The first clue should have been that Lucasfilm did not have a scheduled time for Star Wars news on Disney’s press release. The only two divisions that had scheduled released times were Pixar and Marvel Studios. After rumors and assumptions of first looks, the only reveal from Star Wars was an Obi-Wan Kenobi 75 second sizzle (which had already leaked the day before). The sizzle reel revealed concept art, interviews, and plot details. National Geographic showed more things than Lucasfilm. Will Smith and Chris Hemsworth in Darren Aronofsky produced specials? Ok! Lucasfilm did release a video of Warrick Davis introducing the cast of the revival of Willow coming in 2022. Lucasfilm has four Star Wars shows in 2022 (counting The Book of Boba Fett) and only showed a sizzle for one.
So what happened, and what does this tell us about Lucasfilm’s strategy and current state of Star Wars?
Star Wars Celebration Might Have All the Goods.
I mentioned this as a possibility that Lucasfilm could hold some reveals back because Star Wars Celebration is coming up from May 26–29th as Lucasfilm’s dedicated marketing platform for Star Wars. Instead of tweets, you will have panels in front of the most passionate fans and the media, and four days is ample time to saturate entertainment coverage. But we still do not have a release date for Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is the next live-action show. It seems too perfect that May the 4th, 2022 falls on a Wednesday, the new release date for Disney tentpole shows. The Bad Batch premiered on Star Wars Day this year and they could continue the tradition. Obi-Wan Kenobi is the most anticipated 2022 release and that excitement of the show would carry straight into Star Wars Celebration a few weeks later to where Star Wars could own the month of May. Not a bad strategy and one that could make the disappointment of Disney Plus Day a distant memory.
Lucasfilm is Still Trying to Figure Things Out.
After the Disney Plus expectations from Star Wars post, a few news items came out. First, Patty Jenkin’s Rogue Squadron got delayed (indefinitely). Take from that what you will, but it is a statement that says, without saying, that it is no longer happening. Second, Kevin Feige’s Star Wars film was rumored to have Chloe Zhao attached to direct. Nothing confirmed and we should not expect confirmation (if true) until after the dust has settled on The Eternals.
While Disney Plus Day only deals with content for the streaming service, Disney does not have a new distribution strategy. Last year, Bob Chapek named former President of Consumer Products, Games, and Publishing, Kareem Daniel, to oversee its New Media and Entertainment Distribution Group. Daniel’s responsibilities include making decisions on theatrical and streaming content release schedules.
There will be a lot of pressure on the next theatrical release, so Disney/Lucasfilm might be evaluating whether their theatrical releases would be big enough for the big screen. Some of these ideas could re-emerge as Disney Plus series (like Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett), but only time will tell.
Lucasfilm PR is also in a transition period. In September 2021, Disney’s Chris Coxall was announced as the new VP of Publicity and Communication of Lucasfilm, replacing Lynne Hale, who was retiring. Hale was a 35-year vet of Lucasfilm, and there were bound to be initial growing pains, although Coxall has worked on Star Wars properties since he joined Disney in 2013. However, most of the news coming out of Disney Plus Day involved celebrities talking to the camera and single images so it is hard to imagine Lucasfilm PR couldn’t dig up a new photo from the set of Andor or The Book of Boba Fett to share. After the event, it is more puzzling that Lucasfilm didn’t just wait one week to show the trailer for The Book of Boba Fett.
And, naturally, some people think Star Wars fans set their expectations too high, but it is still a surprising lack of news.
But here’s why it matters: Disney recently reported slow subscription growth (adding 2.1M new subscribers against the Wall Street forecasted 10M), leading to a dip in the stock. While new Walt Disney content and Pixar content are helpful, significant growth will come from Marvel and Star Wars. Marvel has their stuff together and is operating the train on time. It is reasonable, given the pandemic, that production has slowed down. But it is possible to release content while simultaneously saying “remember this is coming too.” Although, to be fair, if Star Wars had as much content as Marvel plans to have in the next few years, my journey to Star Wars fatigue might come sooner than later.
And taking the time to figure things out is a good thing. It would have been helpful during pre-production for the Sequel Trilogy, but not even following up an underwhelming teaser for The Book of Boba Fett with new footage seems self-defeating. Obviously, there are shows that are happening but Lucasfilm also did not mention anything on holdovers from last year, Lando and A Droid Story. This could be to avoid becoming DC: making a slew of announcements of future content only for a handful to pan out, so when they announce a bunch of HBOMax shows, I can only not hold my breath. And Star Wars certainly does not need those kinds of problems.