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What you may not know about The Mandalorian

Over the past four decades (and counting), Star Wars has spawned close to a dozen movies, hundreds of tie-in novels, countless video games, stacks of comic books, action figures, radio dramas, tabletop RPGs, collectible card games, and pretty much every other type of media you can imagine — save one. While Star Wars has a number of cartoons to its name, live-action television remains that galaxy far, far away's one unconquered frontier.

Oh, there have been one-offs, like the spectacular disaster known as the Star Wars Holiday Special or the made-for-TV Ewok movies. As far as an ongoing series is concerned, though? Nothing. Remember, we live in a world where even Knight Rider's gotten four different shows. You'd think that the TV industry would show something as big as Star Wars at least a little bit of love.

In 2019, it's finally going to. It's been a long time coming, but we've finally got some information about the very first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, and we can't wait to share it with you.

A different type of Star Wars, but a very familiar story

In October 2018, Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau (more on him in a bit) posted a picture on Instagram that evoked the classic Star Wars opening crawl and laid out exactly what The Mandalorian will be about.  The series will focus on "the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic," and will explore the rocky transition from the Galactic Empire to a brand new government.

If that makes The Mandalorian sound like a western, that's not an accident. At Star Wars Celebration 2019, Favreau and fellow producer Dave Filoni confirmed that The Mandalorian, like the original Star Wars, is heavily inspired by both spaghetti westerns and Akira Kurosawa's samurai films. Like the heroes in those stories, the Mandalorian is a lone fighter "of questionable moral character" who flies a ship called the Razor Crest and does whatever it takes to survive.

Plot specifics are still slim, but we know that actor Pedro Pascal is modeling the Mandalorian on Clint Eastwood, and that the gunslinger will run across a character named Greef, the head of a loose coalition of bounty hunters who has a special mission for the titular character. According to clips shown to the Star Wars Celebration audience, he'll also cross paths with an old Imperial loyalist who wants to see the Empire take back control of the galaxy — and it sounds like the Mandalorian isn't totally against the idea.

But what is a Mandalorian, exactly?

In Star Wars lore, Mandalorians are fierce warriors with a long, proud, and surprisingly complex history. You may not have seen them before, but you're probably familiar with their most iconic creation: Boba Fett wears Mandalorian armor, as did his father, the bounty-hunter-turned-clone-daddy known as Jango.

Mandalore hasn't played much of a role in the movies, but it's a big, big part of the Star Wars cartoon shows. In The Clone Wars, Mandalore has been ravaged after centuries at war, including an old and ancient conflict with the Jedi. When a Duchess tries to establish a pacifist government, a group of exiled warriors strike back, leading to a full-on civil war. Later, Darth Maul (who's not quite as dead as you think) conquers Mandalore, and uses the planet as a headquarters for his criminal syndicate, the Shadow Collective. So, yeah, Maul's brief Solo cameo isn't quite as random as it seems.

Sabine Wren, one of the main cast members on Star Wars Rebels, is Mandalorian through and through. When the series starts, Sabine's been branded a traitor for her role in the burgeoning Rebel Alliance, but politics end up bringing her back. With the help from her teammates, Sabine returns the fabled Darksaber to its rightful home and helps quell another Mandalorian civil war, bringing peace to the Mandalore at long last. Now, given its remote setting, The Mandalorian probably won't delve too deep into the planet's pulpy Game of Thrones-like politics, but hey! There's always hope for a spinoff...

The clothes that made the man (or the woman)

Here's a little secret: he might dress like one, but Boba Fett isn't actually a Mandalorian, at least not in the new, Disney-ified canon. In The Clone Wars episode "The Mandalore Plot," the Mandalorian Prime Minister tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that Boba's dad, Jango, is just a regular ol' bounty hunter who wears someone else's armor.

