Posted by William on October 12, 2019 at 10:00 AM CST
In the aftermath of Episode III's release in 2005, it was as if the 16 year-wait between Episode VI and Episode I restarted; only this time, there was nothing to wait for.
The prequel trilogy had passed by in a snap. Sure, we had the Expanded Universe as a shoulder to lean on of sorts, and Celebration III gave the first details of a new TV show that would premiere in 2008, but as far as the actual films, Revenge of the Sith connected the missing puzzle pieces and the saga was now complete, as the film’s marketing emphasized like there was no tomorrow.
But did the “grand finale” to the greatest story of good and evil ever told stop the merchandising? Nope.
On the video game side of things, Traveler’s Tales teamed up with LEGO to create…something simply amazing. An unprecedented idea at the time, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game combined the timeless adventures of the prequel trilogy with the creativity, imagination and razor-sharp wit of LEGO. The game released in 2005 and was an instant success, spawning a video game series that went on to sell over 50 million copies, with a new installment arriving in 2020.
While companies like Dark Horse, Gentle Giant, Kotobukiya and Sideshow thrived with the knowledge that they had six films to work with, Hasbro, arguably the biggest holder of the license at this point, needed some bait on the hook to keep interest up.
Holding out for the bait, they brought us The Saga Collection, a line named rightfully so, in 2006, although it was just a rehashed update of the Saga line of 2002-2004. Aside from having cooler-looking, silver cardbacks, this was the first Star Wars line that combined all 6 films into one clean lineup.
A major milestone happened to cap off the year. The original, unaltered theatrical cuts of the Original Trilogy, which were thought to be long gone, finally made their way onto DVD. A limited time re-release of the trilogy, they were attached as “Side B” bonus disc content to the re-issued 2004 DVDs.
Even though they, unfortunately, turned out to be unrestored prints of the 1993 Laserdiscs (*cough*--which only ever looked good on non-anamorphic screens and technically weren’t even the original theatrical versions to begin with—*cough*), it was a surprise move by Lucasfilm and fans had been clamoring for these releases ever since DVD became the dominant home video format in the early 2000s. Hasbro also released afewmultipacks to help celebrate.
The year 2007 marked the 30th anniversary of A New Hope’s release in 1977. Naturally, it was a cause for celebration. Literally!
To date, this is the only year to date in which we got not one, but TWO Star Wars Celebrations. Two months after Celebration IV, Celebration Europe had the distinction of being the first Star Wars Celebration to be held outside of the United States, at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London. It certainly wouldn’t be the last; the following year, Celebration Japan honored the 30th anniversary of the original film’s Japanese release, and Germany was able to pilot the event in 2013.
Returning to the topic of Celebration IV, it was here where Hasbro, Gentle Giant, Sideshow, Dark Horse, LEGO, and Lucasarts came together under one roof to show off their upcoming projects commemorating 30 years of Star Wars.
Outside of the collecting scene, we were given more details about the upcoming TV, now officially titled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, an animated series that would tell more of the conflict that connected Episodes II and III.
We also received word that Seth MacFarlane and Seth Green, creators of the animated TV shows “Family Guy” and “Robot Chicken”, respectively, would create special episodes of their shows with permission and participation from George Lucas himself. Robot Chicken, for the first time, would go beyond their regular 15-minute runtime and combine their stop-motion crude variety show format with the colorful adventures of all 6 films, and Family Guy would stick to retelling the story of A New Hope with iconic characters from the film being portrayed by ones from the show. Both specials were hilarious love-letters to the franchise, and the producers of the shows went on to complete their circles, with Robot Chicken producing 2 more Star Wars-related specials and Family Guy retelling the stories of Empire and Jedi.
Let’s rewind to the collector scene and focus on two companies in particular. What would one expect LEGO to do for the 30th birthday of arguably the most iconic film series ever made, when they only began the license in 1999? Two minifigures of C-3PO cast from sterling silver and solid gold? Yes. A 5,195-piece Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon retailing at $500? Double yes.
