After ‘Rise of Skywalker,’ It’s Up to Disney+ to Carry the ‘Star Wars’ Banner

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A Skywalker (or two) may rise later this year, but after Disney concludes its current “Star Wars” saga in December, that galaxy far, far away will be a bit further from the big screen.

“We will take a pause, some time, and reset,” CEO Bob Iger told Bloomberg last week about Disney’s plans for the franchise in movie theaters after “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Enter Disney+, the company’s streaming play, which will hit the market on Nov. 12.

While LucasFilm and Disney figure out where “Star Wars” goes after “The Rise of Skywalker” on the big screen, Disney+ will be tasked with carrying on the legacy of the brand. That all begins on that same on Nov. 12 launch date with “The Mandalorian,” the first-ever live action TV series set inside the “Star Wars” universe.

Disney’s streaming service is one of the company’s biggest priorities. Last week, the company held a glitzy event at its legendary Studio 2 at its Burbank, California headquarters, where it formally unveiled its challenge to Netflix in the streaming wars.

And “Star Wars” will be a major part of that.

Disney turned heads in 2012 when it bought George Lucas’ company LucasFilm for $4 billion, reviving a dormant franchise that was still licking its wounds from the tepid response for the prequel trilogy, which had ended with 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith.” The Mouse House didn’t buy it just for the catalog; it crafted an ambitious strategy to not only release a new trilogy, but to pump out “Star Wars” content with the same ferocity that worked so well with Marvel.

But after successfully re-introducing “Star Wars,” Disney’s plan fell into the Sarlacc pit.

Starting in December 2015, “The Force Awakens” earned just over $2 billion at the box office. The first follow-up, the standalone “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” made just over a billion dollars a year later. And the official sequel to “The Force Awakens,” 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” matched expectations with a box office total of $1.3 billion despite an unexpectedly divided fan response.

But just five months later, the second standalone film, “Solo,” face-planted at the box office with just under $400 million worldwide. There’s a lot of possible reasons why that happened, but the upshot is that “Star Wars” had its first flop. And in response, Disney has quietly stepped back from its original plan of a new film each year.

Still in the works are a pair of new film series helmed by “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and another one from “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson. But there’s been no news on either project since they were announced. “There will be other ‘Star Wars’ movies, but there will be a bit of a hiatus,” was all Iger had to say about them last week.

Maybe that’s why LucasFilm chief Kathleen Kennedy’s words at Disney’s investor event, when she said the new streaming service “offers an unbelievably exciting opportunity for ‘Star Wars,'” carried a bit more weight beyond being simple platitudes.

Along with “The Mandalorian,” Disney+ will feature a series starring Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor character from “Rogue One,” with Alan Tudyk also reprising his role as the droid K2S0 from the 2016 film. Additionally, Disney+ is reviving the animated “Clone Wars” series that aired on Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2014.

Created by Jon Favreau, “The Mandalorian” stars Pedro Pascal as the title character and takes place in the time period between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” — roughly five years after the fall of the Galactic Empire. Pascal plays a Boba Fett-like character, described as “a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic…”

The eight-episode series features the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, Taika Waititi and Rick Famuyiwa behind the director’s chair. Along with Pascal, “The Mandalorian” features a cast that includes Nick Nolte, Werner Herzog, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers and Omid Abtahi.

During Disney’s investor day, Favreau said the familiar-yet-unseen time period for “Mandalorian” should cater to both new and old “Star Wars” fans.

“Because we’re starting with new characters in a new time period, it’s a great way to bring new fans in,” he said. “These aren’t characters that you have to know. There’s no history that’s demanded for you to be able to step in see what ‘The Mandalorian’ is all about.”

Last weekend’s annual Star Wars Celebration in Chicago kicked off on Friday with the title reveal and debut trailer for “The Rise of Skywalker,” which is meant to bring a close to the “Star Wars” universe that three generations of fans have grown up with.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that the weekend ended up with talk of “The Mandalorian,” alluding to a future where the galaxy far, far away does not include the big screen.

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