It's no secret that the lack of Star Wars news to come from either Celebration or the D23 Expo has been a major disappointment. The franchise's television future on Disney+ is relatively clear for the next few years, though the theatrical waters remain murky. Any anticipation for film announcements has been met with Lucasfilm's trademark secrecy.
Such a tight-lipped approach at Star Wars Celebration was particularly perplexing, given the nature of the event and the lack of positive motion picture developments in recent years. Much of the studio's main presentation was spent discussing the Willow series and Indiana Jones 5 - a bonus for fans of those properties, but an irritation for people in Jedi cosplay who payed top dollar to attend.
While a more general presentation at D23 is acceptable and unsurprising, the Star Wars segment of Lucasfilm's time on stage only provided updates for shows that could be done in tweets. The roof was far from blown off the building, and the Star Wars faithful expected nothing less. As head of the company, Kathleen Kennedy naturally draws the most ire for these lackluster episodes... but it may not entirely be her fault.
New Star Wars Announcements Prevented by Disney
Industry insider Matthew Belloni of Puck reported that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy "was advised by Disney to stop announcing projects and creative partners."
The reasoning for the blockage comes down to "media management," an effort to prevent fans and press from further tackling Lucasfilm following the cancellation of a slew of projects in recent years. The Rogue Squadron announcement video by Patty Jenkins and exciting press releases for Rian Johnson and D.B. Weiss & David Benioff's respective trilogies are examples of Star Wars hype falling flat, an issue Disney is attempting to avoid.
Who's to Blame for the Star Wars News Drought?
Lucasfilm has a good thing going from 2015 - 2017, at least as far as marketing and brand awareness goes. The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, though each received in dramatically different ways by fans and casual audiences alike, were shown off during every commercial break, across countless toy aisles, and even on pieces of fruit. What was coming next was hardly a concern.
That abruptly changed with the approach to Solo, and things haven't been the same since. Without the extended build-ups to new releases, Star Wars projects come and go with the wind, leaving fans asking for more before one thing has finished. And to this point, Lucasfilm has failed to meet those calls. Star Wars is somehow in a perpetual drought when there's arguably never been more content each year than now.
What's often presumed as extreme caginess on Lucasfilm's part is evidently the result of the company following a directive from Disney. Both companies are many things, but they aren't completely clueless to fan perception. Between the response to the sequel trilogy and uproar over endless cancellations and delays, Star Wars fans have given the suits enough hell that can't go unnoticed.
After The Rise of Skywalker, Kathleen Kennedy shared that Lucasfilm would take a three-year hiatus to get their theatrical ducks in a row. Had things gone according to plan, Rogue Squadron would be landing in theaters next December. In fact, had Covid never happened, the next film was originally planned to release in two months' time.
Rogue Squadron isn't happening. Certainly not next year, and most likely never. The same can be said for an abundance of projects - some of which were eventually turned into Disney+ series, like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
If things don't blow up, the next film now should be Damon Lindelof's project, reportedly to be directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. The nature of the movie is unknown. Everything about it has been shared by the trades, not formally by Lucasfilm. Add it to the list of movies fans would love to hear about at Celebration or D23, but apparently can't be publicly discussed.
It's the smart move on Disney's end from a PR standpoint. Star Wars movies have been a revolving door since the company acquired Lucasfilm, even when new films were being released. But it fails to address the larger problem: why these pictures fail to get off the ground. Disney and Lucasfilm going silent on Star Wars films may avoid upheaval in the short term, but a continued lack of progress will prove fans to be less forgiving than Darth Vader.