As for Hasbro, their new line, naturally called The 30th Anniversary Collection, was the first true love letter to the complete Star Wars saga and seemed to be the ultimate evolution of Hasbro’s Star Wars lines at that point. In addition to new sculpts and a Vintage-inspired wave, each basic figure released before the 2008 waves came packed with a collectible silver coin that depicted the character, the film they were from, and the symbol of their allegiance. These coins would then go into a special collector’s album that came packed with a Darth Vader figure. While it was an awesome concept, Kenner had been the ones to originally introduce it into the market, from 1984-85. It was a great way to not only celebrate 30 years of Star Wars, but also 30 years of Star Wars collecting.
The beginning of 2008 marked the tragic expiration of Master Replicas’ Star Wars license. Never again would they tackle props from a galaxy far, far, away.
We already knew that The Clone Wars was coming to Cartoon Network, but this year we received word that, in a last-minute decision by Lucas, the show would be preceded by a theatrical film, making it the first Star Wars movie to be released in theaters in 3 years.
Released in August of 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was the feature-length pilot episode to the TV series, introducing the now fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano and bringing back fallen veterans such as Asajj Ventress, General Grievous, and Count Dooku. While it wasn’t as well-received as previous installments, the film, along with the show, were both the previously-mentioned bait many companies needed, as fan interest jumped into hyperspace around this time.
While Lucasfilm Animation, Hasbro, LEGO, and other companies were busy keeping fans satisfied with more Clone Wars content, and with BioWare announcing a new Star Wars MMORPG, the next big multimedia project, akin to Shadows of the Empire in 1996, was to kickoff this year with a little video game titled Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Bridging the gap in-between Episodes III and IV with a story centering on Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, the game was the first true “next-gen” Star Wars video game for the seventh generation of home video game consoles. It went on to become the fastest selling Star Wars game up to that point in time. The project went on to include a comic adaptation by Dark Horse, a novel by Del Rey, a collection of figures from good ol’ Hasbro, an expansion set to the Star Wars Miniatures card game by Wizards Of The Coast, and a sequel released in 2010.
After the releases of a new Star Wars film and a new Star Wars video game, Cartoon Network proudly presented the new Star Wars TV show, aptly named The Clone Wars, in October of 2008. Featuring Grand Master Yoda against the forces of the Separatists, the premiere attracted close to 4 million viewers, setting a record for CN’s most-watched premiere episode to date. The show then went on to become a massive success.
Each episode was a half-hour long, compared to the much shorter runtimes of Tartakovsky’s 2D series. It greatly expanded on the storyline that the prequel trilogy introduced, making the actual war itself feel more galaxy-wide. Alongside introducing many fan-favorite characters such as Clone Captain Rex & Cad Bane, the show also gave much-needed development to characters who desperately needed it; fan-favorites Boba Fett and Darth Maul being among them. It also made Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace much more believable and gave more insight as to how Palpatine’s execution of Order 66 was so easily carried out.
A total of 121 episodes were produced for the show’s initial run, making it the longest running Star Wars television show ever produced. Then suddenly, it just stopped. Season 6, in a stunning move, aired on Netflix instead of CN in 2013, and for years fans believed that was the end of the Clone Wars. But through the power of the Force, no one’s ever really gone….
Another anniversary year was marked by 2009; to be more specific, it was the year for two anniversaries.
One of these anniversaries happened to be the marking of a decade since Episode I’s theatrical release, and with it the beginning of a new generation of Star Wars collectors. The second was the celebration of LEGO’s tenth year with the Star Wars license.
Naturally, as with their treatment of A New Hope's 30th anniversary two years prior, they celebrated in style with a short lineup of brand-new sets. Ranging from a highly detailed representation of The Battle of Endor to a new version of the Tantive IV, and even a Darth Vader minifigure molded out of chrome, LEGO knew how to deliver the goods. In addition, the first of many LEGO Star Wars specials that weren’t only available for download, dubbed “The Quest for R2-D2”, aired on Cartoon Network to help celebrate. There was also the release of The LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary, the most comprehensive guide to the galaxy of LEGO Star Wars sets and the very definition of the term “eye-candy.”
