Way back in June 2012, it was announced that Kathleen Kennedy was taking over the reins at LucasFilm, as iconic filmmaker George Lucas began to phase himself out of the company he built. Just a few months later, in October 2012, Disney announced they were purchasing LucasFilm for a whopping $4 billion, while revealing that a new Star Wars movie will hit theaters in 2015. Four years later, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens setting a domestic box office record with $936.6 million and $2.06 billion worldwide, the franchise is bigger than ever, both on the big screen and in many other ways, largely in part thanks to Kathleen Kennedy's vision.
In the three years between the initial LucasFilm sale announcement and the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was revealed that a "story group" would be created, to connect all aspects of this galaxy far, far away. It was also confirmed that the massive Expanded Universe of novels and comic books were not officially part of the Star Wars canon, with a new expansive series of novels, comic books and other materials that would all fall under this ever-growing canon. Star Wars story group creative executive Rayne Roberts recently appeared on the Black Girl Nerds podcast, where she spoke about how Kathleen Kennedy's first initiative when joining LucasFilm was to create this story group that worked on every aspect of the franchise, on and off the screen.
"I've spoken to [Kathleen Kennedy] about it, and what her initial idea was when she came into the company was, you know, she'd produced countless big franchise movies over her career, and a lot of times she'd noticed that there would be these ancillary books or supporting materials that would be developed to support these films, and the people that would go make those were not the same people who had been involved in making the movies, and there was this kind of disconnect. And so she was very intentional about saying, 'I want to create a central development team that has their hands in everything, so that all of the various media can be really intuitively and intentionally connected.'"
Ahead of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens release, LucasFilm launched a slew of these books in a series they called Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, offering stories set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The studio also released the popular video game Star Wars: Battlefront just weeks before the movie hit theaters, and even after its release, more comics and books debuted, including one that revealed the origin of C-3PO's red arm. With two more sequels and three more spinoffs coming over the next few years, at the very least, the universe's popularity is at an all-time high, with Rayne Roberts revealing this story group helps move the franchise forward in a cohesive way.
"I think it's been really comforting for [Kennedy] to know that the same team she works with to develop these movies is also in deep communication with everyone else. And we're continuing to get better and better at it, that's what's really exciting. I mean, we've had our first couple of years where we've created connectivity, but we've got a lot more ideas to come."
LucasFilm will next release their first spinoff, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters December 16, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15, 2017), Han Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25, 2018), Star Wars: Episode VIII (2019) and a third spinoff widely rumored to center on Boba Fett, set for release in 2020. It was also recently confirmed that LucasFilm and ILM is venturing into virtual reality, with LucasFilm's ILMxLAB confirming at Star Wars Celebration last month that they're working on a VR Darth Vader movie with writer David S. Goyer. Stay tuned for the latest on the massive Star Wars universe as soon as more updates come through.