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Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded uni

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Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded uni

Postby Morgan19 » Sat Jan 11, 2014 11:10 am

Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded universe
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/01/ ... -universe/

<snip>
Word began trickling out over Twitter last week that Disney will be drastically redefining the state of the Star Wars lore, eliminating the bifurcated mainline/EU arrangement and in its place constructing a single official canon. All things that are part of the canon are "real," as far as Star Wars is concerned; all things not in the canon are "not real." This eliminates the quasi-real EU tier—going forward, things will either exist officially, or not at all.

</snip>
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby dWhisper » Sat Jan 11, 2014 2:12 pm

That's funny, I was just putting together a news post about this.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Apparently there is time to discuss this in committee...

Postby Staff » Sat Jan 11, 2014 2:54 pm

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This actually popped up a couple of days ago, but I'd sat on posting it mostly because I'm lazy (and needed a good title). I first saw it on io9, and ArsTechnica has since written an op-ed on it. In short... Disney is going to "address" the Expanded Universe (EU), and decide what's in canon and what's not from the EU. Anyone who's followed Star Wars outside of the movies (which I'll just assume is pretty much everyone here) knows that the "Official" to "EU" connection is fuzzy at best. Books, video games, some comics (but not all), TV shows, toys... all considered in canon, and often conflicting with each other. There were even levels of canon defined, with the movies at the top, then TV shows, then books, then I think fan fiction...

In short, the whole thing is a mess. Enter Disney, most likely salivating over its multi-billion dollar property and the greatest merchandising machine this side of Cars. Part of their control of the universe is actually controlling the universe. It's why the comics are going back to Marvel (owned by Disney), why the books have been slowly going away (most likely to move to some other publisher), and why the Clone Wars cartoon was killed off in favor of Rebels on a Disney network.

Anyone that's read my reviews knows I harp on the EU a lot, assuming you're not one of the people that doesn't just get annoyed at my opening joke at the expense of Episode I and goes right into complaining in comments. The EU is a love / hate thing for me... when I was far younger, I read the books and loved them. But as I got older, and started to do things like study writing in college (yeah, I never did finish that degree program... turns out I had a strong desire to eat once I graduated and switched to computer programming), I started to understand that the books were typically horribly written and even worse with their ideas.

Take the Timothy Zahn books for example, which gave us a whole lot of cool things (Thrawn, Mara Jade, Gilad Pellaeon, Coruscant) and some really dumb things (Clones with extra vowels in their names, Ysalamir). It's actually probably the best the EU has to offer, but the reality is that these books are to movies what Michael Bay is to movies: lots of explosions and battles that fling characters from one to the next. I know, I have an opinion that's going to make people mad... shock, I know.

The problem with the EU, in the end, is that it was so successful. Part of the reason the Thrawn trilogy was so successful is that there was basically nothing in the EU at that point. Star Wars was unloved and mostly forgotten in popular culture when it first came out. Seriously, it was 1991, and you hadn't been able to buy action figures for five years, the Special Edition movies wouldn't be out for another six, and my Ewoks still said "nyub nyub" in a song at the end of Jedi. For a lot of people that grew up on the PT and the like, it's probably strange to think about a world where Star Wars wasn't everywhere.

After the success of that trilogy, and the re-re-releases, PT, video games, etc., the EU just blew up. They were putting out books every couple of months, and there are more than a few that made the Twilight series look like Faulkner (looking at you, Darksaber). Worse, it got so complicated and interconnected that you could only keep up if you worked in a bookstore or were rich (guess which one I was when I was making minimum wage at a Waldenbooks).

Worse, there were things that were only canon in one medium (comics) and not the other (books). Unless the comic was really popular, like Dark Empire, and then you got to see it sort of creep up elsewhere. The same rule applied to video games, with characters like Kyle Katarn, the name of the guy from the Dark Forces / Jedi Knight series (which were awesome games), who became a major character in the books.

Personally, I think the EU brought this on itself, because it eventually got to be where the movies were a distant memory of too many things. It was responsible for making it so every character in the universe had some deep tie and interaction to the main characters from the movies, and it got so far along that you had to check Wookiepedia to check on the background of characters and who'd killed them off.

