The Disney era of Star Wars is moving forward at point-five past lightspeed. Episode VII is due out in 2015, a standalone film will follow in 2016, and Electronic Arts is working on a few new games — and now we are learning the details of the new animated series from Lucasfilm Animation.
Walt Disney revealed today that The Clone Wars studio is developing a new series set between the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope called Star Wars Rebels. A one-hour special broadcast will premiere on Disney Channel in the fall of 2014 followed by a full series on Disney XD.
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In a video interview, executive producer Dave Filoni confirmed his studio will work in the visual language of the classic trilogy and from the beloved concept art of the late Ralph McQuarrie, who designed much of the Star Wars universe.
Rebels provides Disney and Electronic Arts with an opportunity to recapture an older audience while simultaneously delighting young fans that loved the previous animated show. That is something The Clone Wars struggled with.
Disney was smart to bring the Star Wars television universe under its full control. Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network was one of the most successful shows on that channel. It also produced a number of merchandising opportunities that included toys, books, and — of course — video games.
Since 2008, LucasArts released four games based on The Clone Wars:
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Lightsaber Duels for the Wii
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Jedi Alliance for DS
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Republic Heroes for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, PS2, DS, PSP
- Clone Wars Adventures for PC and Mac
Those titles all targeted a young audience who consider The Clone Wars the premier Star Wars property. That could change with Star Wars Rebels.
Rebels is specifically abandoning the characters and style of the prequel trilogy. A return to X-wings and the Rebellion against the Empire should endear this new series to older Star Wars fans — that, in turn, should help improve the quality of the games.
The problem with The Clone Wars was that LucasArts knew it was producing products for a young crowd. That led to limited budgets because, for some reason, publishers believe children are less discerning.
The return to the classic trilogy means, potentially, a bigger audience that includes 20- to 40-year-old core gamers looking for a Star Wars fix. The question now is how Disney and Electronic Arts plans to tackle licensed Rebels games.
EA holds the exclusive rights to produce Star Wars games on consoles and PC. The publisher already revealed that its Battlefield developer DICE and Dead Space studio Visceral are working on Star Wars titles. It’s likely that at least one of those games will end up as a tie-in for the 2015 Episode VII film, but that leaves the other one open to any number of possibilities.
An exclusive agreement like the one EA made to secure the Star Wars license costs big bucks. To maximize its returns, the publisher is probably looking for low-risk opportunities. A Star Wars Rebels adaptation is a safe a bet because of its aforementioned potential appeal to older fans — but also because of its source material and the tie-in marketing with the show.
That’s a cocktail that The Clone Wars didn’t have, and one that could lead to better games for young and old fans of the sci-fi franchise.