A Year in Review: Highlights in Disney/Marvel/Star Wars
Ah, 2020, I barely knew thee (and that’s fine with me). It’s fair to say it’s been a rough year for just about everyone on the planet. Entertainment-wise, the pandemic delayed movie releases, shutdown Disney theme parks, and canceled Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. Yea, no fun. But let’s not dwell on the negative aspects of 2020, Let’s talk about the 2020 highlights in the world of Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars. It’s been a rough year, no doubt, but beneath the shroud of darkness shone a layer of hope for the future.
Star Wars Highlights
Beginning with Star Wars animation, the first few months of 2020 saw some pretty kick-butt television. Beginning with the series finale of Star Wars Resistance, yes, Resistance didn’t hit home with everyone, but the closer the episodes got to The Rise of Skywalker, the better it got and deserved more loving.
Not long after Star Wars Resistance concluded, The Clones Wars made its triumphant return in Season 7! We got to see what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order and how she dealt with being on her own for the first time in her life. The Bad Batch made its return in an action-packed 4-episode arc. Then the announcement came that their story will continue in their self-titled series. And, of course, The Siege of Mandalore. Oh, the emotions!
The Year in Star Wars Books
Next up for Star Wars were several enjoyable book releases, including The Rise of Skywalker novelization, Queen’s Peril, Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall, Dark Legends, Poe Dameron: Free Fall, The Clone Wars Stories of Light and Dark, Thrawn Ascendency, and The Empire Strikes Back FACPOV, among others. What made this years’ books so exciting is that you could read them in any order because none of them are directly linked. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a story on its own.
Star Wars on TV (Spoilers)
The second season of The Mandalorian. Do I need to explain why this was absolutely bananas and the best Star Wars of 2020 (minus those gross spiders)? Characters from the novels finally got screen time in Cobb Vanth, live-action Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand’s return, a more likable Miggs Mayfeld and Luke (frakin’) Skywalker! I haven’t even mentioned baby Yoda finally gets a name (Grogu). The growth in Din Djarin and Mayfeld was so satisfying. And now Boba Fett and Fennec Shand are getting their own series: The Book of Boba Fett. Do you know who won’t be in that series? Bib Fortuna.
Shifting gears. Okay, The Siege of Mandalore was intense. The Mandalorian blew everyone’s mind. Thank goodness for the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special; this is the gift we all needed. Seriously, 45 minutes of cute fun and laughs. Minimally better than the original Star Wars Holiday Special (and by minimally, I mean infinitely better than the original Star Wars Holiday Special).
Lastly, the insane announcement during Disney Investors Day that ten Star Wars series are in the works to varying degrees, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic, Andor, The Bad Batch, Visions, A Droids Story, Lando, The Acolyte, and the upcoming feature film: Rogue Squadron. For more on this, go here. Honorable mentions include the Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge gameshow, Star Wars Squadrons, and the year-long 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back.
Most Marvel highlights come in the form of MCU news or a Disney + series. That’s just the way it is; visual media is more accessible than print media, which is why I’m starting the Marvel highlight reel with the Empyre crossover event, which began in May.
Marvel Comic Books
Empyre is said to have a long-lasting impact on the Marvel Universe. The lead-up to Empyre started in 2019 with the House of X/Powers of X prequel and the Dawn of X storyline. Writer Jonathan Hickman has secured a foundation for the X-Men that could see them join the MCU in the near future. A Fantastic Four film is coming, and they are a massive player in the Empyre series. Empyre also introduces Immortal She-Hulk. For more on Empyre, go here.
Following Empyre is X of Swords (pronounced Ten of Swords). X of Swords is another X-Men crossover event that follows the events of Empyre, where inhabitants of the lost world of Arakko threaten the mutant nation of Krakoa. Both series’ are phenomenal, but a word of advice, pay attention. A lot is going on, and the way Hickman layers the story can be overwhelming.
Marvel 616 on Disney+
Marvel’s 8-episode 616 docuseries covering women in comics and artists from the world over started in November on Disney +. These are fascinating peaks into the world of comic books that are regrettably too often overlooked. Check these out, and for more on that series, go here.
Agents of Shield
After seven seasons, Agents of Shield came to an end in August. It’s been such an integral part of Marvel fandom for so long, having it come to an end cannot be overlooked. Heck, Agent Coulson is the only character to have made the crossover from the films to AoS. It’s a shame AoS never fully linked to the MCU, but things are about to change.
In December, Disney announced a dozen Marvel series that will weave storylines between the MCU feature films, creating an overall more immersive storyline. Now that is cool! The list is as follows: WandaVision, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…?, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Secret Invasion, Ironheart, and Armor Wars. For more on these and future feature film announcements, go here.
And lastly, the parent: Disney. It’s been interesting. Disney + is a true highlight for Disney as a business. Subscribers are exceeding expectations; according to the New York Times, Disney + passed 73 million subscribers. Amid the pandemic, Disney re-opened DisneyWorld to 35% capacity, and though Disney lost billions, its stock rose 5%.
Disney released two Pixar films: Onward in February, just before the world came to a screeching halt, and Soul, released on Christmas Day. As rough a year it has been for Disney theme parks, Pixar’s Onward and Soul have been a bright spot in a dark time.
The Mulan experiment of an at-home premium release on Disney + wasn’t a great success but kudos to Disney for having the guts for being creative and for thinking outside the box. Disney paved the way for Warner Brothers and HBO Max, who announced they’re doing the same in 2021.
Willow fans received some exciting news when Disney announced the upcoming Willow series coming to Disney + in 2022. The long-awaited sequel will continue the story of Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Disney Investor Day sure helped spread some light on the situation as Disney announced a plethora of projects for their Live Action and Animation studios, ESPN, and Fox properties. For a more in-depth view of everything, check this out.
It’s been a tough year for sure, but so much goodness awaits us while we’re still quarantined. Hopefully, sooner than later we can return to the cinemas to watch all these feature films coming our way together.