It’s finally happened. And we have a legion of fans to thank. Grand Admiral Thrawn is now part of the official Star Wars movie canon. Though, it is unclear when we may ever see the iconic villain in an actual live-action movie, it’s surely not far behind. But first, the character will be fully introduced for the first time in the visual medium, as one of the big bad guys in Star Wars Rebels, making his debut in Season 3. Surley an appearance in one of the spinoff movies can’t be far behind.
As many fans know, when Disney purchased Lucasfilm, the official canon of the Star Wars movie universe became a bit tricky. And we’re still not sure where some of the expanded universe characters fall. Outside of the official Star Wars movie canon, we also have what is known as Star Wars Legends, which was formerly known as the Expanded Universe. It encompasses all of the officially licensed, fictional background stories of the Star Wars universe, outside of the original six Star Wars films produced by George Lucas the two animated series Clone Wars and Rebels, and all books and video games to arrive after April 25, 2014. Everything else before this in the Legends canon includes most official Star Wars-related books, comic books, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, and other media created before Disney purchased Lucasfilm. This vast amount of material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from over 36,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 136 years after Return of the Jedi. The issue of which aspects are canon was one of the most hotly debated topics among fans.
As Grand Admiral Thrawn was part of the books that came before April 25, 2014, it was believed that he was simply now part of the Legends canon, and wouldn’t likely ever surface in a movie or current TV show. But that all changed today with the release of the new Star Wars Rebels season 3 trailer, which premiered at the Star Wars Rebels panel during Star Wars Celebration. And immediately, without question, the biggest and most exciting reveal came in the form of a blue, human like figure hardcore fans recognized quickly. Lucasfilm didn’t leave it shrouded in mystery. The name Grand Admiral Thrawn was said out loud, and thus history was made.
Thrawn is one of the biggest villains in all of Star Wars history, even though he has never made an appearance in the movies or TV shows. He first appeared in the Heir to the Empire book trilogy in the early 90s and was created by author Timothy Zahn. The series of three books that Zahn wrote surrounding the character is credited with reinvigorating fan interest in the franchise at the time. There were no movies or any major Star Wars projects being released at the time, and the compelling story in these books, largely thanks to Thrawn, caught the attention of fans. The trilogy of books has sold more than 15 million copies combined. He should prove to be a massive threat for Kanan and the gang next season.
But more important than his involvement in the Rebels animated series specifically is the fact that the character is now an official part of the new Disney Star Wars canon. Not only will the character be included in Star Wars Rebels, but Timothy Zahn is writing a new book about the character which is coming out next year. That being the case, Disney is clearly very interested in cementing the character as an important part of Star Wars lore.
The character of Thrawn is a major villain in Star Wars history. In the original Heir to the Empire trilogy, which takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Thrawn assumes the command of the remaining Imperial forces and intends to battle the New Republic. Emperor Palpatine had kept Thrawn a secret for many years, but after his death, Thrawn was free to take control and was ruthless, highly intelligent and purely evil. He is a tactical genius and is very different from the likes of Darth Vader or other evil leaders we have seen in Star Wars before. His origins are mysterious, but he is of an alien species known as the Chiss.
We won’t have any way of knowing for sure what exactly this means in terms of how it impacts the post Return of the Jedi canon, or how it will be revealed until Star Wars Rebels airs. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long as season 3 is set to air this fall on Disney XD. You can check out the trailer for Star Wars Rebels season 3 along with first look photos.