For the first time since Disney bough the franchise, the cinematic future of the Star Wars franchise is uncertain. This December's The Rise of Skywalker has been heralded for months by Lucasfilm as the final installment in the Skywalker Saga that ran through the classic, prequel and sequel trilogies. After the relative box office underperformance of last year's Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm has re-evaluated its plans for spinoff anthology films, with several planned projects put on hold or potentially re-purposed for television.
Earlier this week, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss dropped out of creating a new Star Wars trilogy -- slated to launch in 2022 -- that would have charted a new cinematic future for the franchise.
However, while cinematic projects for the always-popular space opera franchise may be in a state of turnaround and reshuffled development, its future looks brighter than ever on television. The first-ever live-action television series for the Lucasfilm franchise, Star Wars: The Mandalorian, is poised to launch day-and-date with Disney's eagerly anticipated premium streaming service Disney+ next month.
As the inaugural original series for the upcoming digital platform, Lucasfilm intends to fans talking about the program right out the gate, teasing a major moment in the series premiere episode that will reverberate across the entire Star Wars Universe. With reported production budgets of $15 million per episode -- right on par with the series finale of Game of Thrones -- and the series already renewed for a second season months ahead of its premiere, Disney has spared no expense to bring the franchise to television and give its future on the small screen a strong vote of confidence.
Of course, Disney's live-action plans for Star Wars series don't stop with The Mandalorian.
Disney has announced plans for a miniseries starring Rogue One characters Cassian Andor and K-2SO, while another miniseries featuring Ewan McGregor reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope has also been confirmed. Interestingly, McGregor confirmed that when the Obi-Wan project was in earlier stages of development four years ago, it had originally been conceived as a standalone film before being retooled as a six-episode miniseries.
The change in strategy signals that Lucasfilm has put its immediate attention on television, with the release platform that Disney+ provides allowing for greater support behind-the-scenes from Disney in terms of financing and marketing, lowered distribution costs and lower production budgets. For comparison, Rogue One and Solo had each carried production budgets of well over $250 million while Obi-Wan is set to come with a cumulative price tag of approximately $90 million, assuming that each episode costs about $15 million like The Mandalorian.
Some of this pivot to TV may be informed by Lucasfilm's prior success in animated television with series like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance. Each of the series earned dedicated fanbases that stand in sharp contrast to the pointedly divided response the new wave of Star Wars films has received from longtime fans.
Outside of decades-old early efforts like the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Star Wars TV shows simply haven't earned that same amount of targeted backlash as their cinematic counterparts, which suggests a more secure future for the franchise on the medium. And with The Clone Wars returning for a seventh season on Disney+ next year, the franchise is returning to its animation roots as well.
It is only a matter of time before Star Wars returns to the big screen after The Rise of Skywalker. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige currently has planned with Lucasfilm to develop his own Star Wars film while The Last Jedi filmmaker Rian Johnson has plans to return to the franchise for a new trilogy of films completely unrelated to the Skywalker Saga.
The release dates and details of these films is still ambiguous, potentially even for the studio itself. In the meantime, Lucasfilm has focused its immediate energies into forging a new future for the franchise on Disney+ with more television programming than ever to bring that far, far away galaxy into you living room.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. The series debuts Nov. 12 on Disney+, the same date as the streaming service's official launch.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams. The film arrives on Dec. 20.