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Disney's 'Ahsoka' toes the line between fan service and cash grab

Following the release of the latest 'Star Wars' show, 'Ahsoka', fans chime in on it and Disney’s handling of the iconic franchise

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Disney continues its fast release of material with the recent release of Ahsoka in the Star Wars franchise.

Despite its beloved characters and continuation of well-known "Star Wars" plotlines, TV series "Ahsoka" is drawing criticism for furthering Disney's overreach and cash grab of the "Star Wars" franchise.

Disney’s $4 billion takeover of "Star Wars" in 2012 marked a new age for the franchise, with five movies and 20 seasons of TV shows added to the existing universe. Just like Marvel with its Marvel Cinematic Universe, this rapid, ongoing release of material has proved a challenge in creating a cohesive universe in which there’s limited fluff. 

TV shows were Disney’s opportunity to create original content in the Star Wars universe, and they did, to positive results, with season one of "The Mandalorian" in 2019 and 2022's "Andor". Other shows like "The Book of Boba Fett" and "Obi-Wan Kenobi" were received less positively, though. 

With this, 2023’s "Ahsoka" has been challenged from the start to not feel unneeded. Again like the MCU, Disney has been accused of only keeping up this breakneck pace for profit rather than the sanctity of the franchise.

“Ahsoka” follows Ahsoka Tano, a character introduced in the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” in 2008 as Anakin Skywalker’s teenage apprentice, as a now grown-up and live-action character set after the original trilogy.

"I've really been enjoying Ahsoka, but I do know people who haven't watched Clone Wars or haven't watched Rebels … they're like, 'Oh, this looks cool, but what's the gravity of it?'" said Monica Conner, a staff member at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, an ASU online student in interdisciplinary studies and a founder of AZ Saber, a local Star Wars-themed lightsaber combat club.

READ MORE: AZ Saber gives Star Wars fans 'A New Hope'

Indeed, its eight-episode runtime had a lot of explaining to do. Many of its central characters are from another Disney animated show, "Star Wars Rebels," which was released in 2014. They have pre-built relationships, history, and more, all that "Ahsoka" has to explain to an audience that very possibly hasn’t seen its precursor. 

"The story's all right. And the acting, it's not bad, but overall it's just struck me as an all-right show," Akhil Kanakaraj, a sophomore studying film and media production, said. "It's cool, but it also would be nice to get told new stories."

Randy Brookings, a 2016 ASU alum and a founder of AZ Saber, said that the show was necessary to explain the complex finale of "Star Wars Rebels," and that "Ahsoka" was clearly made for the fans.

"It's new. It's telling its own story. It's not a repeat," he said. "It's not made as a money grab."

However, Brookings does not feel the same way regarding the rest of Disney's era with the franchise. 

"Disney did it for money, first and foremost," Brookings said. "That much has been obvious in their decision making. Episode seven was a copy and paste of episode four. You can write most of the main plot points down on a piece of paper and it would read the same."

Conner said that Disney should focus on the quality of storytelling, with less but more fleshed-out content, as opposed to the trial-and-error feel that Disney’s content currently has. 

"Quantity doesn't always translate into quality," she said. "(Some projects) clearly kept going because it was a money grab, and it made money."

Disney is likely to continue to push for constant new content with no stone left unturned. 

"It's been hinted that 'Ahsoka' is the set up to the Star Wars-Avengers kind of movie where it brings everything together," Conner said. 

Jon Favreau, an executive producer of multiple "Avengers" movies and a leading part of the production of the MCU, is also now one of Disney’s leading people behind "Star Wars."

"It is Avengers-style because it is the same person behind it," Brookings said. 

This "MCU-ification" of the beloved franchise can be concerning to fans because it’s a completely new direction for the franchise, which has traditionally enjoyed a three-movie saga structure.

"Do I really want to see Star Wars-Avengers? I don't know," Conner said. "I'm curious to see where it goes. I'm a little hesitant that it's just going to be corny, but I also trust Dave Filoni."

Dave Filoni is the other main director behind this new era of "Star Wars," and some fans support his vision due to his apparent care for the material and its quality.

"I don't know how it'll make sense in the story, but if it has a good plot and people like it, go for it," Kanakaraj said. 

Whether or not this Avengers-style take on "Star Wars" is quality or not, it still affects "Ahsoka" here and now. 

With the last episode releasing tonight, Brookings doesn’t feel as excited because of what the future already has set for these characters.

"I have no expectations for this last episode because I know the big bad guy gets away," Brookings said. 

Disney’s expansion into new galaxies, both in canon and in their business plan, is going to swing perception, likely hard, one way or the other. It just remains to be seen how far they’re willing to go for a quick buck, especially if they stay on this path of rapidity. 

"What would be left in the franchise to explore?" Conner said. "What comes next, like, will there be an R2D2 movie? Do we need an R2D2 movie?"

Edited by Claire van Doren, Jasmine Kabiri and Shane Brennan

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