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Did Disney Already Give Us “Star Wars: Underworld”?

Underworld Canceled
Star Wars Underworld screen shot from espinof.com/ Interactions by D Martin

The massive success of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated series had fans eagerly anticipating another venture into the galaxy far away.  In 2005, George Lucas announced plans for a live-action television series set in the Star Wars universe called “Star Wars: Underworld.”  However, after several years of development, the project was shelved after the Disney buyout in October 2012.

Toy Fair 2007 poster

A promotional poster from Toy Fair 2007 via RebelScum

Star Wars: Underworld – What was it

“Star Wars: Underworld” was eventually canceled due to the high cost of producing the show, despite George Lucas’s ambitious plans.  According to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, the costs of producing each show episode were too high, with a price tag of around $5 million per episode.  A small sample proof of concept video shot for “Underworld” is making the rounds again on social media, making the mind wonder, would this show have momentum today?  Could Disney use all their shiny new tech on this series to make it more financially feasible to produce?  SHOULD the series be made?

Disney never produced the “Star Wars: Underworld” TV show, partly due to its estimated cost of $5 million per episode at that time ($7 million adjusted for inflation). However, Disney has shown that cost is no longer a barrier to bringing Star Wars to our screens with “The Mandalorian,” which costs an estimated $15 million per episode, with incredible visual effects and a few A-list actors.  The trend continues with “Star Wars: Andor,” which debuted on Disney+ in 2022 with a reported cost of up to $25 million per episode.  Despite the high cost, the talent involved, and the scope of the story makes it a worthy investment, especially looking at these series’ fan acceptance.

Star Wars: Andor

Star Wars: Andor from Disney+

Star Wars: Underworld – When and Where

The creators of “Star Wars: Underworld” set the idea between “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and the original Star Wars film, “A New Hope.”  The Empire was still consolidating its power, and rebellion was brewing in various corners of the galaxy.  The show would focus on the seedy criminal underworld of Coruscant, the capital planet of the galaxy-spanning Empire.  Disney also canceled the LucasArts game “Star Wars 1313“, set in the same time and place as “Underworld.”

According to Lucas producer Rick McCallum, the show would be “much more adult” in tone.  “Star Wars: Underworld” explores the gritty, noir-ish world of the criminal underworld more thoroughly than the films ever could.  Lucas planned to tell the stories of several crime syndicates vying for power, with the main characters being a group of smugglers, bounty hunters, and other lowlifes doing their best to survive in a world run by gangsters and oppressive Imperial forces. (This is sounding familiar)

Star Wars: Underworld – Who are the Characters

Lucas envisioned a mixed group of outliers and rogues trying to make a living on the fringes of society as the main characters of “Star Wars: Underworld.”  Of course, with the project still in development when it was canceled, we don’t know who would have made the final cut.   However, Lucas and his team teased several potential characters over the years, including:

Boba Fett – the iconic bounty hunter, last seen in the original trilogy getting swallowed by the Sarlacc in “Return of the Jedi.” Lucas had planned to bring Fett back for the new series, exploring his complicated backstory.  Ultimately, fans cannot get enough Fett. Knowing this, Disney brought him back to “The Mandalorian”, leading to “The Book of Boba Fett.”

The Book of Boba Fett

The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+

Han Solo – scruffy-looking nerf herder from the original trilogy. A younger Han Solo, working as a smuggler before he crosses paths with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  Perhaps the first meeting of his Wookiee companion would have come to life.  Disney brought the smuggler’s backstory to the big screen with “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story from Disney+

• A female heroine  – possibly a Jedi trainee or secret agent.  According to early reports, the show would cast the protagonist role as a female.  In her arc, she struggles with morality while trying to be a force for good in a world gone wrong.  I believe Jyn Erso fits this description well in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from Disney+

Star Wars: Underworld – Has already been made, sort of…

We may never see the completed version of “Star Wars: Underworld.”  Disney appears to be repurposing and expanding on the original idea, using it as a foundation for content.  The animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and the live-action Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” incorporate the planned bounty hunter arc elements.  The novel “Bloodline” by Claudia Gray explored the concept of the criminal underworld.  

“Star Wars: Underworld” remains a fascinating “what-if” in the Star Wars canon. The focus on seedy criminals and morally ambiguous characters could have offered a unique perspective on the galaxy far, far away.  The canceled project’s legacy remains as other Disney Star Wars productions have cannibalized the content over the last several years.  Disney already has a catalog of movies and TV shows from this era to ingest that could choke a Hutt.  “Star Wars: Underworld” is a nice piece of history with an exciting story.  However, Disney has already told this story through several other productions.  Give us the SWTOR Series we all want!

Star Wars: Underworld – What movies and shows cover the era

Chronological list of all current movies and shows between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope:

“Star Wars: The Bad Batch” (2021 – Present)
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018)
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” (2022)
“Star Wars Rebels” (2014 – 2018)
“Star Wars: Andor” (2022)
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)

Should Disney consider bringing back “Star Wars: Underworld” from the Great Pit of Carkoon? Let us know what you think in the comments or visit us on Facebook!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Matt El Guapo

    April 7, 2023 at 11:11 am

    In my opinion, the Disney acquisition shouldn’t be over looked here. Disney hasn’t exactly been kind to previous stories told in universe (RIP Extended Universe) so it’s unlikely to think that they might return to this era of story telling. That said you’re right the even though they no longer consider these things canon, they’re more than willing to steal ideas and concepts from these books/series. What it’s going to come down to is what Disney thinks can be profitable and/or what’s currently trendy. Trends in story telling are currently leaning towards sole outcast protagonists of flexible morals but good guys “deep down” a al Mando, Witcher, etc. I don’t see Disney taking a risk and making a true noir series. I think it could be great, but noir isn’t exactly a hot trend right now. Lucas was always going to make the films that he deemed right for the franchise regardless of market trends(we can argue about his judgement later); Disney is going to make the films/series that they think will be well received and have a greater return. There’s merit to both approaches, but I can’t see Disney touching a noir film/series with a 10 foot pole.

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