But, thanks to Boba, we knew what a Mandalorian looked like decades before we knew anything about them as a people, and The Mandalorian wouldn't be the same without him. Boba Fett debuted during the Star Wars Holiday Special, and while the rest of the program isn't worth your time, Nelvana Studios' animated short "The Faithful Wookiee" absolutely is. Not only does the sequence make Fett cooler than the movies ever did — no falling into man-eating pits here — but the design ended up influencing both how the Mandalorians looked on The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian's costume, too. That big ol' holster, the narrow visor, the natural color scheme, and the visible battle damage? Those are all Nelvana.

The Holiday Special short also gives an idea as to what The Mandalorian might look like. In fact, Nelvana's animators looked to westerns when storyboarding the short. "The Faithful Wookiee's" surreal landscapes and the dinosaur that Boba rustles and rides might be a little too fanciful for live-action TV, but if you want to see Star Wars reimagined as a spaghetti western, you don't have to wait for The Mandalorian's premiere. There's already an example out in the wild.

A galaxy of familiar faces — and you won't see any of 'em

As revealed at the Solo premiereThe Mandalorian will take place a few years after The Return of the Jedi, and a couple of decades before The Force Awakens. At this point, the Rebel Alliance has transformed into the New Republic, while the former Imperials who'd eventually form the First Order are still licking their wounds in the galaxy's Unknown Regions. Leia Organa is busy serving in the Galactic Senate. Her husband, Han Solo, splits his time between taking care of their kid Ben, i.e. the future Kylo Ren, racing spaceships, running his own shipping company, and teaming up with his buddy Lando for the occasional New Republic mission.

Don't expect to see them (or any of the other main Star Wars characters) in The Mandalorian. The new Disney television show takes place far from the New Republic's capital, and will feature new characters. The Mandalorian looks familiar, but he isn't Boba Fett. You might think you recognize The Empire Strikes Back's mechanical bounty hunter IG-88, but that's actually a different assassin droid named IG-11, who'll be voiced by filmmaker Taika Waititi (What We Do in the ShadowsThor: Ragnarok).

However, The Mandalorian is full of tried and true Star Wars staples: Jawa sandcrawlers, lizard-like dewbacks, Return of the Jedi-style speeder bikes, and at least one familiar-looking droid will all appear. The Mandalorian's main cast might be brand new, but don't worry. You're still going to feel right at home.

I'm sorry, Jon... who?

You might've noticed that Jon Favreau's name comes up quite a bit when talking about The Mandalorian. There's a very good reason for that: the accomplished director is running the whole shebang. As Disney's initial press release states, Favreau is executive producing and writing The Mandalorian, and while he's not on the series' list of directors, we're confident that The Mandalorian is in pretty good hands.

See, in addition to flicks like Elf, Zathura, and Chef, Favreau directed a little something called Iron Man. You know, the movie that single-handedly launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, revitalized Robert Downey Jr.'s career, and made Tony Stark a household name? Yeah, that Iron Man. Favreau also served as a producer on The Avengers and helmed Disney's live-action Jungle Book and Lion King adaptations. In other words, he's got a flair for making special effects-driven dramas that are also full of humor and heart, and he's an old pro when it comes to launching franchises. Sound like a good fit for Star Wars? Yeah, we thought so too.

Not only that, but Favreau has already proven his Star Wars bona fides: as an actor, he's participated in not one but two separate Star Wars projects. If you saw Solo, you might recognize Favreau as the voice of Rio Durant, Tobias Beckett's multi-armed pilot. The Mandalorian won't be Favreau's first dalliance with the show's titular warrior race, either. On The Clone Wars, Favreau played Pre Vizsla, the exile who started the Mandalorian Civil War, helped the Shadow Collective conquer the planet, and ultimately met his demise at the wrong end of Darth Maul's lightsaber.

The big Rebels connection

If you're still worried that Favreau isn't up to the task of bringing Star Wars to the small screen, don't be. He's got some help. Longtime Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is listed as one of the show's producers, and all of the material will still go through Lucasfilm's story group, the organization in charge of keeping Star Wars canon consistent.

