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Thematically (sort of) continuing our conversation this week, which began with a review of George Mann’s Star Wars: Dark Legends, I got to thinking about a line from George Lucas I’d once heard, and I found the source of it – a 2014 article in the New York Times about the impending release of Star Wars Rebels:
‘Star Wars Rebels’ got its start in spring 2013, not long after Disney bought Lucasfilm. Returning the franchise to bedrock would help introduce it to a new generation. Mr. Abrams’s similarly old-school movie would follow. ‘Continuity’ became a watchword. (Mr. Filoni said that Mr. Lucas, unconcerned in recent years that his stories had become confusing, once told him, “Continuity is for wimps.”)
That’s a far cry from something we were talking about last month, when we revisited the interviews Lucas gave during the making of The Empire Strikes Back. I’m going to put that quote in historical context, and talk about how the rebooting of the canon and the continued experiments with books like Dark Legends trace Lucasfilm’s journey under Disney to establish continuity – and start to experiment with it. Punch it!
There was no ‘rebooting of the Canon’. The Expanded Universe was never canon. That comes directly from Lucas. The only things Lucas considered Canon were the 6 movies and TCWs. That was it. Lucas declared that the EU took place in a ‘parallel Star Wars universe’. Dave Filoni confirmed this himself in a TV interview on the Star Wars Show. Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing and in charge of the EU also confirms this is a TV interview. Links to video and quotes from Lucas, Pablo Hidalgo, and Leland Chee below.
“I get asked all the time, ‘What happens after “Return of the Jedi”?,’ and there really is no answer for that,” he said. “The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that’s where that story ends.””
– George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2008, “George Lucas: ‘Star Wars’ won’t go beyond Darth Vader”, interview with Los Angeles Times
“There’s this notion that everything changed when everything became Legends. And I can see why people think that. But, you know, having worked with George I can tell you that it was always very clear — and he made it very clear — that the films and the TV shows were the only things that he considered Canon. That was it.”
Dave Filoni interview on ‘The Star Wars show’ [41.40 mark]- https://youtu.be/hcNXPNXOv2A?t=2500
“So everything else was a world of fun ideas, exciting characters, great possibilities, the EU was created to explore all those things.And I know and I fully respect peoples opinions about it that some of the material said ‘the next canon part of it’ [It wasn’t canon]…. But from the filmmaking world I was brought into, *the films and TV shows were it.”*
*~ Dave Filoni speaking about working with George Lucas
“That was one of my mandates, when I began the spin off publishing program it was a sacrosanct rule that everything had to relate to each other, be consistent with each other and be consistent with *the movies, ‘which were canon.’*
*We were pretty religious about doing that, our biggest problem was a guy named George Lucas, because he didn’t buy into the spin off fiction and the game program and all the ‘alternate universe’ we were creating.”*
*We wanted it to be one universe, we felt strongly that that’s what it needed to be, but George as the filmmaker didn’t want to be beholden to somebody else’s creative vision.*
*So we would have very interesting skirmishes because we had a bunch of stuff that became, for the fans, pretty much canon [head-canon]* about what happened after Return of the Jedi, what different places in the galaxy were called, lots of different things and if he was proposing to do something in the prequels that contradicted that we would have long debates which usually ended at least after the first session with *”I don’t care this is what I’m doing”* , and maybe after the *4th or 5th session sometimes* “Alright ‘maybe’ we can change it this way”
Now that everything is controlled by one central committee [Lucasfilm Story Group] we can have canon that applies to everything.
*Messing with a Classic — Howard Roffman, Lucasfilm, 2017 interview.* –
“But Lucas allows for an Expanded Universe that exists parallel to the one he directly oversees. […] *Though these [Expanded Universe] stories may get his stamp of approval, they don’t enter his canon unless they are depicted cinematically in one of his projects.”*
~ Pablo Hidalgo, Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, 2012
“I think people over emphasize the importance of the canon level. The intent of the canon levels was, as the main intent was ‘if someones looking for the ships from a film, they can than use those fields to check for them only in the films,and thus seperate that from what was in the EU. So we can look at it case by case. I think there is an over emphasis of what those fields mean and what they represent”. ~ Leland Chee
“That ‘level of canon’ thus helps in terms of bookkeeping. Those ‘canon levels’ are for the holocron.” ~ Pablo Hidalgo
ForceCast #273: The Galaxy Is Reading – Interview with Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo, 2013Starts at about the 1 hour mark so 1:00 – 1:02 mark
“What George did with the films and The Clone Wars was pretty much his universe ,” Chee said. “He didn’t really have that much concern for what we were doing in the books and games. So the Expanded Universe was very much separate.”
