With ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Nearing The End, Where Does The ‘Star Wars’ Animation Division Go Next?

Last week, fans of Star Wars Rebels were delivered a massive blow. Showrunner Dave Filoni announced at Star Wars Celebration Orlando that the upcoming fourth season of the show would also be its last. Filoni tried to cushion the blow by saying it was better this way and he knew from personal experience working on the animated version of Star Wars: The Clone Wars just how frustrating it can be not to be able to bring a series to a close. And while it wasn’t said, quite frankly Rebels was running out of runway as the show gets ready to butt up against the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Filoni did reassure fans that though Rebels was heading into the sunset, that didn’t mean Lucasfilm Animation would be hanging up its black cowboy hat.

Part of what Filoni meant was surely the upcoming Star Wars: Forces of Destiny animated micro-series that will put the spotlight on the women of a galaxy far, far away. But Forces of Destiny is an experimental project for YouTube, one tied into a book and toy line for children in much the same way that Mattel did with Monster High’s early years. It seems unlikely the Lucasfilm Animation department would only be tasked with creating three-minute shorts, no matter how wicked cool the main characters are. So then, what’s next? As always, Disney is playing it close to the vest with their next Star Wars project, but a few time periods ripe for story exploration stick out.

#1 – After the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.
This is probably the safest bet for the next installment of Lucasfilm animation. So far, the division has been going in chronological order, filling in gaps in the plot as if trapped going in a straight line. Setting a new cartoon before the events of The Empire Strikes Back would give the team approximately three in-universe years to work with. It would also eliminate any pesky spoilers since the audience would know exactly where the main players such as Luke, Leia, and Han will be by the end of the series. This could free up Lucasfilm to tell the stories of others in the Rebellion, the Empire, or even those outside the conflict such as the smugglers and the cartels and perhaps intersect them with the main cast.

#2 – Before the events of Star Wars Rebels.
When Rebels first aired, it was set five years before the events of A New Hope. This leaves a good 13 years of unexplored time after the end of Revenge of the Sith. A story set here could supplement the upcoming LucasBooks novel about young Princess Leia, as well as explore Obi-Wan’s transformation from Jedi Master to Tatooine wizard hermit as he guards Luke against Darth Vader. Taken another way, a show in this period could show the formation of the nascent Empire and Rebellion. After all, a tyrannical dystopia isn’t built in a day. It creeps in by inches until it’s too late to stop it.

#3 – After the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
In terms of potential story, the three decades between the destruction of the Death Star over Endor and the opening crawl of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most fertile. Thirty years allows for a lot of potential. The animation division could delve into the immediate consequences, perhaps augmenting the Aftermath novels by Chuck Wendig. Who wouldn’t want to see Norra Wexley, Jas Emari, and Mr. Bones brought to life? Wendig was also given specific instructions to (mostly) leave the main cast alone, which implies Lucasfilm intends to tell the story of what Luke and Leia were up to after the end of Return of the Jedi.

Another option would skip ahead a decade or two and watch the seeds of discontent with the state of the New Republic blossom into what would be the First Order. Lucasfilm could delve into what it’s like to be born a First Order trooper, or see the New Republic through the eyes of a generation that doesn’t remember the war with the Empire. If we’re really lucky, they could show us what Luke Skywalker has been up to, though I wouldn’t hold your breath. Most likely the mystery of Luke’s missing years will be filled in on the silver screen or saved until the new trilogy is completed.

#4 – Odds and Ends
As the Star Wars galaxy is so complex, there are almost too many options for the Lucasfilm Animation Department for me to mention in a single article. While the three mentioned above are the most likely, they’re far from the only choices. There’s the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. There’s the space between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Then there’s the yawning chasm that used to be where The Old Republic lived, but all that history has been wiped out with the Disney merger. It’s just waiting to be filled. The history of the Guardians of the Whils, the mysteries of the Jedi Temples, the ancient history of planets both familiar and new. The list is overwhelming. So yes, Star Wars Rebels may be ending, but thankfully there’s more than enough lore to keep the animation team busy well into retirement decades for now.