J.J. Abrams’ upcoming "Star Wars: Episode VII" is without question one of the most highly anticipated movies of next year, if not all time.
So far, every detail coming out of the production has only served to increase excitement for the as-yet-untitled sequel to 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” including a few recent shots of a full-scale Millennium Falcon sitting outside Pinewood Studios in England, where the movie is currently filming.
But with a scheduled release date of Dec. 18, 2015, audiences still have a long time to wait before they’ll be able to find out exactly what Luke, Leia and Han have been up to for the last 30 years.
In the meantime, though, Lucasfilm isn’t leaving fans completely high and dry.
Before Episode VII hits theaters, there will be a more or less steady stream of brand-new and, most importantly, canonical Star Wars stories delving into previously unexplored corners of George Lucas’ far, far away galaxy, adding to the official lore of the Star Wars Universe and maybe even providing hints at the direction some of the upcoming Star Wars sequels and spinoff movies might be going.
Here’s what fans can look forward to:
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars Legacy'
This was actually just made available to the public via a new section of the official Star Wars website, StarWars.com.
Comprising unfinished “proxy” animation for a four-episode story arc called “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” from the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” series, which was canceled in 2013 after five seasons (a sixth season, “The Lost Missions,” was released on Netflix in March), “The Clone Wars Legacy” fills in some of the gaps left by the prequel trilogy.
“The Clone Wars” bears the unique distinction of being, along with the two movie trilogies themselves, one of the “immovable objects” of the Star Wars Universe, according to an official announcement from Lucasfilm last April that rendered all of the other pre-existing media that made up the Star Wars Expanded Universe basically obsolete.
As Pablo Hidalgo from the Lucasfilm Story Group says in a video announcing the new material on StarWars.com, “The importance of ‘Clone Wars’ that cannot be understated is that it was the last huge expansion of the Star Wars Universe that came directly from George Lucas.”
Hidalgo goes on to say, “Even though those ‘Clone Wars’ episodes (that make up ‘Crystal Crisis on Utapau’) did not get publicly revealed, we still look at their core stories as having happened.”
In other words, even though the animation is rough and incomplete, “Crystal Crisis on Utapau” is something fans definitely won’t want to miss.
'Star Wars Rebels'
With a one-hour premiere Oct. 3 on the Disney Channel and 30-minute episodes launching Oct. 13 on Disney XD, “Star Wars: Rebels” is the first new Star Wars series since Lucasfilms’ acquisition by Disney in 2012.
Set between the events of “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope,” it’s intended to bridge the two movie trilogies, showing the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance from the perspectives of a mostly new cast of characters, including Ezra, “the street-smart hero,” and Kanan, “the cowboy Jedi.”
In a lot of ways, “Rebels” is a spiritual successor to “The Clone Wars,” featuring the same 3-D art style and most of the creative team from that series, including supervising director Dave Filoni.
Adding an extra bit of clout, however, is the involvement of screenwriter Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”), who wrote the first two episodes and will produce the series. Kinberg’s involvement is kind of a big deal because he’s also hard at work as one of the main architects of the Star Wars sequel movies alongside Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”).
Also, in a touch that will surely appeal to fans of the original Star Wars movies, part of the effort by "Rebels" to span the gap between the classic trilogy and the prequels includes using of a lot of the original Ralph McQuarrie concept art from “A New Hope,” giving it an aesthetic that should be pleasantly familiar.
Marvel Star Wars comics
It makes perfect sense: Disney owns Marvel, Disney owns Lucasfilm, so of course Marvel would begin publishing Star Wars comics.
The announcement to that effect, however, came back in January, two months before Lucasfilm announced that it was doing away with the Expanded Universe. In other words, according to the new, streamlined system of the Lucasfilm Story Group, rather than just a series of fanciful but non-canonical adventures set in the Star Wars Universe, now everything published by Marvel would be official Star Wars lore that could have a bearing on future movies, TV shows, books, etc.
The first of these Marvel Star Wars comics, simply titled “Star Wars,” will be an ongoing series set immediately after the events of “A New Hope” and featuring the classic cast of characters: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Darth Vader and the droids. “Star Wars” is scheduled to debut in January.
Following that, Marvel has also announced plans for “Star Wars: Darth Vader” in February and a five-part miniseries, “Star Wars: Princess Leia,” in March. Both of these will also fill in some of the gaps between “Episode IV” and “Episode V.”
The Marvel Star Wars comics aren’t going to be limited to the era of the original trilogy, though.
The "Coffee with Kenobi" podcast recently spoke with Marvel Comics editor Jordan White, who said, “With these first series, we wanted to stick all in the same era in order to create the sort of interconnected universe feel we get between Marvel books. But I am certain we’re going to be turning to those other eras in future series. Heck, I know for a fact we’re working on at least one of those, but we’re not ready to announce it just yet.”
'Star Wars: Dark Disciple'
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has really turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving, even long after being canceled.
Based on an unproduced story from that series featuring Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos, “Dark Disciple” will be the second Star Wars novel overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group — and, therefore, official canon — after John Jackson Miller’s “Star Wars: A New Dawn,” which hit store shelves in September.
“Dark Disciple,” written by Christie Golden, is set for release next summer, and with Lucasfilm and Disney aggressively developing every aspect of the Star Wars Universe, not just the movies, fans can likely expect more novels and other media announced in the near future.
As Hidalgo comments toward the end of the "Clone Wars Legacy" video, "We're in this point in Star Wars history … where we're on the cusp of telling all these new stories and having them really be integral to the canon as we're going forward."
"Star Wars: Episode VII" is just a small part of that.