The Next Star Wars Stories

Attention: Spoilers for ‘Solo’ on your way. Proceed with caution!

Lucasfilm has kept its lips tight about the new films after Episode IX, but some projects have slipped through their fingers. The red carpet of ‘Solo’ kept us wondering about what could be next for the galaxy.

The long standing rumor of a Kenobi film heated up with the appearance of Ewan McGregor at the premiere of ‘Solo’. Rumors affirm that the movie is in full pre-production to be filmed after Episode IX. This is a highly anticipated project for many fans, no matter what the box office analysts say. Lucasfilm will not stop at their projects, they’ll just learn about the reception of Han Solo’s story.

Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke have confirmed that they’re signed for three films, suggesting sequels for the beloved scoundrel. With the box office of the movie, this is a far away dream. Maybe these aren’t sequels, but interrelated storylines for other films.

If a Boba Fett movie is also considered, then everything could fit in for the characters of ‘Solo’. Just like the MCU has been able to give Hulk a storyline in several films without making him the protagonist, something similar might occur for the next Star Wars Stories. It makes sense because the ending of ’Solo’ has many loose ends that other creators can pick up. This could create a great strategy for upcoming movies, but I don’t know how it could work. Fans are worried that the films try too hard to keep everything connected instead of expanding the mythology.

After the surprise appearance of Darth Maul in ‘Solo’, many wondered if it could be possible to watch more of Q’ira and Crimson Dawn. Darth Maul is one of those few characters widely beloved from the prequels and his story after The Phantom Menace has just been developed in the animated series (Clone Wars and Rebels). Similar to Boba Fett, it could be an option to develop other character from canon, either animated or live action. (Confession: I want a Thrown live action movie. It would be nuts.)

Even though the rumors lead to most Star Wars stories doing origin movies for certain characters, I also wonder about how they could do some event-based movies like Rogue One. In this case, they could talk about the creation of the First Order, the Republic, the slavery in Kashyyk (Chewie’s home planet), the formation of the Jedi Council, as well as following an unknown character during the Imperial Academy. It would be nice to have some stories about the Jedi, like their expansion throughout the Galaxy or their origins from the Old Republic. I know that many of these options are also great for a live action series, but I’m curious to how they differentiate between stories for the series and stories for the upcoming films.

With the cameo of Darth Maul in ‘Solo’, more possibilities opened for the connections of different storylines and characters. There’s a lot of hope about what Lucasfilm has in store for the fans as they start improving their well oiled production machine to develop movies, series, and books to expand the galaxy.

Toy Story Land And The Despise Of Kiddie Rides

On June 30th, Toy Story Land will be open for guests in Disney Hollywood Studios. This addition adds two brand new rides to the park: Alien Swirling Saucers and Slinky Dog Dash Coaster. Toy Story Mania will be refitted into the new land, with a different queue. Kiddie rides have always been look down by many fans, especially in the past decade. Some arguments that Toy Story Land is a cheap expansion could be understood, but it begs the question: why are kid rides unjustly maligned when Disney parks should have activities for everyone?

In many ways, the additions to Toy Story Land will be the first real attractions for smaller audiences in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Besides these attractions, the live shows and The Great Movie Ride (currently being replaced by Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railway) were the only experiences they could go into, some of them considered intense for small kids.

Toy Story Land is a needed addition for guests looking for their kids to do something they could enjoy. It still questions why fans were so mad about it. Isn’t Dumbo considered a classic even though is a ride for small kids? The same occurs with many classic attractions.

Even though it makes sense that hardcore fans are mad about sudden budget cuts from the original concept art, this is a common thing that happens with projects. Many elements and buildings from the original concept art were completely removed, including a cowboy area (resurfaced in Shanghai Disneyland’s version) and Al’s Toy Barn. Even though these elements weren’t particularly needed, they would give the special touches of theming that fans wanted.

This could be a case of time budget instead of money budget. Toy Story Land expands an already attraction lacking park, giving more rooms for the upcoming guests of this summer. This major expansion will also be key in dealing with the 2019 crowds expected for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Simultaneously, Imagineers are surely doing the best they can to open Mickey’s Runaway Railway as soon as they can. If this attraction uses the same ride vehicles as The Great Movie Ride, it could have enough hourly capacity (2400 guests per hour) to keep the crowds moving. For an attraction that is right in the entrance of the park, it will help with the bottlenecks expected from Galaxy’s Edge.

