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Production delays on Obi-Wan Disney+ series are part of a bigger Star Wars problem

It’s not necessarily bad news — yet

Preproduction on Lucasfilm’s highly anticipated Obi-Wan Disney+ series is delayed as the series grapples with script issues and lead writer Hossein Amini’s departure, according to Variety. The news, which was downplayed as minor by lead actor Ewan McGregor, comes as concerns about Star Wars’ future are brought into question following The Rise of Skywalker’s lukewarm release.

Numerous outlets reported that Obi-Wan was facing major rewrites to fix story issues. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Obi-Wan felt similar to The Mandalorian, suggesting that McGregor’s Jedi could lend “a protective hand to a young Luke and possible even a young Leia.” McGregor downplayed the reports in an interview with The Wrap, acknowledging that they moved shooting to next year instead of going ahead with beginning filming this year. But he said, “The scripts are really good.” McGregor added that he saw “90 percent of the writing and really liked it.”

“All this bullshit about creative differences and all that stuff is, none of it true,” McGregor told The Wrap. “We just pushed the dates. [Rise of Skywalker] came out, everyone had more time to read the stuff that had been written, and they felt that they wanted to do more work on it. It’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds online.”

Disney confirmed to The Verge that Obi-Wan is still in development and director Deb Chow is still attached to direct, but didn’t comment on whether or not story issues were to blame for the delay. Amini’s departure coupled with the rewrites, however, suggests there were issues with the project. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy previously told a stadium full of fans at Disney’s biennial D23 convention in August that “we have all the scripts written.” This was before The Mandalorian, which debuted alongside Disney+ on November 12th, and before The Rise of Skywalker, which hit theaters on December 20th. Both The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker are key to the current conversation about Star Wars, alongside another live-action series heading to Disney+: the Cassian Andor spinoff.

Based on Diego Luna’s character from 2016’s Rogue One, the series faced its own writing changes in October 2019. Tony Gilroy, who was brought on to Rogue One to help rewrite some of the film and reshoot some scenes, was brought on to the Cassian Andor series to write the pilot and direct multiple episodes. Although showrunner Stephen Schiff is still attached to the series, many insiders saw Gilroy’s inclusion as a shake-up behind the scenes.

Star Wars is in a weird moment. The Rise of Skywalker was met with a lukewarm reception, and it didn’t perform as well at the box office as the other two films in the new trilogy, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Many critics claimed the film — which dealt with its own major issues, leading to J.J. Abrams taking over directing duties from Colin Trevorrow — felt rushed. Disney CEO Bob Iger told Variety that although he wasn’t dismissive of Star Wars fans, executives at the company don’t “overreact” to negative conversations happening in the space. Still, Iger knows that Star Wars isn’t just something they can continue playing around with and hope for the best. Iger added that although they accept multiple pitches, the number of Star Wars projects in development is probably less than people think because they don’t want “Star Wars fatigue” to grow.

“I think the number [of projects] is endless, but we’re gonna be careful, the next one is really important,” he said.

Aside from The Mandalorian’s second season this fall, it’s unclear what the “next one” is for Disney. The newest Star Wars entry on the horizon is the seventh and final season of Dave Filoni’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars — a continuation of a show from 2008. Preproduction on Obi-Wan is delayed, and, although McGregor told reporters the goal is still to hit the 2021 premiere date, that can change. There also aren’t any updates on Luna’s Cassian Andor show. The next Star Wars feature film won’t hit until 2022, and there are currently no details on what that might look like. (Although there’s always a chance Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige could be taking it, considering he’s committed to doing one Star Wars movie.)

Delays are never good signs, but they’re also not inherently negative. If the loudest complaint Disney is hearing about The Rise of Skywalker is that the film felt rushed (which it certainly could have been in an attempt to keep the December 20th, 2019, release date), taking a step back with Obi-Wan is the right move. It’s also something the gaming industry has started to rely on, pushing release dates back to try to make a more polished product rather than release patch after patch — something that’s much easier to do with a game than a movie or TV series.

Disney is in a transitionary period. Its two biggest franchises are entering new stages: Marvel Studios is moving forward in a world without Steve Rogers’ Captain America and Tony Stark’s Iron Man, while Star Wars moves beyond the Skywalker family. The company is also focusing its attention on smaller screens around the world as Disney+ gears up for a wider international launch and studios start showcasing their Disney+ originals. Disney needs everything to go better than well; it has to be spectacular. The Mandalorian set a high bar for what a Star Wars show could do in the streaming space. It’s a tough act to follow.

What’s obvious from all of these reports is that Star Wars live-action shows are still being figured out. On the other end of the spectrum is Marvel Studios, which moved WandaVision up from 2021 to 2020. The show ties into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and despite problems on Doctor Strange’s side (director Scott Derrickson left over creative differences), WandaVision is ready to go earlier than expected. This doesn’t mean that one is stronger than the other, but it does imply there’s a vision for WandaVision that is still being found on the Star Wars projects.

Update (January 24th, 12:00pm ET): The story has been updated to include additional details from Disney.