Four Things Learned from Star Wars Celebration 2023

There is nothing quite like a Star Wars Celebration to give the brand a shot in the arm energy. Excitement is high, even though Celebration is over, and we won’t have one again until 2025, so what did we learn this year about the future of Star Wars?

1. Future Star Wars Films DO NOT Lie with Trilogies

Brand new timeline | credit Getty Images for Disney

Three films were announced at Star Wars Celebration with three directors: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Dave Filoni, and James Mangold. And they will not be a part of a trilogy. They will take place over 25,000 years in the Star Wars timeline. Obaid-Chinoy’s film will follow Rey 15 years after the events of The Rise of Skywalker building a New Jedi Order. Filoni’s film, unsurprisingly, will be a culmination of the MandoVerse series that will find the heroes across shows likely fighting Imperial remnants led by Thrawn. And James Mangold will take us back 25,000 years to the first Jedi.

Since Daisey Ridley is attached to the New Jedi Order film and the script is further along, it is the closest Star Wars film to production. The fact that the next Star Wars film will continue with the main character from the Sequel Trilogy is a first for the franchise and is happening sooner than expected. Naturally, speculation on casting will continue through production, but the single-film focus is refreshing. Make a great film you can build upon instead of announcing a trilogy. 

And just because these three films are not part of a trilogy does not mean they cannot have a connecting tissue of themes. Perhaps something in the New Jedi Order will connect to the Dawn of the Jedi. It constantly happens in the novels, so seeing it in films is a natural progression.

2. Star Wars is Still Committed to Animation, Sort Of

The stunning poster for the second season of Star Wars Visions | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

With live-action in full swing, Star Wars animation is not as everpresent as when there were long gaps between content (specifically when all we were getting were Star Wars films every decade or two). Now, even the gap between films is nowhere near as wide, and we have series in between. So, unfortunately, there is less focus on animation. 

We learned that season three of The Bad Batch will be its final season (set for release in 2024). With Star Wars Visions 2 and Young Jedi Adventures around the corner (both release on May 4), most of the animated series will be in the rearview within two years. 

On the other hand, there is Star Wars Visions 2, which looks like a 2.0 version of the first season. The animation looks stunning, and the global talent level is impressive. And Star Wars Visions seems more popular, attracting non-Star Wars fans through the different animation styles.

The animation industry overall seems to be in a weird space. Netflix and HBOMax have downsized their animation division in the past year. And most still won’t give animation the time of day, even if it includes incredible storytelling and character development (many people were late to the Arcane party). Once in a while, you will get transformative properties like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Super Mario Brothers, but those are few. The Clone Wars benefitted from airing when there was no other Star Wars content besides the books. Now, there is so much content that The Bad Batch has become an afterthought for those who might otherwise give it a chance. Add the further dissolution of the audience through streaming services (The Clone Wars aired initially on the cable channel Cartoon Network), and the animated shows do not have the same draw. 

Filoni was inspired to return to animation with Tales of the Jedi because of The Bad Batch. This brings me to another point: Dave Filoni is the executive producer, not the head writer or director. It was the same with Star Wars Resistance, which only lasted two seasons. 

3. Hasbro Needs Shows Like The Acolyte Just Like the Rest of Us

The lifeblood of Star Wars is merchandise, and you know what moves Star Wars merchandise? Jedi. Lots of Jedi. Jedi, whose lightsabers you can buy in different price brackets, whose robes you can also buy in various sizes, and whose likeness you can purchase in toy form to sit on your shelf.

Star Wars toys are stuck in a cycle of the same old Jedi: Luke, Anakin/Vader, and Kenobi, with a few characters from the Clone Wars. Ahsoka has entered the fray and will probably see many more versions of her, but variety is key. It’s an element of why Order 66 survivors keep increasing (the canonization of Inquisitors give the Jedi a worthy opponent who is not Vader AND introduce new lightsaber wielders). Even though Thrawn is the big bad in Ahsoka, the trailer shows three other Force-users (at least one of which is an Inquisitor), and the other two look like Dooku and Asajj Ventress 1.0. 

But a show like The Acolyte, which takes place near the end of The High Republic, will be filled with Jedi of all ages and species. It should be a merchandise oasis (there is a Wookiee Jedi!). 

And a bonus– The Acolyte also has a confirmed character from The High Republic novels, Vernestra Rwoh, which could lead to more Vernestra Rwoh stories in publishing and streaming.

4. The Future of Star Wars Gaming is Open World

Open World games are not new (some date back to the late 90s), But with graphics getting better year-to-year and autonomy increasing for the players, worlds in games can feel more real than ever. The Wizarding World has been a formidable competitor of Star Wars since it started rebranding when the parks opened in Universal Studios in 2010. 

The immersive Wizarding World theme park scared Disney into announcing its own immersive park in 2015: Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars park set in Batuu (a canonized planet). It was a rare win for Universal to be first in the theme park game against Disney. 

And games are a great way to bring an immersion in a franchise to households. The Wizarding World this year released the open-world Hogwarts Legacy, where players can customize their character and follow a story but also explore Hogwarts on their own and complete side quests. The game sold 12M units in its first two weeks, the biggest global launch ever for WB Games. Once again, Wizarding World beat Star Wars with a truly open-world experience. 

The success of Hogwarts Legacy and its gameplay is undoubtedly being watched by Ubisoft, currently working on an open-world Star Wars game. There was a misunderstanding about whether the upcoming Jedi: Survivor had an open-world Coruscant and the possibility of wandering through the heart of the Empire as a wanted Jedi excited fans. Unfortunately, this was clarified by EA’s communications lead later on Twitter:

But that does not change the big hole in Star Wars gaming that is currently only filled with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. There is plenty of time for Ubisoft to take the lessons from Hogwarts Legacy to inform the approach of their game. They must get this one right, with several future Star Wars games being delayed or paused. May the Force be with them.