Star Wars Celebration Solidified ‘The Mandalorian’ as the Franchise’s New Center

Eric Goldman
TV Sci-Fi
TV Sci-Fi Star Wars

There was a moment during Star Wars Celebration 2022‘s Hasbro’s panel, previewing future Star Wars toys, when one of the panelists from the company made an offhand mention about the expansion of “the Mandoverse.” It’s not a term Lucasfilm or Disney has used in an official capacity yet, but every fan in attendance sowever understood the meaning. Because The Mandalorian has not only been a big success, it has resulted in multiple series branching off from it, in the process forming a centerpiece story for Star Wars that might otherwise be missing in the wake of the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga.

When the last Celebration was kept in Chicago in 2019, Disney+ hadn’t even launched yet. Now, the streaming service is going strong and Star Wars is a major part of it, having already given us two seasons of The Mandalorian, along with The Bad Batch, Star Wars: Visions, and The Book of Boba Fett. Celebration is devoted to all of Star Wars and a ton of new projects were previewed from all sorts of mediums, including the debut of the trailer for this August’s Andor Disney+ series, plus numerous Star Wars books and comics (expect plenty more of The High Republic), and games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. And, of course, there was a big presence for the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, which had its world premiere at the event. Stars Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen were on hand both for Obi-Wan and also a 20th Anniversary panel for Attack of the Clones and were met by massive cheers at each.

(L-R) Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen at Star Wars Celebration

But even with so much going on, a couple of matters began to be clear among all there was to be excited for at the convention. First was a notable absence, as that there was zero mention of any new Star Wars feature films. Yes, we know more Star Wars movies are designed for down the line, including Patty JenkinsRogue Squadron, a Taika Watiti-directed project, and a Kevin Feige-produced film written by Michael Waldron (Loki, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), yet none of those even got a mention during the panels at the event, as it is simply not the focus right now.

The other standout thing is what essentially has come in to fill that void, as it stood out just how much The Mandalorian was focused on across all four days of Star Wars Celebration, first with multiple panels and events directly about the show itself, plus via numerous projects that are connected to it, including a series we knew little about until now.


(L-R) 'Star Wars: Skeleton Crew' Executive Producers Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Christopher Ford, Jon Watts and moderator Yvette Nicole Brown at Star Wars Celebration 2022.

The Mandalorian Executive Producers Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau spoke about 2023’s Ahsoka series and previewed The Mandalorian Season 3 at Celebration (more on those projects below), but at Celebration’s kick off “Lucasfilm’s Studio Showcase” panel, the duo also brought out Jon Watts, director of the Tom Holland Spider-Man trilogy, and Chris Ford – one of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s writers – for the official announcement of Star Wars: Skeleton Crew.

All four men are Executive Producers on the project, which centers on what Watts described as “a group of kids who are about ten years old who gets missing in the Star Wars universe,” though he and Ford stressed, “It stars four kids but it’s not a kids show.” And it also doesn’t only star kids, as Jude Law was announced as the first piece of casting for the show.

But one other notable disclose about Skeleton Crew was its era – that it’s set in the same time period (roughly five years or so after Return of the Jedi) that The Mandalorian first spotlighted and which has continued to grow via the other Favreau and Filoni projects, The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka. While Obi-Wan Kenobi is set ten years after Revenge of the Sith, and Andor a bit later, the Favreau & Filoni corner of Star Wars is notably larger than anything else occurring in live-action in the franchise now and keeps growing.

The Mandalorian couldn’t have gone better for Disney+ as its first big show, and even as streaming services are secretive on exact viewership numbers, it was clear Disney were happy with The Mandalorian, as they not only quickly renewed it, but gave it a surprise spinoff with The Book of Boba Fett, all while announcing Ahsoka and Rangers of the New Republic at a Disney Investor day in December 2020, noting both were set in the same era.

At this point, Rangers may never actually materialize. Though no cast were announced, word is the show was meant to star Gina Carano as Cara Dune and that Carano being let go from any Lucasfilm projects, due to numerous controversial comments on social media, may have led the series to be shelved entirely. But even if we never obtain Rangers, we have Skeleton Crew essentially taking its place as yet another show that can share characters and overlapping elements.