It should be interesting to see what Disney does here. On one hand, there are some very good ideas in the EU, some so good that they made their way into stuff that will be canon already (like Coruscant). It would be dumb to throw away the baby with the bath water and just scrap it all when you have good name recognition for things like Thrawn and Mara Jade (or the twins) for established fans. Yet there's a lot of the EU that could do with a reboot (maybe get rid of the bugs, the Vong, killing Chewie for no * bleep * reason, killing pretty much everyone that Luke/Han/Leia ever loved because you can't figure out how to write a proper story or drama... I could go on for awhile). I can see Disney cutting out a whole ton, and then bringing some of it back with future spin-offs, tie-ins, or new EU material.

So, I suppose, what would everyone like to see in the coming bloodbath, and what do you expect the EU to look like in the near future?
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby minitrue » Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:27 pm

I have mixed feelings about this too. I just counted- I own 91 expanded universe novels- 25% of which are hard cover. I guess I feel sad to lose any of it just because of my time/money commitment to it, but I agree with you that a lot of it is bad. Reading that Vong series seemed like a job. A very unsatisfying job...
There were a lot of cool ideas. I like most of the new generation of jedi. I don't like that they killed chewie, anakin, jacen and mara. I understand that sometimes the story actually demands that a "good guy" dies, but it seemed like they were doing it just to get attention. Kind of like they keep killing superheroes, just to bring them back a year or two later.

My son is 9 and he has read the thrawn books with me as well as the young jedi knights series. At his request we just started the Jedi Search series, but I confess that I am not enjoying re-reading it. It keeps mentioning the "resurrected emperor" comic stuff, which I really didn't enjoy at all.


I think it could be great if a team of thoughtful, purposeful people went through these books and trimmed away some of the weirdness.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby dWhisper » Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:34 pm

I think it could even be cool as a reboot. Give Zahn a chance to reboot his books (or better yet, get a new author to it) and incorporate some of the "knowns" that we've gotten since then. Stuff like the PT movies, history, cartoons, etc, could all turn it into a better story.

I used to have a lot of the books, but stopped reading shortly after the New Jedi Order stuff. It didn't help that they let R.A. Salvatore kick off that era, as he's one of my least favorite authors in the Sci-Fi / Fantasy space (couldn't stand his Forgotten Realms stuff at all, even when I was younger). And it wasn't even the whole "killing Chewie" thing that bothered me, it was that the death was simply so pointless and needless. Too much of that entire series only happened to try and get you emotionally involved in a story that did everything to keep you from being emotionally involved.

I did actually finish it, but from start to finish, it was so inconsistent that I've never bothered to go back and try again.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby HoosierZephyr » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:02 pm

This needs to be done, the whole EU is riddled with cancer in my opinion. I want Thrawn and Mara Jade left, Vong should be gone. I read a lot of the books as well but it did get confusing and to time consuming and some of it was really bad. Kevin J. Anderson was horrible, I felt I was reading a preteen book. I was also sick of the "Super Weapon of the Month" that was going on as well.
Hopefully this will be good in the end.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby The_Chosen_1 » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:05 pm

Wow, where to begin on such a loaded topic...

Kudos for bringing it up, as it's a topic that 's been on my mind a lot lately. I believe that as fans, we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that the EU as we know it will be changing. I recall that when the sequel trilogy was announced, there were (and still are) many fans that called for Lucasfilm to completely honor the EU with whatever new film projects they took on. Common sense says that this simply isn't going to happen, however. Nor do I believe that Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and other creatives should be beholden to 25+ years of convoluted continuity to tell their story. Disney/Lucasfilm would not invest in such high caliber talent if that were the case. I've heard people use the argument "well, creativity loves constraint"; but let's be honest, folks. There's a difference between constraint, and the existing Star Wars EU (much of which has shown little by way of 'constraint' to begin with, particularly the post-ROTJ EU. With no prospect of a sequel trilogy on the horizon, EU authors built out an entirely different vision than I'm sure Lucas would have given us. The quality of which has arguably been in decline since Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy). Add to this the fact that the Sequel Trilogy is based on story outlines from George himself, which are all but guaranteed to leave out many aspects of the post-ROTJ expanded universe.

