One of the great howls from Star Wars fans – as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced – when Disney took control of LucasFilm and announced a new trilogy of films in the hugely beloved series, came after the companies jointly announced that the enormous Expanded Universe that had been growing over decades would be wiped from the history books and declared non-canon.
This meant the endless amount of novels, comics, games, and assorted stories, would all be ignored completely; The Force Awakens, and its subsequent follow-ups, would simply pick up fresh from where Return of the Jedi left off instead.
As it turns out, producers at LucasFilm had a very good reason for binning all that backstory and lore: if they didn’t, they would’ve had to explain why someone dropped a moon on Chewbacca.
Yes, that is quite serious.
The story goes that producers needed the new films to feel fresh and inviting, and more importantly accessible to people that weren’t intensely obsessive uber-fans. That meant they needed to set the films in the universe of the original trilogy alone.
More importantly, ignoring the extended universe meant The Force Awakens didn’t have to explain exactly how and why the beloved wookie Chewie died in a horrible, celestial fashion.
The books, you see, struggled to deal with Chewie’s largely grunt-based dialogue. Apparently the solution to that problem was to have a moon fall on him.
The 1999 novel Vector Prime saw Chewie sacrifice his life to save Han‘s son Anakin Solo (a space baby Han and Leia sprogged out and named after Darth Vader) from a collision between the planet Sernpidal and one of its moons.
Explaining that bit of plot exposition away in the opening crawl would’ve turned the trademark few paragraphs into a book in and of itself.
LucasFilm’s keeper of the Star Wars Holocron (aka the series’ official database) Leland Chee explained why Chewie needed to be un-squashed in order for the new films to succeed, and why the rest of the Extended Universe fell by the wayside after that decision was made:
For me it came down to simply that we had killed Chewbacca in the Legends — a big moon had fallen on him. Part of that [original decision] was Chewbacca, because he can’t speak and just speaks in growls, he was a challenging character to write for in novels. Publishing had decided they needed to kill somebody, and it was Chewbacca.
But if you have the opportunity to bring back Chewbacca into a live action film, you’re not gonna deprive fans that. There’s no way that I’d want to do an Episode VII that didn’t have Chewbacca in it and have to explain that Chewbacca had a moon fall on his head. And if we were going to overturn a monumental decision like that, everything else was really just minor in comparison.
When you put it like that, hell yeah.
Imagine killing off Chewie, FFS.