally, I do believe that there will be elements of the EU that are adapted to appear in future film and television projects. That includes Episode VII. These projects might use what Dunc calls the Salad Bar approach. Pick and choose elements of the EU and adapt them. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of stuff in the Expanded Universe that we could do without and this could provide an opportunity to give new life to the best the EU has to offer. There’s a large part of me that would love to see elements of the EU get the Marvel film universe treatment and that is something that I think is a very distinct possibility. Straight port of Heir to the Empire? Highly doubtful, Lucasfilm claims this is going to be an original story. Borrowing themes and characters? Definitely possible.
Will these new films override completely the EU as we know it? I honestly don’t think so, but that’s just my gut feeling. Heir to the Empire and other Expanded Universe material still matters and will always matter. Perhaps the way in which it matters will change somewhat, but no one is ever going to say that it doesn’t count anymore (whatever that means). The only thing I do suspect is definitely true is that the Expanded Universe will be changing. Maybe my gut is right and the multiverse theory goes into play. Maybe it’s something else. Change is inevitable because, and I’m still having a hard time processing this, we’re getting new movies. In the post Return of the Jedi era. Things have to change. The kinds of stories told and the way they are told are going to be different, no doubt, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If anything, I think that Disney buying Lucasfilm will be good for the Post-RotJ Expanded Universe. I could go at length about why I think that’s true, but Dunc over at Club Jade pretty much wrote exactly what I would have.
Star Wars, and the post-ROTJ continuity in particular, is absolutely in need of some fresh eyes – and that doesn’t just include Disney, or Kathleen Kennedy, or whoever director(s) they decide to helm the sequel trilogy. It means us, too. We need to step back, take a deep breath, and wait and see what they decide to do. In the theater, with an open mind. Not pre-judging on every tidbit, and especially not letting those obnoxious Comic Book Guys inside us win.
Give that above article a read, it’s probably the most eloquent take on the subject out there right now.
This is probably the most directionless, rambly thing I’ve written here on the blog. As you can probably tell, I haven’t fully worked out how I feel about how this deal and new films are going to impact the Expanded Universe, something I hold very near and dear to me. All I know is that even with new films inexplicably on the horizon, nothing is going to take away the books and stories I care about. Somehow, I’m weirdly optimistic about all of this. Yes, things will be different.
But maybe different is what the Expanded Universe needs.
Part II looks at some other odds and ends about the sale and what it could mean for the franchise, publishing partners, and Disney.