In many ways, this is more a case of Disney being smart about opening a major expansion rather than just budget cuts. These things are common in the parks due to the size and scale of the projects, but with the internet we are more conscious of these situations because we can compare between each concept art that Walt Disney Imagineering shows us during D23 or any of the press releases.

The fact that Imagineer are doing kiddie rides doesn’t mean they aren’t focused on theming or other E Ticket attractions. First, the attractions from Disney Hollywood Studios are not off-the-shelf rides, which has been a common practice in other versions of Toy Story Land around the world. Second, they have done a great job at theming, including Wheezy as an Audio-Animatronic at the end of Slinky Dog Dash Coaster and Mr. Potato Head possibly coming back to the queue of Toy Story Mania. They do care. It isn’t easy to keep up with so many projects, dealing with the current expansion of the Parks division that includes merchandising and consumer products.

Kiddie Rides are a necessity for a family oriented theme park, as Walt Disney always wanted it to be. Maybe Toy Story Land will not be a flashy addition compared to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge or the upcoming attractions for Epcot, but it sure will be an addition that brings great moments and emotions for the little kids that love the Toy Story movies, just as those who grew up with Woody and Buzz like me.

John Lasseter: 6 Months Later

A few days before the premiere of Coco, John Lasseter announced his 6 month leave of absence due to sexual misconduct, a shocking move to many Pixar fans but a well known problem in the industry. Pixar, a male dominant studio, had already known of some problems that women had about Lasseter ’s behavior. What was once a friendly approach during the early days of the studio became a problem that John had to face.

Six months later, we haven’t heard a thing about John Lasseter coming back. Will he retire? Should he come back?

We still don’t know much of the details behind the management of the studio, but what could be an opportunity to change leadership or a moment to highlight females in the studio has been more of a silent calm. Have women at Pixar being heard? These two problems, leadership and gender equality, need to be balanced if the studio wants to move forward. Lasseter ’s leave of absence could have been more catastrophic, but Disney appears to have had a plan to deal with the collateral damage. A complete shake up isn’t expected if the problem is only one person, but it will be interesting how Lasseter fits within Pixar after the allegations.

If Lasseter understood the consequences of his behavior and he is willing to fix the culture within the studio, then his return could be welcomed as long as he understands that it is time for new leadership to take over after cleaning up the mess. Moving the chess pieces to a different direction before his return would show outsiders a good sign. Even though John Lasseter is the main person, this doesnt mean there couldn’t be other misconducts from other people of the studio. Lets hope it isn’t the case.

The Disney-Pixar brand hasn’t been affected by this situation. The move of leaving right before being caught and being clear about his actions allowed for the press to talk for some weeks as some other personalities told their side of the story. Two weeks after the press release, most critics and insiders went silent. They were too occupied giving critical acclaim to Coco. Audiences acknowledged the problem, but they didn’t attack Pixar or other talent from the studio. Yes, Pixar is aligned to Lasseter ’s DNA, but it has proven that their projects are done with a massive group of talented individuals.

People still expect the Incredibles 2. Coco still became a highly acclaimed film. The shadow of Lasseter wasn’t enough to tarnish decades of storytelling excellence.

Will John come after or before Incredibles 2? We don’t know. Pete Docter is mentioned as a posible replacement, but no confirmation has shown. With Lasseter leaving the directorial helm for Toy Story 4, many have expected a complete retirement. It still begs the question of who will handle his leadership. Whether it is by adding more women to the Brain Trust, choosing a new Chief Creative Officer or with a return from Lasseter, Pixar has to show that it learns from its mistakes because the main problem is how management accepted this behavior for so long.

Negativity in Star Wars Fandom

Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they had to deal with the raising eyebrows of long time fans of the famous galaxy from far, far away. It happened first when they cancelled The Clone Wars TV series in favor of Star Wars. Then, fans had to deal about their favorite Star Wars novels being stripped out of canon, adding them to what is now known as Star Wars Legends. This community also raged when the company didn’t consider any story ideas from George Lucas for Episodes 7 to 9 (later to be found false, as many elements have appeared). But the single biggest rage appeared in the form of “The Last Jedi” haters, blaming Rian Johnson to have ruined their childhood, boycotting the review metrics from Rotten Tomatoes, striking against Luke Skywalker’s portrayal.