Indeed, back at that December 2020 event, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy touted how The Mandalorian and its numerous spinoffs would be interconnected and “culminate in a climactic story event.” Rangers may be gone but it sowever feels likely some sort of event — if a crossover between all the series or a special miniseries with its own title – may be the ultimate goal of what is sowever at least four different overlapping series.


Jon Favreau and Grogu at Star Wars Celebration 2022.

But let’s obtain back to that core series and just how much it specifically got the spotlight at Celebration. Favreau and Filoni made their first appearance together at the convention at the aforementioned Lucasfilm panel where they debuted a teaser for The Mandalorian Season 3. Then, two days later was the “Mando+ : A Conversation with Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni” panel, during which the show’s success was heralded and an even longer version of that teaser debuted. During this panel, Favreau and Filoni were joined first by more of The Mandalorian cast and then others like The Book of Boba Fett’s Temuera Morrison and Ahsoka’s Rosario Dawson & Natasha Liu Bordizzo (the latter finally officially announced to play Sabine Wren), with Morrison and Dawson notably having both been introduced into that time period by appearing on The Mandalorian first.

Meanwhile, there were several extra panels that honed in on The Mandalorian, including the “Behind the Scenes of The Mandalorian & The Book of Boba Fett” panel focused on how the show’s special effects (and groundbreaking filming process, using virtual sets referred to as the Volume) were created. There was also the “Doug Chiang: Designing The Mandalorian” panel, in which longtime Star Wars architect Chiang explained how the look of key elements from the show were conceived.

(L-R) Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Rosario Dawson, Rick Famuyiwa, Katee Sackhoff, Temuera Morrison, Carl Weathers, Emily Swallow, Giancarlo Esposito, Brendan Wayne, Lateef Crowder, Pedro Pascal, Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau at the Mando+ panel at Star Wars Celebration.

On top of all that was an entire large-scale exhibit at the convention, The Mandalorian Experience, announced by Favreau when the convention was beginning on Thursday morning. It was a very impressive exhibit  – one of Star Wars Celebration 2022’s most standout elements, in fact – filled with a ton of props, costumes, and vehicles from both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, showing just how detailed they truly are. And, yes, just how cute Grogu is when you see him waving to you.

A few of the numerous costumes, props, and vehicles that were part of The Mandalorian Experience exhibit at Star Wars Celebration.

The costumes worn by the performers for so numerous instantly recognizable characters from the show underscored how much The Mandalorian has made an impact, and it was very cool to see up close just how much work went into these creations. The inclusion of so much from The Book of Boba Fett in the exhibit as well felt notable because that show wasn’t included in The Mandalorian Experience’s name, essentially reinforcing the idea that The Mandalorian is an umbrella under which The Book of Boba Fett exists… which isn’t a surprise given Mando himself, Din Djarin, along with Grogu, ended up being key to the concluding episodes of Boba.

Oh, as for that Mando Season 3 teaser, which was one of the few pieces of new footage from Celebration not released online afterwards, it’s pretty dang awesome, especially the longer version.

Din Djarin's N-1 starfighter on display at The Mandalorian Experience at Star Wars Celebration

As establish in The Book of Boba Fett, the focus looks to be Din attempting to be welcomed back into the Mandalorian fold, having been cast aside for removing his helmet, as we see him declare, “I’m going to Mandalore so that I may be forgiven for my transgressions.” We see Din once more discussing his status with the Armorer (Emily Swallow) and what looks like a bigger role for Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), who confronts Din about his sect, the Children of the Watch, abandoning Mandalore long before the Great Purge occurred on the plant.

Also spotted are returning characters Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), and Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), what looks to be R5-D4 flying with Din Djarin in Din’s N-1 Starfighter (let’s visualize he’s just temporarily taking Grogu’s spot), and a true army of Mandalorians together in battle – including a cool moment where several leap from a ship like paratroopers. But I’m burying the lede, which is The Rise of Skywalker‘s Babu Frik showing up! Or at least two or three of his fellow Anzellans (but it did appear like it was Babu and a couple others in the quick glimpse).