Favreau's also getting a big, big hand from the animated side of things. Dave Filoni may not be a household name, but if you're a modern day Star Wars fan, you know his work very, very well. Filoni directed The Clone Wars feature film (which, let's face it, isn't really something to brag about), and he worked side-by-side with George Lucas to bring the subsequent, superior animated series to the air. Filoni also co-created both Rebels and the newest Star Wars cartoon, Resistance.

In other words, he's the guy behind a lot of the best of parts modern Star Wars canon. According to The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Filoni is the brains behind Anakin Skywalker's beloved apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. On Rebels, Filoni and his staff raised questions about the Jedi's relationship with the Force years before Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi did the same. Heck, he even voiced Chopper, Rebels' scene-stealing droid. Naturally, Filoni will be bringing his informed, insightful, and nuanced take on Star Wars to The Mandalorian, too. He's one of the show's executive producers, and he'll make his live-action directing debut by helming The Mandalorian's very first episode.

The people who are going to make it all happen

The Mandalorian won't be short on star power, at least not behind the camera. Reports say the show has a 10-episode first series, and Disney shared a list of some of the people who'll be directing a few of the episodes. Buckle up. It's a doozy.

Dave Filoni's there, obviously, but by far the biggest name on the docket is New Zealand native Taiki Waititi. You know why that's exciting? Here are a few reasons: Eagle vs Shark. Flight of the Conchords. What We Do in the Shadows. Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Thor: Ragnarok. So, yeah, he's pretty good. On the other hand, Bryce Dallas Howard might be best known for her performances in projects like Jurassic World and Black Mirror, but she's wanted to get into directing for a while. In fact, Howard already has a number of short films under her belt, and besides, Star Wars runs in the family. Her Oscar-winning father, Ron, just directed Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Further down the list you'll find Rick Famuyiwa, director of the criminally underrated Dope, and Deborah Chow, a television veteran who's worked on shows like Jessica Jones, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, and The Man in the High Castle — y'know, just some of the best dramas currently on television. Honestly, it's hard to imagine a better lineup, but then again, it's not every day that you get to contribute to a cultural institution. We wouldn't be surprised if The Mandalorian has talent lined up around the block, just waiting for a shot at a galaxy far, far away.

Part of a very exclusive lineup

While The Mandalorian would be a hit on almost any channel — c'mon, it's Star Wars — you're not going to be able to watch it via regular cable. The show will air exclusively on Disney+, Disney's streaming service that's going to be the new home for, well, almost everything. The series launches on November 12, 2019, and The Mandalorian pilot will be available on day one. A subscription will cost $6.99 a month (or $70 if you subscribe for a full year), although that price will probably go up over time.

If you're a Star Wars fan, you're probably going to want to subscribe. In addition to The Mandalorian, Disney+ will host all of the Star Wars movies, a second live-action Star Wars show (see below), a new season of animated series The Clone Wars, and behind-the-scenes documentaries — and, reportedly, that's just the beginning.

Disney+ will also be crammed full of Marvel content, including all of the MCU movies, a Scarlet Witch-Vision team-up called WandaVision, a Loki solo series, a Falcon and Winter Soldier show, and the animated What If? adaptation. Every single one of Disney's animated films, even those initially relegated to the "vault," will be on Disney+, as will original Disney programming like High School Musical: The Series, a rumored Muppets revival, and more. Throw in all 30 seasons of The Simpsons and a National Geographic documentary series starring Jeff Goldblum, and Disney+, and you're getting a lot of content for your money. Watch out, Netflix. The Mandalorian is coming.

The end of one journey, and the beginning of another

Now, The Mandalorian isn't the first time that Lucasfilm has tried to bring live-action Star Wars to the small screen. The company has been working on this for a while. In 2005, George Lucas announced that a live-action Star Wars show was in development. The series, which was eventually known as Star Wars Underworld, was set between the prequel and original trilogies, and took place on the Imperial capital Coruscant, with a primary focus on the planet's seedy criminal underbelly. Allegedly, about 50 scripts were written before Underworld was put on hiatus.

