The Star Wars Expanded Universe – now known as simply Star Wars Legends – is perhaps the greatest rabbit hole in entertainment.
For years, screenwriters and budding novelists have produced countless licensed stories situated in that galaxy far, far away, and it’s these same stories that have allowed Star Wars to evolve into the biggest IP on the planet. But in 2014, everything changed.
Upon announcing its acquisition of Lucasfilm and all its assets, Disney then decided to retcon the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe, leading to the formation of a new continuity consisting of all six original movies, The Clone Wars, and any material released from that point on. Future license content and existing EU material would also be lumped under the one umbrella (read: Star Wars Legends), as the Mouse House sought to blaze a path of its own.
That’s something that Lucasfilm Story Group member, Leland Chee, addressed in a recent interview with SyFy (via /Film), in which the executive pointed to the EU death of Chewbacca as a justification for Lucasfilm’s decision.
For me it came down to simply that we had killed Chewbacca in the Legends — a big moon had fallen on him. Part of that [original decision] was Chewbacca, because he can’t speak and just speaks in growls, he was a challenging character to write for in novels. Publishing had decided they needed to kill somebody, and it was Chewbacca.
But if you have the opportunity to bring back Chewbacca into a live action film, you’re not gonna deprive fans that. There’s no way that I’d want to do an Episode VII that didn’t have Chewbacca in it and have to explain that Chewbacca had a moon fall on his head. And if we were going to overturn a monumental decision like that, everything else was really just minor in comparison.
On paper, Disney’s decision to retcon the EU makes a lot of sense; in order to forge a new path, one has to sever ties with the past – or, in the case of Star Wars, any licensed material designed to flesh out some of the galaxy’s most popular characters.
Chances are Legends and the official Star Wars canon will continue to operate on two different tracks. Even still, that doesn’t necessarily mean the two can’t borrow story elements from one another in the not-so-distant future.