Star Wars 90 s Throwback: How Shadows of the Empire Changed the Galaxy

The original title for The Force Awakens references Shadow of the Empire , a’ 90 s’ Star Wars’ tale that filled in the gaps between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi .

Star Wars : The Force Awakens left moviegoers with a lot of great question over the holidays, but one was on peoples minds long before the film was released: What does the title entail? How does the Force awaken? It was a question that brought forth many gags on places like Twitter.

Thats where, last weekend, Lucasfilm creative director Pablo Hidalgo unveiled Episode VII s original name: Shadow of the Empire .

That was the name of a video game from the 90 sand a fiction. And a comic book series. And an assortment of trading cards, action figures and such that told the story of what happened to the Rebellion in between the events of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi .

In 1994, Lucasfilm started developing research projects spanning several different formats in the Star Wars cosmo. It would be called Shadows of the Empire , which is not a misspelling.( Shadows, pluralized, is the name of the 90 s products, while Shadow was the working name for Force Awakens .) According to a volume called The Secrets of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire , an exhaustive look at this multimedia venture, the idea for Shadows arrived about in a meeting between Lucasfilm and Bantam Books, which had previously published several Star Wars fictions.

Thanks to Lucasfilms unique licensing agreementwhich allowed George Lucas to retain the rights to his beloved creationsexecutives proposed research projects in which one narrative would be told across different platforms. With approving from Lucas, the movie project without the movie, as various participants called it, was underway by 1996.

The Shadows narrative would fill in the details between Episodes V and VI , a chunk of the Star Wars canon Lucas has hitherto considered off-limits. In it, we saw Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando try to save Han Solo from the bounty hunter Boba Fett while caught in a feud brewing within the ranks of the Empire. Some of the narrative was designed to explain puzzling details in the Jedi film, like the disguise Leia wore at Jabbas palace. Other parts helped set up the battle to destroy the second Death Star on Endor.

Shadows also introduced new characters like Dash Rendar, who was more or less a carbon copy of Han Solo, right down to his smugglers background and rebellious stance. He flew a ship that resembled the Millennium Falcon, got involved in a chase featuring hovering motorbikes, and is even retconned on Hoth, the snowy planet from Empire Strikes Back . If you thought Force Awakens was a potpourrus regurgitation of A New Hope , Star Wars was recycling itself long before Disney threw fund at it.

Dark Horses Shadows of the Empire comics, meanwhile, were told from the perspective of bounty hunters like Boba Fett. The video game, published by LucasArts, took Rendar and the Rebellions perspective, and the fiction jumped between plots featuring Darth Vader and the Empire. Other official products such as toys, cards, models and statues were made by companies like Kenner and Topps. Even an official soundtrack was released, though it was not by John Williams, the original composer for the cinemas. Everything but the movie, indeed.

What started as something of a cash grab became the biggest Star Wars project since the 80 s. The scale of Shadows cross-platform marketing pushing was a first for the franchise and would soon become the template.( Now, such a blitz is standard for new installments in the outer space tale, as seen with the aggressive two-year marketing campaign for The Force Awakens .)

Despite mixed reviews, Shadows of the Empire satisfied fans until the prequels and Special Edition cinemas destroyed their hopes. When Disney bought Lucasfilm for$ 4 billion in 2012, however, it was decided that anything outside of the movies and Clone Wars TV series would now be considered Legends, meaning non-canon. Shadows was lumped into this category, despite its own specific place in the Star Wars canon timeline.

But not everything from Shadows was lost. You can still find Shadows Easter eggs in your Star Wars prequels and Special Edition DVDs( or your streaming collection ). With the re-release of A New Hope in 1997, Lucas added a version of Rendars ship, the Outrider, depicted flying outside of the Cantina on the desert planet Tatooine. The Clone Wars TV indicate established the existence of the Dark Sun, an organization run by the main villain of Shadows , Prince Xizor. And Rendars name is included on as one of the pilots fighting on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back .

None of the Shadows characters seem to exist in Disneys new Star Wars canon, despite the Outriders interior shown at the Star Wars Celebration event last year. The Force Awakens has no other nods to this heavily marketed side narrative, but maybe in Episodes VIII or XI , or perhaps one of the upcoming anthology cinemas, fans of this discarded chapter will finally be acknowledged. After all, the new film borrows so much from the Star Wars fictions and comics that Disney will probably continue to mine Shadows for more beyond its name.

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