Disney Gifts Star Wars Boss Kathleen Kennedy New Contract But Does She Deserve It?

Star Wars has been around for a long time. But everything changed for it in 2012. Previously, it was owned by a little-known independent company

By Ishita Chatterjee
November 19,2021

Star Wars has been around for a long time. But everything changed for it in 2012. Previously, it was owned by a little-known independent company called Lucasfilm. On October 30, 2012, Lucasfilm was acquired by Disney. By the time the deal was done, George Lucas had retired. The one who took over the leadership duties was Kathleen Kennedy.

She was hand-picked by George Lucas himself. During that time, then-Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the Sequel Trilogy and said it would go into development. He also said back then that there would be spin-off movies too. Now, let us come back to the present day in late 2021.

The Star Wars Debacle Under Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy

The Sequel Trilogy, for better or for worse, has been complete. Two spin-off movies have been released during the gap years. Multiple TV shows on Disney+ have been produced, and there are numerous more in the pipeline.

Just listening to this would make anyone think that Star Wars is living and thriving. But that indeed hasn’t been the case. The franchise has been deeply embroiled in various controversies since the start of the Sequel Trilogy.

Fan reception has been mixed, but so has actor reception. By and large, both Solo and Rogue One were loved by diehard Star Wars fans. The same can be said for animated and live-action tv shows. However, if anyone ventures into the fandom, they would only get to see constant bickering interjected by news reports about inner turmoil at Lucasfilm.

After all, industry insiders have widely speculated that Patty Jenkins left Rogue Squadron due to continued company interventions. After this, many insiders urged Kathleen Kennedy to tidy her house. After all, she is the one who is overseeing all of this. As the company president, ultimately, she is the one responsible for a project- whether it is a success or a mess.

In recent weeks, people have been calling to remove Kennedy from her position. Now, many always wanted her gone. But the calls for her termination have reached an all-time high. But Disney thinks that she has potential. And so Disney is supporting the producer. Recent news reports say that her contract has been renewed for three years again.

Disney Renews Kathleen Kennedy’s Contract For Three-Years

The Star Wars sequel trilogy
The Star Wars sequel trilogy

Matthew Beloni of Puck and former editor of The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney had extended Kathleen Kennedy’s contract for three more years. Her previous contract expired in October 2021.

Along with this, Belloni’s insiders noted that Rogue Squadron was indefinitely delayed to “creative differences” between the acclaimed director and Lucasfilm. However, as we said before, the real reason was more likely the same old constant studio involvement.

The Disney+ Day Flop

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader fight on Mustafar in new concept art
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader fight on Mustafar in new concept art

Disney+ Day was a fun day for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They got trailers for three upcoming shows, and the titles of multiple new shows were announced as well. In comparison, Star Wars fans got nothing. It was indeed an embarrassing day for the franchise. The day was designed to get fans excited about new projects and entice others to subscribe to the streaming service.

But it was a colossal failure because apart from the Obi-Wan Kenobi announcement, there a nothing of note for Star Wars. Before the event, insiders teased that footage from multiple upcoming shows would be shown. Disney and Lucasfilm promised multiple exclusive reveals and announcements. Even the wrap-up video for Disney+ Day showed the title cards for the 2022 projects that will debut on Disney+.

But after so much hype, nothing as such was shown. No new shows were even announced. As we said in the beginning, Marvel stole the show. They stole any wind out of Star Wars’ proverbial sails.

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul
Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul

For this event, the franchise wasn’t even a second fiddle to the MCU. There was more emphasis on Disney’s original content, like Pixar and even National Geographic. So the question is- why did Disney+ Day turn into such a massive trainwreck for Star Wars. Were all those scoopers wrong? Was that short Obi-Wan Kenobi sizzle reel all that was planned to be shown at such a hyped-up event?

Or did Lucasfilm have a change of heart at quite possibly the last possible minute? And thus, they pulled everything from the schedule? This is genuinely a head-scratching matter. However, we can understand what happened and why Lucasfilm put forth this atrocious showing. But for that, we need to go two weeks back.

Rewinding Time To Two Weeks Back

The Book of Boba Fett
The Book of Boba Fett

At that time, scoopers had accurately leaked the release date and time of The Book of Boba Fett’s trailer. Shortly after that, the same sources said that Rogue Squadron’s production had been delayed. This was then subsequently corroborated by the trades as well. Then came the overwhelming frenzy of news. Many sources said that there was a new Star Wars movie in development, and this was centered on the Old Republic.

