Star Wars Rebels, a one-hour animated pilot already in production at Lucasfilm, is scheduled to premiere in Fall 2014 on the Disney Channel before the new brand leaps to Disney XD for the ongoing series, according to Lucasfilm sources.
The series will mine material from the 19 years that follow Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and precede the Episode IV: A New Hope. In other words, using the life of the Skywalker twins as a measure, the series will be active in the story years that come after their separation as newborns and before their (unwitting) reunion on the prison level of the Death Star.
No word on whether the show will feature Darth Vader (who would be in the Empire’s power consolidation years and earning his reputation) or even pull in a character like Han Solo, the smuggler and cynic who becomes an unlikely freedom fighter when he opts to stand with his friends against cosmic odds. The title of the show is vaguely phrased in a way that any rebel — even a Boba Fett or Ahsoka Tano might qualify as a title character merely by walking an outsider’s path.
The series has three executive producers: Dave Filoni, the point man on The Clone Wars animated series that launched in 2008; screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg, who has a flair for tonal rewiring and energizing familiar brands with new edge (e.g.: X-Men: First Class, Sherlock Holmes); and Greg Weisman, whose credits include well-regarded work on Young Justice and The Spectacular Spider-Man.
A press release that was being readied Monday morning included a quote from Kathy Kennedy, the hand-picked successor of George Lucas as Lucasfilm president as well as an elite producer (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) since the 1980s. “I couldn’t be more excited to explore new corners of the Star Wars universe,” Kennedy stated in the release. “I think Star Wars Rebels will capture the look, feel, and fun that both kids and their parents love about Star Wars.”
Kennedy, who has brought a new vigor and decisiveness to Lucasfilm in-house culture that (a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi out in the lonely desert) seemed to forget some its fiery rebel heritage as the dust of passing seasons gathered.
Kennedy shocked some observers when she jettisoned a well-underway Lucasfilm initiative to re-release the prequel trilogy in 3-D. The decision was not cheap but allowed her to turn all engines toward the shared horizon: new Star Wars stories that incorporate the characters most familiar to fans that sat down in the dark in those Jedi summers between 1977-1983. The centerpiece of the new focus is the third trilogy, with a first installment expected in 2015 or 2016 and directed by J.J. Abrams.
The new venture will put considerable pressure on the creative team. The animation process is not a fast one, although it it was not clear Monday how long Filoni and his colleagues have been working on the new show. For the fans who see Kennedy’s priorities as a new hope for the Jedi universe as entertainment, the news of Star Wars Rebels might bring to mind an exchange from 1977 space epic with a now-relevant pun: The Rebellion could really use a good pilot…