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How Star Wars Rebels Changed (and Improved) the Entire Saga

Star Wars Rebels

This past week marks a year since the animated series Star Wars Rebels finished its four-season run. Set between the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope, the CGI show delved into a largely unexplored period of the franchise's history. But, more than that, it carried the iconic space opera franchise during its most visible time of transition while continuing to expand its mythos in interesting new directions, all while directly connecting the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy.

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Premiering on Oct. 3, 2014 on the Disney Channel, Star Wars Rebels was the first major addition to the franchise since Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. While principal photography was well underway on Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the time, the first trailer had yet to be released and the title remained under wraps to the general public, not unlike the current marketing strategy employed by Lucasfilm for Episode IX.

Several eagerly anticipated video game titles had been canceled and Star Wars: The Clone Wars similarly ended in the middle of its Season 6 production to help smooth the acquisition. And, in perhaps the most controversial move, the decades-old Expanded Universe of franchise content outside of the films and the Clone Wars animated series was discarded to give filmmakers a comparatively blank slate to create without being confined by preexisting stories and characters.

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It was an uncertain time for the nearly 40-year-old franchise, no longer guided under the supervision of creator George Lucas. Coupled with the fact that Rebels was following the fan-favorite, award-winning Clone Wars into an era without any canon stories due to the collapse of the Expanded Universe, there was a lot of expectations riding on the animated series.

Fortunately, both audiences and critics alike made the series an unequivocal hit throughout its four-season run, which resulted in a whole hot of award nominations, including three Emmys.

Star Wars Rebels finale

What makes this especially remarkable is that the first season of Rebels featured an entirely new cast of characters, rather than focusing on franchise icons like Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Clone Wars did. The Clone Wars are a canonically pivotal event in the history of the Star Wars Universe, meaning that characters like Yoda and Count Dooku could naturally appear.

The first season of Rebels, by comparison, focused more on the previously unseen planet of Lothal as new characters, including Force-sensitive scoundrel Ezra Bridges and one-time Padawan Kanan Jarrus, joined the fledgling Rebel Alliance to thwart oppression by the Galactic Empire.

NEXT PAGE: Star Wars Rebels Normalized Disney's Ownership of the Franchise

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