Trades said that this movie would go into production next summer and would take Rogue Squadron’s place. A very detailed list of what fans of the galaxy far, far away could expect from Disney+ was put forth. There were even rumors of a Darth Maul animated series that would focus on Crimson Dawn. The last notable news was the report that Eternals director Chloe Zhao would direct Marvel boss Kevin Feige’s Star Wars movie.

As such, with these, all the reputable insiders were on a hot streak. But this hot streak came to an end. And everything fell apart.

Patty Jenkins was going to direct Rogue Squadron
Patty Jenkins was going to direct Rogue Squadron.

There was just nothing to follow that up with on Disney+ Day. Zero new shows were announced. Not even the Darth Maul animated show found a mention. However, somehow things were going to get much worse. Trade outlets soon reported that Zhao wasn’t directing Kevin Feige’s Star Wars movie. She wasn’t producing any Star Wars movies. So throughout just a couple of days, Star Wars fans received net-zero or even negative news in total.

The current theory is that after the leaks about Rogue Squadron and Boba Fett, Lucasfilm fed trades this false information to sniff out the leakers in the company. But this does make sense. After all, Lucasfilm is a very secretive company. They don’t tolerate leaks about new projects. This has been their policy going back to The Force Awakens. In fact, over the years, they have tightened the security surrounding their movies.

However, it also needs to be mentioned that the plot details of J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars movies did leak. So in comparison, news about trailer dates and production delays seem trivial. Now, if this theory does get proven true, then it will be genuinely shameful. For now, Lucasfilm might have solved the issue by getting hold of the leaker. But the company has created a more significant problem- it has wounded fan relations.

The Torn Fan Relations

Crimson Dawn And Darth Maul
Crimson Dawn And Darth Maul

The reaction to the Old Republic movie was nothing short of tremendous. People seemed to be more excited for it than they ever were for Rogue Squadron. Also, news about that animated Darth Maul show was immensely positively received. These reports excited fan anticipation, and people were pretty much sleepless leading up to Disney+ Day. So if this was all a ruse, then what happened?

One possibility is that there was inner turmoil at the highest level of the company. After all, if the plan always was to have a light showing at Disney+ Day, then the project should have been to save The Book of Boba Fett’s trailer for the big day. However, that didn’t happen. So either the people pulling the shots at the highest level are wholly incompetent, or plans got scrapped at the last minute. And that Obi-Wan Kenobi sizzle reel was offered up as a last-minute peace offering to fans.

After that dismal showing, the calls for Kennedy’s firing only grew louder. What happened was a travesty, and the sad part is that this is becoming part and parcel of being a Star Wars fan. This mess has been continuing for about a decade now. Now, not everyone wants Kennedy fired. She has supporters too. And she has earned it for sure. She is a legendary producer. However, it seems like she cannot work her magic in the galaxy far, far away. Her track record has grown well beyond the point of trouble.

The Troubling History Of Star Wars Productions

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian

Under Disney’s ownership, only 2 Star Wars projects experienced smooth production. One was The Mandalorian, and the other one was The Last Jedi. The first one is beloved by the fans, and the other pretty much broke the fanbase. Know that the phrase “creative differences” is standard industry-speak used when a creator gets fired after their views and ideas clash with the studio.

However, sometimes directors themselves also depart under this excuse when the studio gets too overbearing for them. Patty Jenkins could also be the newest name in the long list of creative heads to have been sacked by Kennedy. Or, as many others are suspecting- she has departed the project herself due to the insurmountable company interference. After all, it won’t be the first time that a big-name director has left a Star Wars project due to excessive meddling.