Speaking of Episode I’s theatrical release, what better way to celebrate it than with a theatrically released fan-film? 2009 also marked the release of the film Fanboys. Originally shown at Celebration Europe two years earlier, it went through heavy editing as well as the unfortunate troubles of finding a studio distributor. Taking place in late 1998, the film follows a group of life-long Star Wars fans who, after one of them is diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live, go on a road trip to infiltrate Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of The Phantom Menace so they can experience the film together.
Hasbro were keeping us satisfied with not only their ever-expanding Clone Wars lineup, but also the continuation of 2008’s The Legacy Collection, another Saga Collection-like toyline but with refined, cleaner looking packaging, a “Build-A-Droid” feature similar to Marvel Legends’ “Build-A-Figure” and more emphasis on multipacks. This line was also notable for introducing the biggest and most detailed Millennium Falcon Hasbro had ever made at that point, aptly dubbed the “BMF.”
For the ones with a bit more cash to spend, in addition to Gentle Giant, Attakus, Sideshow and Kotobukiya, they had yet another company to choose from. Newcomer Diamond Select Toys, known across the galaxy for their Star Trek collectables, provided jumbo-sized, highly detailed quarter scale figures, complete with authentic looking costumes and a voice line feature activated by a button on the figures’ chests. This was an unexpectedly awesome lineup which helped Diamond Select give Sideshow’s figures a run for their money.
There were, once again, two special anniversaries marked by the year 2010. One happened to be Sideshow Collectables’ fifth year with the Star Wars license, and the other was The Empire Strikes Back’s 30th birthday. The Star Wars movie that everyone considers the best was now in its third decade of existence, and naturally this called for another celebration, this time in Orlando!
Taking place in August instead of May, Celebration V’s theme was all about Episode V. This was the first Celebration in which non-attendees could join in on the fun, as it was streamed throughout the internet. Exclusives ranged from a Boba Fett-themed cereal box to a “Lando Calrissian disguise kit.” We also got to see Jon Stewart of the Daily Show interview George Lucas, and Mark Hamill himself made what would be the first of his many (U.S.) Celebration appearances! Furthermore, voice actor Ashley Eckstein unveiled “Her Universe”, a Star Wars-themed fashion line for women.
For the collectors, Hasbro greatly expanded The Vintage Collection's lineup by introducing newly sculpted Prequel-era figures on the Kenner-styled vintage cardbacks, following the first wave that centered on The Empire Strikes Back. They also introduced a new fleet of vehicles ranging from the nimble Cloud Car to the mighty Imperial AT-AT Walker. These vehicles were the superior versions introduced in any action figure line that Hasbro had done up to that point.
As the first foreshadowing of things to come, Disney announced many collectibles which would be available at their “Star Wars Weekends” at Hollywood Studios, which was not far from Celebration.
In what would be the most significant development in a long time for Star Wars on home video, Lucas, alongside Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, took the stage and announced that, finally, all six Star Wars films would be released on Blu-Ray DVD. Not counting The Clone Wars movie and the first two seasons of the show, this was the first time Star Wars would be commercially available on Blu-Ray (the ultimate victor of the Great DVD Format War of the late 2000s), and it would be accompanied by a myriad of never-before-seen deleted scenes. This was followed by the news that all six films would see an eventual 3D re-release in theaters.
After Celebration ended, the collecting fandom got an announcement that changed the game. Hot Toys, the Hong Kong based manufacturer known for their previous sixth-scale works, announced at the end of the year that they would be flying into the Star Wars galaxy with an assortment of sixth-scale figures.
Much like Luke Skywalker, the year 2011 was full of surprises.
Kotobukiya’s ARTFX line expanded to the “ARTFX+” moniker, with the ‘+’ signifying bonus interchangeable parts to their statues. One of the first ones released, the Stormtrooper Two-Pack, was unique in the amount of accessories it came with, allowing collectors to mix and match the statue however they saw fit. In a world of static-posed statues and premium format/sixth-scale figures, this was a pretty big deal.