The reason? It's all about the cash, baby. "The scripts were written as if money was no object," Battlestar Galactica mastermind Ronald D. Moore, who worked in Underworld's writers' room, told EW. According to Lucas, every episode would've been equivalent to a $20 million film, although he claimed he could produce it for a fraction of that by using his own facilities and digital technology. He wasn't willing to compromise his vision, either. If that meant postponing production until Underworld's special effects could be accomplished on a TV budget, well, then he'd just wait. That was 2011. In 2012, Disney bought Star Wars for $4 billion, and Underworld suddenly went into limbo.

In 2013, ABC's Paul Lee said that Disney, ABC's parent company, was reevaluating Underworld, and when Jon Favreau's series was announced, many fans wondered if some of Underworld (and 1313Underworld's cancelled video game tie-in) would make its way into the new project. Given what we know now, probably not, although The Mandalorian inherited at least one thing from its predecessor: the price tag. Reportedly, every episode of the show will cost $10 million to make. Yikes.

A cast that's out of this world

The Mandalorian might be new, but the actor playing him isn't. Pedro Pascal, who you probably know best as the dude who had his head crushed by the Mountain on Game of Thrones, will be the man behind the Mandalorian's signature armor. He's not coming alone, either. For The Mandalorian, Disney and Lucasfilm have assembled a top-tier cast that's full of genre-fiction favorites.

Former MMA star and American Gladiator and current action hero Gina Carano will play Cara Dune (or however it'll end up being spelled), a former Rebel shock trooper who's having trouble reintegrating with society now that the war is over. Carl Weathers, Rocky's Apollo Creed, will portray Greef Marga. Critically acclaimed director Werner Herzog steps in as The Mandalorian's pro-Empire crime lord, while Star Wars Celebration footage revealed that Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul villain Giancarlo Esposito will play a caped TIE Fighter pilot.

But wait, there's more! The Mandalorian has tapped Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte for a currently unspecified role, and has fleshed out its cast with comedian Bill Burr, The Mentalist and Supernatural's Emily Swallow and American Gods' Omid Abtahi. That's a lot of star power, and chances are that it didn't come cheap. With The Mandalorian, Disney isn't messing around.

The Mandalorian is not the only one of its kind

With Disney reconsidering its approach to Star Wars spinoff films, the Skywalker saga coming to a close with 2019's Episode IX, and Rian Johnson's film series still years away, television looks like it'll be the go-to source for new Star Wars adventures in the near future. Thankfully, The Mandalorian won't be shouldering that burden all on its own. Not only is the Disney Channel cartoon Star Wars Resistance off to a strong start, but there are other Star Wars series coming to the Disney+ streaming service, too.

Unlike The Mandalorian, however, the other live-action Star Wars show will feature at least one familiar face. Diego Luna, who played Rebel spy Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will reprise his role in an untitled series set to debut at an unspecified date. The show will be set sometime before the events of Rogue One, and will reportedly focus on "the formative years of the Rebellion." Then there's the limited series focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi's exploits after the fall of the Jedi, which will bring Ewan McGregor back to the role.

That means that The Mandalorian and the other shows won't directly overlap — they're set in two very different time periods — but it'd wouldn't be surprising to see one reference the other. Under Disney's stewardship, everything is connected. If a theme park, a novel, and possibly a movie can share a setting, it's pretty easy to imagine The Mandalorian picking up a character, vehicle, or planet from Andor's adventures. We'll just have to wait and see.

Seasoned with that old-school flavor

At Star Wars Celebration 2019, Jon Favreau repeatedly emphasized that The Mandalorian will be one giant love letter to the original Star Wars trilogy, and that tribute extends behind the scenes as well. Favreau wants to make sure The Mandalorian feels like our first visit to that galaxy far, far away, and that means embracing some old-school film production techniques. Naturally, green screens and CGI are necessary to deliver The Mandalorian on a TV budget, but Favreau says that the crew is also using puppets, animatronics, and special effects makeup wherever possible.

