We might not have to wait until Episode VII hits theaters to see the elements it's adding to the Star Wars universe.
Speculation about what J.J. Abrams' new installment in the saga will add, destroy or change about the Star Wars canon has become something of its own cottage industry even in the corners of the web where there are plenty of other nerdy things to think about every day. Episode VII rumors and theories are legion, and so many of them seem like plausible parts of the puzzle that it often feels like there's enough Star Wars material in the Internet rumor mill to fill an entire trilogy of movies. All of that speculation will only increase as the film's release gets closer, but soon we might be able to blame it, in part, on an official source.
According to Entertainment Weekly, because Disney and Lucasfilm are committed to building a cohesive Star Wars universe extending through every incarnation of the franchise, the Episode VII team is "creatively in cahoots" with the creators of the upcoming animated series Star Wars: Rebels, which will premiere on The Disney Channel in October, 14 months before Episode VII hits theaters.
“It’s a very integrated process, there’s real communication between all the filmmakers because we’re all part of a larger timeline,” Rebels executive producer and Episode VII creative consultant Simon Kinberg said. “There is absolutely communication and integration between the different stories. We are very aware of what they’re doing in VII, and we also have to click into place with Episode IV.”
Rebels, as you've probably heard, takes place in between Episode III and Episode IV, and features characters (as the title suggests) beginning to fight for independence from the Galactic Empire. It's a long way from Episode VII in continuity, but because Disney's committed to consistent Star Wars worldbuilding on a massive scale, the series will not only be dropping in "set-ups and Easter eggs" for the events of the original Star Wars trilogy, but also might feature the introduction of locales, ships, aliens and other elements that could return in Episode VII.
"There are characters, vehicles, imagery that are introduced in the show before we’ve ever seen them in the movies, possibly including VII,” Kinberg said.
We've already heard rumors of villains in Rebels also popping up in Episode VII, and while we'll likely have to wait a long while to find out if those rumors are true, this report does lend more credence to those particular whispers. Now whenever we see something new in Rebels, we'll be wondering what role, if any, it plays in Episode VII and beyond. Disney's clearly emphasizing the interconnectivity of its approach to Star Wars storytelling, and now we get to see if that approach pays off.
Star Wars: Rebels premieres on the Disney Channel on Oct. 3, then airs regularly on Disney XD beginning Oct. 13.