~ Leland Chee, 2017 – SYFY WIRE
“Lucas’ canon – and when I say ‘his canon’, I’m talking about what he was doing in the films and what he was doing in The Clone Wars – was hugely important. But what we were doing in the books really wasn’t on his radar.”
~ Leland Chee, 2018
“The dual universe question comes up often. I know George Lucas has mentioned it being two universes, but that’s not how I see it. His vision is definitely not beholden to ours, but ours is definitely beholden to his.”
~ Leland Chee 2012
“I don’t read that stuff, I haven’t read any of the novels. I don’t know anything about that world. That’s a different world than my world. But I do try and keep it consistent. The way I do it is they have a Star Wars encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it and see if it has already been used. When I said other people could make thier own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have TWO universes: My Universe and than this other one. They try to make THIER universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.”
~ George Lucas, August, 2005
“There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books.”
~ George Lucas, Cinescape, 2002
“And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn’t at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn’t come back to life, the Emperor doesn’t get cloned and Luke doesn’t get married.”
~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, 2008
”The novels and comic books are other authors’ interpretations of my creation. Sometimes, I tell them what they can and cant do, but I just don’t have the time to read them. They’re not my vision of what Star Wars is.”
~ George Lucas 2004
“I like to refer to the Interview with Lucas in the Special Editions.When asked about the novels and what not, he simply says:
”Those are another author’s interpretation of what I’ve created, and not to be taken seriously, as far as what is really going on in the Star Wars world.”
~ George Lucas
“Q: What do you think of the Expanded Universe of books?
A: “The books are in a different universe. I’ve not read any of them, and I told them when they started writing I wouldn’t read any of them and I blocked out certain periods.”
~ George Lucas 2003
“Howard Roffman [President of Lucas Licensing], He once said to me that there are two Star Trek universes: there’s the TV show and then there’s all the spin-offs. He said that these were completely different and didn’t have anything to do with each other. So I said, “OK, go ahead.”
~ George Lucas 2008
“This is Star Wars, and I don’t make a distinction between [The Clone Wars] series and the films.”
~ George Lucas, SciFiNow, October 2011
“TVGuide: Yet novelists have written “Star Wars” sequels using the same characters and extending their stories.
“Oh, sure. They’re done outside my little universe.”
~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, November 2001 – TV Guide interview
“Q: Do you supervise the development of all the off-movie stories? After all, Star Wars exists in books, comics.
A: “You know, I try not to think about that. I have my own world in movies and I follow it.”
~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 2002 – From a The Force.Net
“George Lucas says there has never been any war between the Jedi and the Sith in his Star Wars Canon” – An excerpt from StarWars.com‘s oral history of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace:
Everybody said, “Oh, well, there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith.” Well, that never happened. That’s just made up by fans or somebody. What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for a while, 2000 years ago. Each Sith has an apprentice, but the problem was, each Sith Lord got to be powerful. And the Sith Lords would try to kill each other because they all wanted to be the most powerful. So in the end they killed each other off, and there wasn’t anything left.
“But anyway, there’s a whole matrix of backstory that has never really come out. It’s really just history that I gathered up along the way. It’s all based on backstories that I’d written setting up what the Jedi were, setting up what the Sith were, setting up what the Empire was, setting up what the Republic was, and how it all fit together I never really got a chance to explain the Whills part.”
‘George Lucas’ vision of the galaxy’s ancient times is clearly different from the Expanded Universe. Many wars between Jedi and Sith in the Old Republic era were told in games, books and comics. The current Lucasfilm’s canon didn’t explore this era yet.’
“I don’t even read the offshoot books that come out based on Star Wars.”
~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, July 1999 – Film Night interview
Q: Can you quote any good story other than the movies?
A: “No, I don’t think so. (laughs).”
~ George Lucas
“Q: in that vein, is it possible we’ll see more Star Wars TV product?
