Artwork courtesy of Joshua Stolte
Welcome back to the Star Wars HoloNet Digest, a weekly feature where I bring you a recap of the latest news from the world of Star Wars. Whether it’s an Episode VII announcement or a noteworthy author interview, you’ll find it here. Let’s check the HoloNet and see what happened in the past week.
There has been a lot of talk about Abu Dhabi in Episode VII speculation circles recently. After The Hollywood Reporter claimed that certain scenes in the film would take place on Tatooine, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper called The National spotted what looked like the foot of an AT-AT in the desert of Abu Dhabi. Yesterday morning, at a Business of Entertainment breakfast the Tribeca Film Festival, Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn confirmed that the film’s second unit had shot in Abu Dhabi in the lead-up to principal photography. Horn didn’t say what planet Abu Dhabi was supposed to represent, nor did he address the AT-AT foot that was so incongruously hanging out in the desert, but I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing Tatooine again.
During the morning interview with Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman, Horn also said that future Star Wars movies could be released in May depending on how quickly the screenplays were ready. He also estimated that the films would have budgets between $175 million and $200 million. For comparison, Marvel’s 2012 blockbuster The Avengers cost $220 million to make. It reaped an estimated $1.52 billion dollars at the box office.
Disney’s animated series Star Wars Rebels was the talk of WonderCon last weekend, after a behind-the-scenes panel with executive producer Dave Filoni, Hera voice actress Vanessa Marshall, and art director Kilian Plunkett revealed a few new tidbits about the show. The big news was that The Clone Wars composer Kevin Kiner is back working on Filoni’s newest series. Kiner joined the panelists on stage after the announcement, but he didn’t show up empty-handed. He brought with him the theme music for Rebels, which blends John Williams’ classic original trilogy score (which we’ll apparently be hearing a lot more of) with new themes composed specifically for the series and its characters.
Also debuting at the panel was a new clip of Hera piloting the Ghost, which you can check out below:
In book news, Disney has announced that it will publish four new books based on the original trilogy designed to draw in young fans ahead of the release of Episode VII. The books are: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi, a retelling of the entire OT to be published in October 2014; Star Wars: A New Hope by R.J. Palacio, in April 2015; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz, in July 2015; and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Tom Angleberger, in October 2015. In a video that accompanied the announcement, Lucasfilm director of publishing Carol Roeder said, “We have this incredible opportunity to introduce a whole new generation of young readers to the world of Star Wars.” She added, “These stories will engage young readers and get them ready for the journey that is Episode VII and beyond.”
In my opinion, this is a very smart move by Disney. Combine these new books with Star Wars Rebels, debuting this fall, and you have hints of a concerted strategy to reemphasize the characters, setting, and concepts of the original films. This approach highlights classic characters whom parents will love revisiting while also introducing those characters to young fans who may (somehow) be unfamiliar with them. The parents will be reenergized for Episode VII –– when they might, just might, see some of their favorite classic characters again –– and the kids will remain focused on the upcoming sequel because they’ll want to see the continuation of that story.
Disney’s retail stores are getting into the May 4th spirit this year. The company announced at a VIP event on Monday night that its stores will host Star Wars Day events with music, activities for kids, and exclusive collectibles. According to a PDF describing the in-store events, they will include hands-on lightsaber training, an interactive Death Star attack experience, and a Medal of Bravery Ceremony à la A New Hope. For collectors, there will be exclusive Star Wars product launches, and the first 100 guests to visit each store will receive a limited-edition Star Wars pin. In addition, “Guests will be introduced to characters from [A New Hope] with a collectible trading cards giveaway each week.”
These in-store events seem like part of the concerted original trilogy awareness campaign that I mentioned before. Consider how the Disney information sheet begins: “On May the Fourth, Guests will be introduced (or perhaps, re-introduced) to the story and characters of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” These events sound like very deliberate attempts to focus attention on the first movie and bring in a new generation of fans with Episode IV-specific activities. It’s a brilliant strategy and one that can only help Disney as we move closer to December 18, 2015.
Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He co-hosts The ForceCast podcast and manages social media for Star Wars fan sites TheForce.Net and Rebelscum.com. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.