For example, while the dogfights in the modern Star Wars films are mostly computer generated, Favreau really wanted to make a model of the Razor Crest to use during production. Well, Industrial Light & Magic's art staff were so excited about the idea that they didn't just make a model. Unprompted, they went home and built a camera rig in their garages, recreating the hardware that was used to make Star Wars back in 1977. The end result looks just like classic Star Wars films. It's very cool.

ILM's staff aren't the only Star Wars fans who got in on The Mandalorian action, either. One day, The Mandalorian's crew realized that they were short on stormtrooper extras and costumes. To fill in the scene, the show's producers reached out to the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars aficionados who make their own, highly detailed stormtrooper outfits. Lucasfilm has teamed with the 501st before for promotional events, but The Mandalorian marks the first time that the 501st has appeared onscreen in an official Star Wars production.

A trailer that delivers on every promise

The first trailer for The Mandalorian dropped at Disney's 2019 D23 Expo, and while it's only a minute and a half long, it's crammed full of good stuff. Gorgeous cinematography that evokes old spaghetti westerns? References to Star Wars films from every era, even the made-for-TV Ewok movies and the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special? First looks at a whole bunch of colorful new characters, as well as some nods towards old favorites? It's all here.

Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau promised a series exploring the "darker, freakier side" of the galaxy, and even going by the trailer, it's clear that he wasn't kidding. Pablo Pascal's masked bounty hunter doesn't utter a single line during the video. He doesn't have to. Actions speak louder than words, and The Mandalorian trailer is full of action, including one of the most gruesome deaths in Star Wars history. (It involves a closing security door. You'll know it when you see it.)

If the rest of the series is that good, Star Wars fans are in for a treat when the first of The Mandalorian's eight episodes arrives.

Where and when you get to watch The Mandalorian

Unlike original series on services like Netlix and Amazon Prime, The Mandalorian isn't going to drop all at once. If you want the full Mandalorian experience, you're going to have to tune in to Disney+ each and every week. Thankfully, the broadcast schedule for all eight episodes of The Mandalorian has leaked early. You want to plan your week around Star Wars? Now you can.

The first episode of The Mandalorian airs on November 12, a Tuesday, which not-so-coincidentally happens to be Disney+'s launch day. The next episode arrives the same week on Friday, November 15, the same day as the newest Star Wars video game, Jedi: Fallen Order. From then on out, episodes will hit on Friday throughout the rest of November and December, with one big exception: episode seven will hit Disney+ on Wednesday, December 18.

What makes episode seven so special? Why, a little something called Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker, which comes out the same week. With advance screenings of Episode IX taking over theaters on Thursday, December 19, Disney wants to keep the weekend free for moviegoers, so it's releasing that week's installment of The Mandalorian a little early.

The George Lucas connection to The Mandalorian

All of Star Wars owes a huge debt to George Lucas — after all, the man created the entire darn thing — but The Mandalorian has some specific ties to Star Wars' great maker. For one, the show is heavily inspired by the first Star Wars movie, especially the opening act and the cantina scene, which Lucas directed (Lucas was creatively involved with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but didn't actually helm the features). The Mandalorian also uses technology originally developed for the Star Wars prequels, with 20-plus years of technical advancements added in.

However, as Breaking Bad and Mandalorian villain Giancarlo Esposito has revealed, Lucas' input on the series goes a lot deeper than that. According to Esposito, Lucas actually contributed some creative ideas to the show. While discussing The Mandalorian's impressive roster of directors with Collider, Esposito said that Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau " figured it out with George Lucas" himself, and was "working with George Lucas" directly.

Lucas and Favreau must've gotten along, because Lucas stopped by The Mandalorian set to surprise Favreau for the showrunner's 52nd birthday. Disney might be calling the shots at Star Wars these days, but Lucas' contributions certainly haven't been forgotten.

