The Star Wars universe has been littered with rumors over the years, and the speculation and guessing are rewarded by the few and far between official announcements released to fans. In celebration of Star Wars Day, I’ve gathered some of the major announcements that have been made over the years along with what they meant for the Star Wars universe and fan base alike.
When: May 14, 1980
What: At a press conference, the name of Episode VI was announced as “Revenge of the Jedi”, following a conversation with the movie’s producer that “Return of the Jedi” was a weak title. Although the name was short-lived, the merchandise that was produced and distributed managed to be snatched up like hotcakes and are now considered high dollar collector’s items for those who managed to snag them.
When: April 10, 1981
What: The original Star Wars is re-released into movie theaters with the addition of “Episode IV: A New Hope” to the title. This name wasn’t given to the original movie until after Episode V. The renaming provided clarification to fans as to the sequence of the films and confirmed that these films were following the middle chapter of Lucas’ original 9 movie series storyline.
When: December 17, 1982
What: George Lucas changes the title of Episode VI back to “Return of the Jedi.” Regardless of the fact that immeasurable amounts of money had already been shelled out to promote the title previously mentioned, Lucas reverted back to his original choice for the name of Episode VI. Fans in the know of this adjustment were later given the proverbial head nod by Lucas when he named the third and final chapter he intended to write in his lifetime.
When: October 4, 1993:
What: Variety Magazine: George Lucas announces that he will produce (and subsequently direct) Star Wars prequels Episodes I-III. If we had Twitter back in 1993, it probably would have collapsed when this announcement broke. Not only have original die hard Star Wars fans been spending 16 years of their lives in a dry spell, they’d been beating their heads against the wall in the attempt to answer demanding questions from their children, questions far more dreaded than “Where do babies come from?” Questions like “If Star Wars begins with Episode IV, where are I, II, and III?” and most importantly, “How did Luke’s father become Darth Vader?” Never fear, kids, your godfather George Lucas has promised to answer all of your burning questions.
When: January 31, 1997
What: Lucasfilm kicks off the release of Special Edition versions of the original Star Wars films, beginning with A New Hope. These movies with added features were released to increase anticipation for and promote Episode I, as well as to…well..make a ridiculous amount of money, which they did. However, these releases began the trend of George Lucas’ new found love for CGI. For long time fans, these editions were the beginning of the end for the Star Wars universe they have always known and loved. If you own the original versions of these films, keep them close to your heart because the CGI rendering of Jabba the Hutt slithering around yapping at Han Solo all but ruins the perfection that is A New Hope.
When: September 25th, 1998
What: The official Star Wars website announces the title for Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This title was released only eight months before Episode I hit theaters, so the excitement had risen to a fever pitch and most fans had already compiled their list of ideal names for this high anticipated movie. Let’s just say The Phantom Menace didn’t show up on any of them. The consensus was that this just didn’t sound like the name of a beloved Star Wars film. However, shortly thereafter fans were sated when the first movie poster was released. After all, in Lucas we trust, right?
When: January 5, 1999
What: George Lucas announces he will be finished with the movie series of nine films, leaving three unmade. The series will be complete after Episode III is released. FURY AND CHAOS ENSUES. I feared for Lucas’ life on this day. Fans know his Star Wars universe consists of nine movies, and by God they want their nine frickin’ movies. Nevermind that creating these movies would consume the remaining years of Lucas’s life! We don’t care. Give us our movies! Lucas defended his decision by claiming he wouldn’t live long enough to complete all nine movies himself, and he would never hand over the rights to his precious franchise. (As we all know now…patience is a virtue and never say never).
When: August 7, 2001
What: Lucasfilm announces via the official Star Wars website the title of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The idea of the budding and forbidding romance between Anakin and Padme was a massive promoting took for Episode II to attract more than just kids and men over 40 to the theater. However, the movie’s name had to stay true to its galactic war themed roots. Unlike its predecessor, the title Attack of the Clones satisfied and enthralled most fans, as it meant an enhancement on the origin story of the clones and everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
When: July 24, 2002
What: Lucasfilm announces the title of Episode III at San Diego Comic-Com: Revenge of the Sith. As mentioned above, the title pays homage to the temporary name of Episode VI. The most exciting thing about this announcement was, however, not the name itself, but what came with it. The movie’s title was revealed at the end of a dramatic montage of all of the prior films. It’s awesome to watch even today, and it was marketing gold.
When: October 30, 2012:
What: Disney announces its purchase of Lucasfilms and its intent to continue the Star Wars movie franchise with Episode VII. I’m pretty sure Twitter really did crash for this one. Fans all over the galaxy (including this Star Wars nerd) were in an uproar of mixed emotions of this announcement. We couldn’t help but feel that familiar tingle of excitement over the revitalization of the franchise (because even though history has taught us to be skeptical, who wouldn’t do a little happy dance over this?). We also couldn’t help but have nightmare visions of Mickey Mouse yielding a light saber. Conclusion: skeptical nervous excitement? Still undecided.
When: April 29, 2014
What: The cast of Star Wars: Episode VII is announced, which includes original cast members such as Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3pO), and Kenny Baker (R2D2). I can’t help but let myself feel a lot more excitement and a little less dread as a result of this latest development. The photo below gives me the good kind of goosebumps (that’s right, I’m not ashamed). Director J.J. Abrams appears to be trying to take Episode VII back to its roots in an attempt to bring us all back to what we know and love. The addition of acclaimed actors such as Oscar Isaac and Andy Serkis also feeds into the slightly hesitant enthusiasm that surrounds Episode VII.
This concludes our roundup of Star Wars breakthrough developments from over the years. I’ll leave you to swish that around for a while, see how it tastes. The next big development fans will be on the lookout for is surely a title for Episode VII. My best guess? San Diego Comic-Con 2014. Until then, May the 4th be with you all.