On the Brink of the Future

Pablo Hidalgo | October 30, 2012

For Star Wars fans, today’s great news is seismic. The prospect of new movies invites a rush of questions as the mind races to grasp its implications. The one that sticks in my mind, though, isn’t about the movies. It’s: “Where were you when you heard?” While the temptation is to speculate wildly on what lies beyond the horizon and be mindful of the future, I also don’t want to lose track of the present, as Qui-Gon advises in Episode I.

To my fellow old school Star Wars fans, I ask you to reach into your collection and dust off Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine #10, the Winter 1990 issue of the official fan club magazine. I’ll wait while you admire the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade cover. Now flip it open, and there, on page 1, is the breathless headline that blares, “The FORCE To Return In The 90′s!!”

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I’ll let slide the non-standard rendering of “’90s,” and the double exclamation point – things I’d nix as an editor – because I can recall my excitement, as a 15-year-old, reading that news. It was an antediluvian era of fandom, where I could only expect an official update once every three months, and I didn’t have that many like-minded fans to discuss this news with. Being stuck with just that tantalizing announcement for months on end is what let it solidify in my mind as a memory. Nowadays, everything moves so quickly … but I have been keeping notes.

This announcement of new movies is the culmination of several other big changes at Lucasfilm. It was on Friday, June 1, when the word came down that Kathleen Kennedy would be joining Lucasfilm as its co-chair. I was at Lucasfilm Animation that morning, in the screening room seeing work in progress of future installments of The Clone Wars and Detours. Meagan Finnerty plucked me out of the screening because something BIG was going down, and the folks at StarWars.com needed me right away to help with a rush post, something made particularly unusual since I was no longer on the online team. Rush post? What kind of breaking news could there possibly be?

That was the first piece of great news. I had met Kathleen briefly during the making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I had long admired her work. In reviewing her impressive filmography so that we could post it online, it was easy to see at a glance just how many acclaimed movies she has produced. This was a true moviemaking power being put in command of Lucasfilm. It wasn’t hard to speculate what this could mean. Definitely more movies in Lucasfilm’s future… but could we dare think it would mean more Star Wars?

Then on June 29, 2012, I found out. I was called into a meeting to discuss, oh, something or other about updating future messaging for Lucasfilm. In order for me to get a better grasp of what that future entailed, my boss just sprang the news on me that, and I quote, “We’re making seven, eight and nine.” He didn’t say Star Wars. He didn’t have to. Why else would those numbers have any relevance?

I needed to sit down. I suspect he told me the news in precisely that way to gauge my reaction. I said something that’s unprintable here.

I picked up a small pocket-sized 160-page lined notebook. This would be my Grail Diary of the future of Star Wars. I quickly scribbled down all that had happened so far. See, I was lucky enough to have a ringside seat to the making of Episode III from 2003 to 2005. Back then, it was my job to keep an online journal of the making of that movie. Alas, that digital diary has vanished into the Internet ether, but my notes remain. So, regardless of whatever my role might be in witnessing the future of Star Wars, I wanted to continue to keep these notes, because people expect me to know the when and where of these things.

In short order, I met with some of Kathleen Kennedy’s key staffers who were now aboard with Lucasfilm. I introduced myself to her expanding story development team, and offered what insight I could given my long history with Star Wars and my deep knowledge of the saga. I’ve been fortunate to become known as one of the guys who knows Star Wars inside and out within the company. As George Lucas began preparing his treatments for future films, I’d get random requests for research from his office, and helped prepare documents, primers and writer guides for the next generation of Star Wars filmmakers, whoever they may be.

Then, just a few short days ago, the other shoe dropped when I heard about the Walt Disney Company acquiring Lucasfilm. My first thought went to that 1990 article with its seven scant paragraphs that promised new movies. When George talked about the future of Star Wars, over 20 years ago, he was at Walt Disney World. It was destiny. The will of the Force at work.

At this point, I don’t know many specifics, but boy can I speculate. It’s what Star Wars fans do best, after all. I’m just thrilled they’re happening, and that Star Wars is returning to the big screen where it belongs.

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Pablo Hidalgo is paid to know the difference between Romba and Lumat and dies a little bit inside when you misspell Wookiee or Lucasfilm. He lives in San Francisco.

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