Video games helped bring The Mandalorian to life

From the original Star Wars arcade game to '90s classics like TIE Fighter and Jedi Knight to Knights of the Old Republic and Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars and video games have always enjoyed a healthy relationship. The Mandalorian pushes it to the next level. While Jon Favreau and his team used practical effects as much as they could to capture the original Star Wars' hand-made charm, digital wizardry was key to bringing The Mandalorian's exotic worlds to life.

Favreau already has a fair amount of experience working on primarily digital movie sets — he's the man behind Disney's live-action The Lion King and The Jungle Book remakes — and he brought all of that know-how to The Mandalorian, which was filmed largely using green screens. So, how did Favreau and the actors know what their fictional locations were supposed to look like? 

By using a game engine, of course. Video game software is great at rendering detailed 3D environments in real time, and The Mandalorian team used that tech to create digital sets that the cast and crew could "film" and see the results in real time. Not only did that speed up production. It let The Mandalorian's creative minds get an excellent read on what the finished product would look like and adjust accordingly. The results should speak for themselves.

From The Mandalorian to Ben Kenobi

The Mandalorian isn't the only live-action Star Wars series coming to Disney+. In addition to Jon Favreau's neo-western, Disney is also prepping a Rogue One prequel starring Diego Luna's Cassian Andor and a six-episode miniseries in which Ewan McGregor will return to usher Obi-Wan Kenobi into middle age.

Technically, neither of these shows will cross over with The Mandalorian, but The Mandalorian has already had a direct effect on Disney's Obi-Wan series. Director Deborah Chow, who helmed two episodes of The Mandalorian, impressed Lucasfilm so much that the company gave her the complete Obi-Wan show to call her own.

Chow certainly has the chops to bring Obi-Wan to the small screen — in addition to The Mandalorian, she has directed episodes of Jessica Jones, Mr. Robot, and Better Call Saul. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy seems to agree. "We really wanted to select a director who is able to explore both the quiet determination and rich mystique of Obi-Wan," Kennedy said. "I'm absolutely confident Deborah is the right director to tell this story."

Enough about The Mandalorian season one. What about season two?

The Mandalorian isn't even out yet, and it's already a hit — or, at the very least, Disney seems extremely confident that it'll be one. Months before The Mandalorian debuted, Jon Favreau got the greenlight to start writing season two. By the time that the cast and crew started making the rounds to promote the first season, filming on the second was already underway.

The Mandalorian season two adds a couple of new directors to its already stacked lineup, which includes Star Wars: The Clone Wars director Dave Filoni's first-ever live-action gig. For one, Favreau will actually get to helm an episode or two of the series this time around. During season one, he was too busy on Disney's The Lion King to take a direct role behind the camera. The Mandalorian cast member Carl Weathers will also direct a season two installment. In fact, his interest in sitting in the director's chair was one of the main reasons why he joined the series.

Otherwise, details about season two are as scarce as they are about season one, but don't worry. Favreau promises that there are plenty of surprises — and a few old "Legends" characters — in the pipeline. Don't give up on The Mandalorian when season one ends in December. The show is just getting started.

The Empire is gone, but not forgotten

The Mandalorian takes place about five years after Return of the Jedi and 25 years before The Force Awakens, making the galaxy a very different place than what you're used to. The ragtag Rebel Alliance has transformed itself into the New Republic, a representative democracy that spans many known planets. At this point in Star Wars canon, the New Republic is in full swing, with a headquarters on the planet Chandrila. It has also passed the Military Disarmament Act, which drastically scaled back the New Republic's military, leaving behind only a small peacekeeping force.

The Galactic Empire, on the other hand, hasn't been as fortunate. After the Battle of Jakku brought the Galactic Civil War to a close, what remained of the main Imperial fleet retreated to the mysterious Unknown Regions, where it will eventually reform into the First Order. Not yet, though. The First Order is still years away.

It's a time of transition. Out on the Outer Rim, where The Mandalorian takes place, former Imperial warlords are scrambling to hold on to power. Former rebels are trying to figure out where they belong now that the fighting has stopped. Criminals try to profit off of the confusion, and The Mandalorian's main characters are all caught right in the middle of it.