At San Diego Comic Con in 2011, we finally got a glimpse at Hot Toys’ first foray into the Star Wars galaxy, being none other than Luke Skywalker in his Bespin fatigues, complete with the standard hands and weapons, weather vane, and two completely alternate appearances: one with a clean look and another with a “duel damaged” look. Fun fact: the great disturbance in the Force heard by ol’ Ben Kenobi was actually the collective screaming of fan wallets.
In September, all six Star Wars films were finally available on Blu-Ray as a set titled The Complete Saga. The prequels were further restored and cleaned up from their respective DVD releases, and the original trilogy received even more alterations than its 2004 DVD release.
The set also came with three bonus discs in addition to the six films, with the first centering on special features and deleted scenes for the prequels, the second doing the same thing but for the original trilogy, and the third containing documentaries and a collection of Star Wars parodies in popular culture.
At the end of the year, Star Wars Galaxies, the first Star Wars-themed MMORPG released in 2001, was announced to have its servers shut down by Sony Online Entertainment after 11 years online. But where one fell, another rose to take its place.
BioWare, creators of the Mass Effect series, launched their first MMORPG entitled Star Wars: The Old Republic. Taking place over 3,000 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, it ended up being the third most expensive video game ever made and BioWare’s first MMORPG. Within three days of its launch, one million people subscribed, and the game’s servers remain active today. Another expansion is scheduled to be released in September 2019, nearly 8 years after launch.
Somebody must have given Biff Tannen the keys to the DeLorean again, because the year 2012 changed the past and future of the Star Wars franchise forever.
In February, The Phantom Menacereturned to theaters, having been converted to 3D. (It was literally the Blu-Ray version of the film on the big screen.) Adding an additional $100 million to its overall box office gross (the conversion only cost $10 million), the Star Wars films officially joined the billion-dollar club. Also slated for a 3D re-release were Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith, but both were postponed indefinitely due to a sudden and unexpected development later in the year.
On the 30th of October - otherwise known as D-Day - a Mayan prophecy proved true (from a certain point of view) when the Walt Disney Company took ownership of Lucasfilm Limited, and with it, the entire Star Wars franchise. In addition, George Lucas was retiring, Kathleen Kennedy was named his successor and three more Star Wars movies were announced.
The next few years were dominated by new Star Wars stories and more companies joining in on the galaxy-wide fun.
Not wasting any time at all, Hasbro began 2013 with the introduction of The Black Series, a line aimed at collectors. In addition to the usual 3.75” assortment, the line introduced a new 6-inch assortment of figures, a first for Hasbro. Combining these with beautiful, minimalist packaging, the line became one of Hasbro’s most successful Star Wars product lines that continues strong to this day. It even paid tribute to Master Replicas by resurrecting the Force FX lightsaber lineup into the market!
Outside of the collecting community, the seeds of doubt about the Grand Acquisition were planted. In April, Disney halted all internal development at LucasArts, and laid off most of its staff. However, the studio retained a very small team so it could still hand off the license to develop Star Wars video games; two companies in particular, Disney Interactive and Electronic Arts were given the great honor of bringing the power of the Force to the video game industry.
In 2014, Hot Toysfinally announced their Star Wars line, consisting of sixth and quarter scale figures, varying from Episodes I-VII. Initially bringing us Solo and the Wookiee, no trilogy was left behind in a line that is hugely popular among collectors to this day.
In June, Bandai redefined what Star Wars collectibles could be when they unveiled a 6-inch samurai version of Darth Vader at the Tokyo Toy Show. This was one of the first figures in their new Movie Realization series, taking iconic Star Wars characters and reimagining them with looks inspired by the keepers of the peace in the Edo-era of Japan. This line was alongside bringing movie-accurate characters to their S.H. Figuarts line, giving Hasbro’s Black Series a serious run for its money.
In a surprising move, Lucasfilm swept into the fan capital and officially declared the entirety of the Star Wars Expanded Universe as non-canon. Beloved characters such as Mara Jade, Kyle Katarn, Prince Xizor, and Galen Marek, as well as major events post-Return of the Jedi such as the Yuzhaan Vong War and Chewbacca’s "date with a moon" were all erased from “official” existence as if Disney gave Lucasfilm the Infinity Gauntlet.
