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When Star Wars was released in 1977, it was such a cultural phenomenon that expanded universe stories (known in fan circles as EU) were the natural solution in that a comic book adaptation could only go on for so long before new material was needed. This has been an industry now for over three decades, and has led to comics, cartoons, novels and video games based on non-Lucas-sourced ideas. And none of this will be in any way used in Star Wars: Episode VII.

An era has ended in the sense that now all this material will be more closely filtered through the head honchos. But it’s understandable as this business was never built on quality. The one time it seemed EU might get respectable was the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1991, which was meant to launch a new wave of interest in Star Wars, and his “Thrawn trilogy” was hoped to be the Episodes 7-9 that George Lucas had talked about while making the original trilogy. Alas, the Zahn series (like so much EU material) was, in drug parlance, some stepped on stuff.  Here’s Lucasfilm’s video on this subject:

And here’s the press release:

For over 35 years, the Expanded Universe has enriched the Star Wars experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond what is seen on the screen. When he created Star Wars, George Lucas built a universe that sparked the imagination, and inspired others to create. He opened up that universe to be a creative space for other people to tell their own tales. This became the Expanded Universe, or EU, of comics, novels, videogames, and more.

While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.

Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects ofStar Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.

“We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon,” said Kennedy. “We’re set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before.”

In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.

Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new Legends banner.

On the screen, the first new canon to appear will be Star Wars Rebels. In print, the first new books to come from this creative collaboration include novels from Del Rey Books. First to be announced, John Jackson Miller is writing a novel that precedes the events of Star Wars Rebelsand offers insight into a key character’s backstory, with input directly from executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman.

And this is just the beginning of a creatively aligned program of Star Wars storytelling created by the collaboration of incredibly talented people united by their love of that galaxy far, far away….

Basically, what they’re saying is for the EU material to continue (and it will) it has to be a part of the new branding, and where Lucas may have let projects go on without having a vested interest, the new regime will be more hands on. It also means that whatever your favorite characters are from any spin-off material, they’re unlikely to ever get their own movie. And possibly will never be mentioned again.

Have you read much EU material for any property?