Star Wars: The High Republic is launching and the response has been underwhelming for Lucasfilm. Now the blame game has begun as the “mega-story” limps out of the gate. The prime target is blaming Jon Favreau for the perception that he has enabled what individuals in Lucasfilm view as toxic demographics. More specifically, Luke Skywalker emboldened one part of a divided audience.
I know it’s easier to type HR and not High Republic but this is all I see when people do it pic.twitter.com/p9HSKEAnj5
— Mollie 🌙 (@DarthMaullie) January 5, 2021
Sources tell me that the Lucasfilm Story Group that has been heavily involved in the development of The High Republic is frustrated for several reasons. First, the reveal of Luke Skywalker in the finale of The Mandalorian’s second season took all the oxygen out of High Republic. Who cares about The High Republic if they’re all wondering what happens with Luke Skywalker and his new padawan Grogu (baby Yoda’s revealed name)? Worse, I’m told they’re furious because they weren’t informed about Luke Skywalker being the season send-off surprise. The people working on High Republic had no idea that Favreau and Filoni would be driving the fanbase into hyperdrive just before they launched a new sub-property that is significantly different. This sort of explains why they struck out at the fanbase reaction publicly.
To really twist the dagger, individuals at Lucasfilm are angry because not only did the Pablo Hidalgo situation blow up in their faces, but then celebrities began thanking Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Mark Hamill. To them, this is a betrayal of Kathleen Kennedy, who originally put Favreau with Filoni for the Mandalorian. Nobody is thanking KK for The Mandalorian or Luke, and nobody is thanking the Story Group for anything.
What all this has done is make a previously whispered-about schism turn into a full-blown public display of the two visions at Lucasfilm. Nobody in their right mind can look at The High Republic and The Mandalorian and conclude those are two sub-properties following the same mission statement under a unified Lucasfilm. And because fans are now picking sides, High Republic seems to be knee-capped by the popularity of The Mandalorian, as well as the fear that High Republic signals a return to sequel trilogy style Star Wars.
The result is that I’m told meetings and discussions are forthcoming about how to manage the public relations situation. People behind High Republic want Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to speak in a complimentary fashion in regards to Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and The High Republic. They feel that in the absence of those kind words, toxic parts of the “fandom” are filling the gap. Internal financial projections for High Republic have reportedly tanked since the online trailer was released. Initial reception of Light of the Jedi has been tepid at best.
The question now for Disney is which of these two paths forward have the greatest potential. The High Republic already seems limp. The Favreau-Filoni Star Wars Universe has tremendous excitement and skyrocketing budgets (at a time Disney doesn’t have budgets for almost anything else). High Republic doesn’t sell Disney+. Luke Skywalker, Baby Yoda, The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, Boba Fett… they sell Disney+. And despite my strong disdain for Bob Iger due to willingness to chase the Chinese market at any cost (even praising governments running concentration camps if necessary), my sources say that he’s fully behind Jon Favreau. And in all likelihood, that means the Kathleen Kennedy camp for Star Wars’ direction is going to be more bitter as time goes on.
My guess is that High Republic will crawl along, pulling a Star Wars Resistance. PR and Marketing will likely convince Favreau and Filoni to put in a good word in some interview. But the damage is already done – keeping Luke Skywalker a secret from almost everyone at Lucasfilm has sent a message loud and clear. Favreau is in charge of The Mandalorian and every spin-off series and film that comes from it. And Favreau is in charge of the only Star Wars fans seem to care about. There are no consultations with Lucasfilm needed in the future – he and Filoni are in the driver’s seat.