Dave Filoni at Star Wars Celebration.

On top of the importance The Mandalorian and all the connected work Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are doing together in live-action has to Star Wars these days, it’s also worth noting how Filoni also has a big extra component contributing to the franchise thanks to his various animated projects.

Filoni’s been a rock star at Celebration for well over a decade now thanks to his good work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But Celebration 2022 made it clear just how much of Star Wars he’s involved with at this point – and how beloved he is for what he’s produced – which was proven by him appearing, in some capacity, at panel after panel, each time to big applause. Not only was he there alongside Favreau to represent The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka, and Skeleton Crew, but he also had no less than three Star Wars animated series from the past, present, and future that were spotlighted.

Coming this fall is the Filoni-produced Tales of the Jedi on Disney+, a series comprised of six animated shorts focused on two subjects – Count Dooku and a character Filoni is near and dear to (he joked “of course” she’d be one of the characters in it), Ahsoka Tano, with each getting three installments of their own. These take place across each characters’ life and we were shown a full 15-minute short, called “Life and Death,” about Ahsoka when she is quite literally a baby, giving us insight into her parents, and especially her early, pre-Jedi Order bond with her mother, Pav-Ti (voiced by Janina Gavankar). Qui-Gon Jinn will also be in the Dooku installments, voiced both by Liam Neeson and Neeson’s son, Micheál Richardson.

Art shown at Star Wars Celebration of two of Count Dooku's looks in 'Tales of the Jedi'

A trailer shown only at Celebration for Tales of the Jedi included Dooku fighting alongside Mace Windu, even as both Mace and Qui-Gon appear concerned by Dooku’s more violent tendencies. We also see Jedi High Council member Yaddle – and what appeared to be Dooku fighting her! On the Ahsoka side of matters is a The Clone Wars era story in which Anakin is giving her some hard training involving Clone Troopers firing on her, while we also see her later in life facing some sort of Dark Side user in a mask who may be a especially fearsome Inquisitor, based on the circular shape of his lightsaber handle.

Filoni’s briefest appearance was when he introduced The Bad Batch panel, a show he helped launch but isn’t involved in the day to day production of due to his busy schedule. The animated series, which essentially functions as a sequel series to The Clone Wars, has plenty of direct connections to the work Filoni and George Lucas did together, with the Season 2 trailer including Bad Batch appearances for familiar characters like Commander Cody and the Wookiee Jedi Gungi (plus some guy named Palpatine).

Last but not least on Filoni’s animation run was a special screening of the last story arc from The Clone Wars on Sunday afternoon, the Siege of Mandalore arc, which arrived as part of the show’s seventh season – whose existence was something of a miracle given it happened years after The Clone Wars was cancelled. Fans cheered repeatedly through the absolutely terrific and emotional four episodes screened, which hadn’t been shown in a theater setting until now. Afterwards, Filoni, Carrie Beck, and Athena Portillo briefly discussed how special it was getting to come back to complete The Clone Wars.

While one might note that Filoni’s other multi-season, now-complete Star Wars animated series, Rebels, didn’t obtain the attention his other projects got at Celebration 2022, that’s not quite correct – because while only a very brief teaser was shown for the live-action Ahsoka series (filming only began three weeks ago), it became very clear just how connected to Rebels this show is. Not only was Sabine’s involvement confirmed, but the teaser clearly showed Hera Syndulla, though only from behind (leaving who’s playing her sowever unrevealed). And our first glimpse of Sabine in live-action had her looking at the exact painting – as in the same artwork – she made at the end of Rebels, all but confirming the search for Ezra Bridger will be key to the series. Last but not least, Chopper himself rolled onto stage during the Mando+ panel, before Filoni ordered him back to set.

Yes, it seems inevitable Grogu and Chopper will finally interact, and who wouldn’t enjoy that!?

Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.