A: Because I”m retiring from this part of my creative life, I’m open to more TV Product. but not more feature films. The story is complete and any other story wouldn’t be my philosophy and views, the books are not the same philosophy as the movies.”
~ George Lucas 2003
“The question selected from The Furry Conflict poll was: How much does the Expanded Universe influence the movies?
“As I asked him, Lucas leaned back a moment and said to me “Very little.” When he first had agreed to let people write Expanded Universe books, he had said “I’m not gonna read ‘em” and it was a “different universe” and that he wanted to keep away from the time period of his saga. He jokingly complained, however, that now when he writes a script he has to look through an encyclopedia to make sure that a name he comes up with doesn’t come too close to something in the EU.”
– “Marc Xavier”, November 2003, “The Furry Conflict and the Great ‘Beard‘ of the Galaxy (report based on a Q&A session with George Lucas which occurred at USC on 11-19-03)
“So if we’ll never see it onscreen, what does happen to Princess Leia and Han Solo after they fall in love?
”Han and Leia probably did get married,” Lucas conceded. ”They settled down. She became a senator, and they got a nice little house with a white picket fence. Han Solo is out there cooking burgers on the grill. Is that a movie? I don’t think so.”
~ George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2005 – MTV interview
“That explains the fates of two of the most beloved characters in that galaxy far, far away..”
“I feel very satisfied that I have accomplished what I set out to do with ‘Star Wars,’ ” he told CNN. “I was able to complete the entire saga and say this is what the whole story is about.”
– George Lucas, Flannelled One, May 2005, CNN interview
“What George Saw as Canon”
*”In the old days, George Lucas saw his universe as separate from publishing [EU]. He wasn’t at all interested in connecting.”*
~ Pablo Hidalgo [Lucasfilm Story Group] 2016
*Pablo Hidalgo on Lucas and the EU being separate Universes.*
*”He [Lucas] only considers his movies and TV projects as his universe, and told the Clone Wars writers to only worry about those.”*
-Pablo Hidalgo [Lucasfilm Story Group]
‘How involved was he [Lucas] for stories in other media?’
‘That’s how I always felt and why I never read much of the EU. If it wasn’t from George, it didn’t hold much water for me’
‘He held the same opinion =)
*”Some just don’t want to hear it. Canon is only what’s on the screen. – Episodes I-VI, TCW and what’s to come.”*
Pablo Hidalgo, 2013 –
“From Star Wars Insider [The Official Star Wars Magazine] – Issue 77 , Using Dark Empire & The Thrawn Trilogy As Examples. – https://ibb.co/K9PMgH3
“So do episodes beyond Return of the Jedi exist? Nothing beyond possible story points and ideas, certainly not fleshed out story treatments or scripts. Fans often wonder if Dark Empire or the Thrawn Trilogy were based off those notes or are meant to be Episodes VII, VIII, IX. – That’s not the case.
Those works are the creation of their respective authors with the guidance of editors at Lucas Licensing. They are not, nor ever were, meant to be George Lucas’ definitive vision of what happens next”*
~ Pablo Hidalgo, 2004 – https://ibb.co/K9PMgH3
Holy wow, GrimalkunOnTheDarkside, this is incredibly definitive! Thank you for taking the time to pull all of this together.
Whereas I wouldn’t contradict anything that Lucas has said about this, or what has been reported to be said by Lucas via other people, there was a tiered canon system in place prior to April 2014, and the word “canon” is key in that. It’s in Wookieepedia, of course, and you can see reference stuff from Chee in https://web.archive.org/web/20070319051650/http://blogs.starwars.com/holocron/33 that lays out the tiers.
And the Chee quote you shared from 2012 supports that notion: “The dual universe question comes up often. I know George Lucas has mentioned it being two universes, but that’s not how I see it. His vision is definitely not beholden to ours, but ours is definitely beholden to his.”
And that’s how they decided to proceed in April 2014 – as still beholden to what Lucas did, but with a new set of stories. “On the screen, the first new canon to appear will be Star Wars Rebels,” according to the PR at https://www.starwars.com/news/the-legendary-star-wars-expanded-universe-turns-a-new-page.
Ultimately, we may be splitting hairs on this. But I really appreciate your thorough feedback.