It is hard for me to know if this kind of negativity skyrocketed with the Lucasfilm acquisition, as many fans also raged during the prequel era, but it has slowly caught fire in such a way that it feels toxic.

The next target for these haters is “Solo”, opening in theaters May 25. Even though the film hasn’t even been widely released, with a premiere in May 10, individuals have already found their way to express their irrational opinions.

“Solo” has already a rough start, with a complete directorial turnover and rumors about Alden Ehrenreich’s difficulty to perform the smuggler we all know(which aren’t really true). The marketing team has done a great job at changing this perspective with several stories, trailers and teasers. Most recently, Billy Dee Williams (who portrayed Lando Calrissian in the original trilogy) was invited to the premiere and Harrison Ford did a surprise appearance to Alden Ehrenreich in a recen interview. Donald Glover has already become a main influencer in attracting people to the theatre seats, as well as the enthusiasm from director Ron Howard and screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan.

These efforts don’t seem enough for the already negative fans. Groups in social media have been vocal about boycotting “Solo”. These people, who had a love for the franchise, have decided to bury it instead of understanding that maybe they might not like the movie, but they still enjoy other areas of fandom. As a recent Star Wars convert, one of the things I love the most about Star Wars is that you can be interested in very niche topics or specific merchandise, giving room to many fans with different ways to express their fandom. But the hater seem to forget this aspect altogether.

The reactions from the unhappy fans reflect a world were we just moan about stuff we don’t like, even though there will always be things we don’t enjoy in the world. Lucasfilm has done the difficult job of refueling the franchise with new series coming up, the sequel trilogy, a theme park area, new books, and more. They are doing the best to move forward while many fans are holding them back.

Maybe this negativity is a very loud minority, but it is affecting the landscape of the franchise. Let’s just hope they consider the potential of a brighter future, just like Marvel fans have experienced a Renaissance they never thought of in their wildest dreams. “Solo” promises to reunite the fandom as a palate cleanser from “The Last Jedi”, but it will be a difficult remedy to swallow if the fans are already hesitant to give it a try.

Mickey Doesn’t Talk Anymore. Now What?

Back in Spring of 2015, I had one of the most emotional experiences ever in my life.

Yes, read that again.

Right before watching the Festival Of Fantasy parade, I visited Mickey Mouse. My family waited near Town Square. The wait time was 15 minutes. The only way to share my experience was my phone and my memories.

“You know Mickey, Rafael is coming all the way from Venezuela to visit!”, a Cast Member said.

“Venezuela? Great! I have a great idea. ¿Nos tomamos una foto juntos?”, Mickey said.

That moment when he talked to me and even mentioned my country, I knew that this was the next step in meet & greets. My heart started pounding, my eyes got teary, and I was just talking to the most famous mouse in the whole universe.

Disney Parks management thinks differently. Mickey has lost his voice in the past few days, as well as any hopes for expanding this great character interaction to other characters. There has been no official announcements.

Park management arguments this decision because people get confused when Mickey doesn’t talk in other Meet & Greets or even other characters. But we can look at the problem another way.

What if Disney could expand this initiative to more characters? Why should Mickey talk only in the Magic Kingdom?
This decision is, mostly, a cost cutting measure. As simple as that, without any PR pixie dust. It’s a shame to see not only Mickey go, but the possibility of expanding this technology to more interactive Meet & Greets. I imagined the possibilities to use this technology in controlled situations such as dining experiences, designated areas and even Disney hotels. If Meet & Greets have become such an important aspect of the Disney experience, why not invest fully in it?

I’m not sure if this is only a temporary decision due to the further investments for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, but I’m sure that the company could embrace this technology for other characters, even justify the cost by first operating them in ticketed events and later expand for the day to day guest.

Or it is just a case to make hard decisiones like getting rid of this great experience while management handles the new structure of Walt Disney Imagineering and further expansion in the parks.