So let us take a look back at all the projects which experienced production troubles. Here’s our complete breakdown of the production and development issues under Lucasfilm:

  • The Force Awakens: First screenwriter Michael Arndt was fired. After this, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan were given writing duties. In the end, the release date of the movie was delayed by six months.
  • Rogue One: First director Gareth Edwards was fired mid-production. Then he was replaced by Tony Gilroy, who oversaw re-shoots of the film’s third act.
  • Solo: Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired by Lucasfilm mid-production. Ron Howard was then put on the director’s chair duties, and he re-shot almost half of the film. Due to this, the budget doubled. Ultimately the movie was a huge box office flop.
  • The Rise of Skywalker: Almost everyone knows that first writer/director Colin Trevorrow was fired after The Book of Henry’s poor performance. Then J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio took over writing duties, and the duo rushed to complete the movie in 18 months.
  • Rogue Squadron (Delayed): Director Patty Jenkins was supposedly moved to other Star Wars projects after Wonder Woman 1984’s disastrous reception. After her departure, the film is being rumored to be undergoing significant rewrites.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi: Screenwriter Hosein Amini was fired first. In his stead, Joby Harold was given the writing duties. Production of the series was shifted from January 2020 to January 2021. It also got further delayed as a result of COVID-19.
  • Andor: Initially, showrunner Stephen Schiff was fired by the company. Lucasfilm then gave Tony Gilroy the writing duties. After this, director Toby Haynes was put on the director’s chair due to COVID-19 traveling issues. Overall, the first season of the series underwent multiple rewrites.
  • Untitled Boba Fett Film (Canceled): It’s pretty well known now that director Josh Trank was pulled from the project after Fantastic 4 flopped at the box office. Also, his off-duty conduct was an issue as well. After this, director James Mangold was set to steer the project, but he too was dismissed.
  • Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi Film (Canceled): This movie was in years of development, with director Stephen Daldry helming the project. However, the movie was canceled and reworked as an Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ show.
  • Untitled Movie Series (Canceled): David Benioff and D.B. Weiss left their movie project at Lucasfilm for Netflix after the disastrous critical reception of season 8 of Game of Thrones.
  • Untitled Rian Johnson Trilogy (Delayed): Rian Johnson’s Star Wars trilogy was announced in 2017. But there have been no updates after the fan backlash to The Last Jedi. Right now, Rian Johnson is working on Knives Out parts 2 and 3 and multiple TV series.

Overall, it has been chaotic. We are also sure that there must have been other projects which fans never heard of. And they must have met with similar fates. Also, considering the history of Lucasfilm, the shows that are currently slated for release might become part of the list down the line.

The Duality Of Kathleen Kennedy

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo

So, after these issues, it’s shocking to see Kennedy’s contract being extended for three years. After all, the frequent replacements and firings indicate that Lucasfilm has no faith in the creative ability of these people, and just one flop is enough to remove them from the project.

Now, Kennedy’s decisions have not always been wrong. She should get full credit for saving Rogue One and also Solo (kind of that is). Also, she made a good decision by bringing in Jon Favreau and putting him and Dave Filoni together.

However, she seems to operate on two widely different ends of the spectrum. The Mandalorian was an absolute success, while The Rise of Skywalker was a rock bottom failure plagued with continuous production and marketing troubles. As such, we have to ask- is it that difficult to find people who can reliably write and direct Star Wars movies? Also, is it that difficult to have faith in the people Lucasfilm themselves have chosen for the projects?

Due to these issues, even though new Star Wars content will come to Disney+ every week, fans still feel like they are in a drought. This is due to the deafening silence of the company during mega-events like Disney+ Day. It just does not send a positive message to the fanbase. Instead, it makes people think that the projects in development have hit some roadblocks.

Star wars
Star wars

So will this whiplash from false leaked news to new trailers and then again to complete silence continue? Right now, Lucasfilm and Disney have to find the root cause of these problems. We do want to make one thing clear- we are not advocating to fire or retain Kennedy. We are pointing out that many Star Wars fans are unhappy with the way things are being handled behind the scenes.

Fans feel like they are not being kept in the loop like during the George Lucas days. They do want to be excited about a fun mega reveal event. But they are not being given that because every project is getting either delayed or canceled. And the ones that do end up happening come out without the fanfare they deserve. Disney+ Day was a massive opportunity for Lucasfilm to give their upcoming projects the attention they deserve.

But they failed to utilize it. No one knows what the next Star Wars film is or which rumors to be believed. After all, since many of the rumors are being discredited, it won’t be surprising if the Star Wars Old Republic movie ends up not being honest. All-Star Wars fans want is quality storytelling. They are getting tired of drama and the constantly revolving door of writers and directors. However, it must be said that the franchise has indeed endured worse.

Here’s to hoping that the Disney+ Day debacle or the leaks of fake projects was the last thing Star Wars had to endure under Kennedy’s reign. This is the perfect time for Kennedy to step up to the task and produce three prosperous years for Star Wars with a new tenure.

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