I hope I'm not coming across as an EU hater, as that is definitely not the case. I own well over 100 EU novels, and am familiar with much of the modern EU (books, comics, and video games alike). However, I think there's an issue that has plagued fandom for a long time now, where many hold the EU to the same standard as the film saga, The Clone Wars, or other projects that bear the express approval/involvement of Lucas. It's a sticky subject, especially with all of Lucasfilm's "levels" of canon. But as much as I've loved certain stories and characters from the EU, I'm infinitely more excited to finally see the definitive post-ROTJ story as imagined by Lucas with the help of other extremely talented individuals.

Above all, I'm trying to keep an open mind about what the future of Star Wars will bring. Bringing all continuity under the same umbrella, and perhaps reeling in the often extreme amount of EU material that we've seen in recent years, can only be good for the overall quality of stories that we see come out of the franchise.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby minitrue » Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:12 pm

One of the things that should be addressed is the relative difficulty that Luke has in reestablishing the jedi order in the current EU. They were around for 1000 generations, and only gone for 20 years. There should be a huge number of people alive with firsthand knowledge of how jedi lived and trained and behaved.

I think that a lot of the great new characters like Mara, Kard, Thrawn, Coran Horn, and the twins should be used, but they can be reworked into a more coherent narrative. I think these characters are too popular to simply get rid of.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby dWhisper » Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:19 pm

I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is the disparity of "popular" between EU stuff and the actual movies or cartoons. The Thrawn trilogy, which i think we can all agree on is the most popular of the EU books, has sold 15 million copies over the 23 years its been out (and that makes me feel so old). By contrast, the Clone Wars cartoon, which was on cable and aimed at a specific age group, still averaged 2-3 million viewers per episode.

The EU, in the books, comics, and even the video games, is considerably less popular overall than the core material, so there's not as much danger in Disney cutting even popular characters. I don't think it's smart for them to do it, at least taking the idea or the names, some background, etc, simply because that's work that's already been done. But outside a relatively small portion of their target market, most people don't even know those names.

My guess is that most of what they'll focus on is the well established pieces such as stuff in the Thrawn trilogy, which, interesting, Disney consulted on, as well as active properties out there like The Old Republic era stuff, since it poses relatively little risk to the movies, has natural tie-in with the active games if they decide to make movies or shows based on it. I'd love to see stuff like Jedi Knight come back as games as well, but given that EA is the one that has the exclusive deal to work on them, it's doubtful we'll see anything that cool.

Otherwise, I'd bet that a lot of what we see is going to be "take the names and that's it" vein of adaptations.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby Chosen One » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:13 pm

I agree with it, and hope they rid of the PT with it. It's the most logical move considering how the tech and timeframe of the PT doesn't slot nicely into the OT, and business wise it will bring in more money at the theatres with a proper rise of Vader. Not some whining teenager that doesn't even hunt the Jedis as mentioned in the OT.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby sparkart » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:22 pm

Does it really matter what the license owner does, anymore? Creators can give the public the seeds of entertainment, but it's the fans that make it grow. Back when George Lucas made Greedo shoot first, fans rejected it, and no matter what anyone else says, everyone knows Han shot first. Star Wars had already been grown and owned by fans to a point that it didn't really matter much "The Creator" did.

Joel Schumacher's horrible Batman movies didn't destroy Batman. There's a lot of different origin tales of just that one character in every media you can name - he's a mythological figure, like King Arthur, like Robin Hood, like Captain Kirk, like Luke Skywalker, like Darth Vader. Everyone's got their favorite version.

I've got nothing emotionally invested in the EU, so I don't care. But even if I did have some EU love, I wouldn't let a new re-telling, re-casting, re-imagining of the license change my old love.