Shortly afterwards, Lucasfilm also announced that the only canonical works would be the films and The Clone Wars. One of the very first works published under the new canon was (ironically) a novel called A New Dawn, a prequel to the upcoming TV show, Star Wars Rebels.
First announced at Celebration Europe II in 2013, Rebels was placed snugly in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, telling the origins of the Rebel Alliance and their early conflicts with the Galactic Empire, years before the Death Star is destroyed.
With a visual style inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the Original Trilogy, it was preceded by 4 shorts two months before its hour-long series premiere on Disney XD instead of Cartoon Network, which drew close to three million viewers. The show had a bit of a slow start initially due to its lighter, more kid-friendly tone compared to that of The Clone Wars. Much like that show however, Rebels eventually found its footing and became a brilliant series.
It was the same format as The Clone Wars, with half-hour long episodes. With the Expanded Universe out of the way, the writers were able to work along with the new canon to flesh out the humble beginnings of the Rebel Alliance to the point where we first see them in A New Hope. Alongside new characters such as Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger, the show also brought in players from both The Clone Wars AND the Original Trilogy. Such characters included Captain Rex, Ahsoka Tano, Mon Mothma, Governor Tarkin, and the big man himself, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones, a first!) It also was unique in the fact that it reintroduced into official canon a character thought to have perished in the Great Retcon: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Rebels ran for four seasons and actually had a proper series finale in 2018, unlike its predecessor. Its toyline, produced by Hasbro, was strange in the fact that it was a combination of content from the show and a rehashed lineup called “Saga Legends.” This was not a new concept (it had been done in The Saga Collection & The 30th Anniversary Collection), but the figures seemed to be a throwback to the Kenner days, featuring 5 points of articulation with great-looking sculpts.
The year closed out with a very special surprise: the first glimpse at Episode VII: The Force Awakens, in the form of an 88-second teaser trailer.
An end of an era came in 2015, when Dark Horse’s license to produce Star Wars comics returned to its rightful owner: Marvel Comics. Having already produced a 113-issue comic adaptation from 1977-1986, their first new series expanded on the events in-betweenA New Hope & The Empire Strikes Back, followed by two new series centering on Darth Vader and Princess Leia, respectively. It seemed to be the right move considering their acquisition by Disney in 2009.
In April, Star Wars Celebration returned to California for the first time since 2006. This was the biggest one yet folks! With a turnout of over 50,000, Celebration Anaheim started out with a seismic charge by giving a closer look at The Force Awakens, which had mostly been kept secret since the first teaser. Alongside formally introducing the new cast, a second teaser trailer dropped which made the crowd go wild, and to this day, still induces goosebumps.
On the collecting side of the Force, ANOVOS unveiled, among other Star Wars costumes and accessories, their only licensed product from Episode VII: a First Order Stormtrooper costume. DeAgostini gave the first look at a completed version of their 1:1 scale replica of the Millennium Falcon, whose unique parts could only be obtained from a magazine subscription, the first Star Wars collectible of its kind to do so. Finally, EFX Collectibles continued Master Replicas’ legacy by introducing new scale models, props, and helmets, and JAKKS Pacific had us take a gander at a Boba Fett figure with a costume never before depicted in a collectible.
EA finally gave the first footage for the new next-gen Star Wars game, a reboot of the Battlefront series developed by Pandemic Studios. Accompanied by a canon novel prequel courtesy of Del Rey, and developed by DICE, the game was scheduled to be released in November 2015, a month before Episode VII's release and ten years after Pandemic’s Battlefront II. Not having a story mode, Battlefront’s primary focus was multiplayer gameplay. Lack of single-player content and an over-reliance on season pass content made the game come under heavy criticism from fans, but great gameplay and visuals helped the game sell over 14 million copies, surpassing the sales of The Force Unleashed.
Much like the Jedi, the Star Wars saga had returned from a long exile. Comics, collectibles, and films had resumed the bustling production speed seen during the prequel days, but the question was this: how long would this renaissance last?
Stay tuned for the next installment – Part Three: The Sequel Era & Beyond – coming soon!