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Image: Disney

Disney is walking a dangerously fine line with its Star Wars shows

Star Wars is no longer the event it used to be, and it’s only going to get worse. Films set in the galaxy far far away have historically been few and far between, with only six major entries over the franchise’s initial three decades. Since Disney acquired the brand just eight years ago, this number has almost doubled. Now, the Star Wars universe is being expanded at a rate like never before: in the form of television.

The second season of Disney’s first live action Star Wars show, The Mandalorian, has been met with a positive reception thanks to its balance of nostalgic fun and original elements. A third season is already in pre-production and it’s only a matter of time until one of its rumoured spin-offs gets officially announced. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in Disney’s plans to bolster its streaming service. An Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor has long been in development and a Rogue One prequel series starring Diego Luna is also on its way. Furthermore, Disney recently announced Star Wars: The Bad Batch, an animated spin off of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These shows all have the potential to be great, but their coexistence is worrying. Star Wars has never been tested to this level before. Its overexposure could lead to a loss of interest if Disney choose to rely on the brand’s familiarity over original storytelling.

TV is the perfect place to explore these lesser known facets of Star Wars lore that have been previously restricted to other mediums

As a Star Wars fan, it’s difficult to not be excited about the slew of shows Disney has planned. The Star Wars universe is vast, with countless characters spilling out from the main saga into its books, comics, video games and more. While some of these have reached a more renowned status through animated shows, their audiences are small compared to the gargantuan following of the films. Characters like Ahsoka Tano and Grand Admiral Thrawn are among the best the brand has to offer and yet remain largely unknown to wider audiences. Due to its inherent longer runtime, TV is the perfect place to explore these lesser known facets of Star Wars lore that have been previously restricted to other mediums.

The success of The Mandalorian can partly be attributed to series creator Jon Favreau. With films like The Jungle Book and The Lion King under his belt, Favreau has overseen the show’s stunning visuals, which appear modern and yet akin to the original trilogy. Favreau is joined by executive producer and Star Wars alum Dave Filoni, famous for his work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Filoni’s success within the franchise has shown that he knows how to make the Star Wars fanbase tick, a puzzle Disney has been trying to solve for years. Only through a combination of their talents has The Mandalorian been able to strike the careful balance between nostalgia and originality that’s led to its success. It’s yet to be seen if this achievement can be replicated on a larger scale.

Disney would be unwise to dilute The Mandalorian’s originality by using its western genre as a template for other series

As shown by Disney’s sequel trilogy, this balance is not always easy to find. 2015’s The Force Awakens veered too far into replicating A New Hope in its attempts to seem familiar. In response to this, The Last Jedi tried hard to be something different and faced controversy as a result. While the sequel trilogy does make for mostly enjoyable watching, its flaws show how hard it is to find the balance that The Mandalorian has so expertly struck.

Part of The Mandalorian’s originality comes from its shift in genre from space opera to western. This small-scale storytelling has provided a much-needed breather from the galaxy wide warfare that dominates the Skywalker saga. Whilst maintaining this smaller scale is important, Disney would be unwise to dilute The Mandalorian’s originality by using its western genre as a template for other series. New Star Wars shows must first and foremost be their own stories, and not reliant on the nostalgia surrounding the franchise. 

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