I think J.J. Abrams is going to screw up with Star Wars VII, because he'll pander to the fans, and give them what they want, or what they think they want to see, and not challenge the audience to see something different, and maybe even a little better. And Disney is going to make sure it's kid-friendly (and appeal to the kid in all of us :facepalm: ).
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby Brainslugged » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:39 am

Any chance of excluding episodes I to III from the official canon?
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby Brickwright » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:37 am

I agree with Sparkart. Disney can't completely erase the EU. The fans will be the true deciding factor if they go too far, especially since some of it has been in place for a while now. I imagine the "larger" stuff will stay put, like Shadows of the Empire, the X-wing series, and the Thrawn Trilogy. Like some of the others here, I don't have a lot of attachment to the EU, so I'm optimistic about this.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby CaptainFordo » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:03 am

The main thing from the EU I want to be confirmed in the new canon is Kyle Katarn. That just has to happen. I need Kyle Katarn to be canon. (Also the 2D Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars, but that's secondary to Kyle)
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby The_Chosen_1 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:00 am

Brainslugged wrote:Any chance of excluding episodes I to III from the official canon?


Nope. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, they are every bit as much a part of official canon as the Original Trilogy is. Time for some fans to get over it...
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby lego the hutt » Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:49 am

Brickwright wrote:I agree with Sparkart. Disney can't completely erase the EU. The fans will be the true deciding factor if they go too far, especially since some of it has been in place for a while now. I imagine the "larger" stuff will stay put, like Shadows of the Empire, the X-wing series, and the Thrawn Trilogy. Like some of the others here, I don't have a lot of attachment to the EU, so I'm optimistic about this.


Not only will Disney not erase the EU, but they will expand it. ;) They will produce plenty of story lines that won't be included in the official canon line. There will just be the one official story arc that includes the movies and a few other specific lines, and then everything else.

It's pretty much exactly how it is now only as of now it is the movies are officially canon and everything else is secondary.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby RfAurora » Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:06 pm

Just as long as they don't retcon too much of the X-wing series, Jedi Academy Trilogy, and Zahn's work, I'm fine with it. Most of it needs a good weed whacking and cleaning up.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby Spencer Solo » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:29 pm

One of the main arguments I'm hearing is that Disney will make it too "kid-friendly". I completely disagree. There are plenty of Disney movies that are in almost no way kid friendly, and even some aspects of the OT were relatively kid-friendly. I just think we need to settle down and just wait for episode VII. And hey, we're gonna get Rebels to tide us over.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby The_Chosen_1 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:26 pm

Spencer Solo wrote:One of the main arguments I'm hearing is that Disney will make it too "kid-friendly". I completely disagree. There are plenty of Disney movies that are in almost no way kid friendly, and even some aspects of the OT were relatively kid-friendly.


I'm tired of hearing this point of view as well, as it reflects ignorance as to Lucasfilm's new ownership. The Walt Disney Company owns Lucasfilm, but they also own production studios like Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures, which have released plenty of adult-oriented content. Disney is simply a smart company that has diversified their portfolio of entertainment properties.
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Re: Op-ed: Disney takes a chainsaw to the Star Wars expanded

Postby Roarsack » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:36 pm

The_Chosen_1 wrote:I'm tired of hearing this point of view as well, as it reflects ignorance as to Lucasfilm's new ownership. The Walt Disney Company owns Lucasfilm, but they also own production studios like Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures, which have released plenty of adult-oriented content. Disney is simply a smart company that has diversified their portfolio of entertainment properties.
Lucas tried to diversify Star Wars for every audience, and thus we have the prequels: poop jokes, child-slaughter, fart jokes, burning people alive, Jar-Jar, dryer than dry space politics. :lol:




I may be a Star Wars nerd, but when it comes to the EU, my knowledge is limited to the Republic Commando novels, which get worse and worse as the series goes by because of the most annoying character ever after Jar-Jar, Etain Tur-Mukan. I've also read some miscellaneous comics, none of which are good. And in the light of those I've rather just left the EU untouched. I'm very much a conservative when it comes to Star Wars, so I don't care too much about this change as long as they don't throw any weird EU crap into the new movies.
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