From an initial description, a “lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy”, to the revelation in-series of the Child, Disney and Lucasfilm have aimed to police the discursive framing of The Mandalorian, and with it the exclusive, original and ‘plus’ content of Disney+.
Alongside new stories (in a new medium and format) from the Star Wars Universe, much of the focus of official materials has been creativity, storytelling, and the energy or passion in those involved in producing the series. Jon Favreau has noted new “opportunities” for formats/stories with streaming, specifically Disney+, with the chance to “explore these characters beyond the show” (1). But Favreau also situates the series in relation to the Saga, departing from the focus of the films, but a continuation “draw[n] from all over Star Wars” (2).
Trade discourses, particularly responding to the opening episode, acknowledge the blend of novel and familiar, not off-putting with familiar species, the look and feel of the Star Wars Universe, an “all-new story in the Star Wars universe”, but again qualifying new, not too new (3).
Rick Famuyiwa, director of Chapters 2 and 6 stresses the scale and cinematic nature of the series. Likewise, reviews repeated Disney’s description as the first live-action Star Wars series, albeit problematising distinctions between tv and cinema, in relation to its scope or scale, groundbreaking technology, and later Quality credentials debating if it conformed to expections of Emmy or ‘not Emmy’ productions (4). The blend of practical/material effects through in-house ILM innovation of StageCraft, and The Volume, was also widely publicised, and attributed with the authentic look, and enhanced performances compared to green screen shooting.
As the flagship/tentpole for the launch of Disney+, The Mandalorian was always going to be important to the appeal of the service, beyond core Disney fans, but due to the impact of COVID-19, it has grown more significant, the key exemplar of must-watch and the ‘Plus’ of Disney+, especially as Marvel series have been delayed.
With standalone (cross-generational) appeal to non-fans of Star Wars, for global markets, and high budget $15 million an episode, the series has been designed as family friendly Quality TV. “The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order.” For fans, its setting in the Saga relates to the recent Sequel trilogy, but more prominently the Original Trilogy (embodied in the parallels with the Mos Eisley Cantina). And it offers Easter Eggs for fans – an Ugnaught, his Blurrg mounts, Mandalorian, (baby) Yoda, IG88 redux, the dark saber, and with Season 2 more prominent characters Ahsoka, Boba Fett, proving fan-friendly for buzz at events like Comic-Con, Celebration, D23.
1) Giardina, Carolyn (2019) 'Whatever You Imagine, You Can Bring to Audiences', Hollywood Reporter, 12 April, Vol. 425, Issue 40.
2) Burlingame, Jon (2019) 'Composing a New Sound for Star Wars', Variety, 12 November, Vol. 346, Issue 2.
And ‘Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+’ as above.
3) Fienberg, Daniel (2019) 'The "Plus TV" Era Is Upon Us', Hollywood Reporter, 20 November, Vol. 425, Issue 38.
4) Blass, Dave (2020) ‘The Mandalorian: Chapter One’, Variety, 28 January, Vol. 346, Issue 25.
Schneider, Michael (2020) 'The Force Is Strong With The Mandalorian', Variety, 17 August, Vol. 349, Issue 5.
Countered on sci-fi/fantasy success in recent years, with Game of Thrones and The Handmaid's Tale, by:
Low, Elaine (2020) 'For The Love Of Genre', Variety, 17 August, Vol. 349, Issue 5.
I was struck by the immediate deluge of extra materials, as if the series were playing catchup to the franchise's tendency to offer more backstory than story. My rough timing: 8 episodes of the series, 323 min. total runtime incl. credits; 8 episodes of Gallery, the behind the scenes series, 228 min. trt. Even closer when we consider that the series credits highlight crackle-processed versions of concept art and so immediately shift the register to the behind-the-scenes.
Expanding the Universe
Disregarding any feelings towards the final trilogy, I appreciate Disney filling in the time gaps between trilogies. Solo, Rogue One, and now The Mandalorian all contribute to the timeline between trilogies, further developing the Star Wars universe as a whole. Disney's decision to add 'plus' content with the directors/producers also supports that agenda. It offers various narratives for different audiences while catering to hardcore Star Wars fans who want to learn more.
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