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How Indiana Jones Led To The Star Wars Prequels

The new Disney+ documentary Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian isn't just spilling the beans on Jon Favreau's outstanding live-action TV series; the behind-the-scenes peek has also provided fans with new insight into the development of the entire Star Wars franchise. According to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, it wouldn't have been much of a franchise at all without a little boost from Indiana Jones.

Kennedy, a longtime producer on the films of Steven Spielberg, discussed the way Lucas and Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies kept pushing the frontier of movie technology with each successive chapter. After the release of 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Kennedy suspects that Lucas had the itch to apply all his new cinematic inventions to the universe that made him famous: the Star Wars franchise. The notion clearly stuck in his craw, because just a few years later, Lucas started tinkering with his new visual effects toys by "enhancing" scenes from the original trilogy. The new Special Edition versions of the first three Star Wars films were released to theaters in 1997 as both a technological warm-up for the prequel trilogy and as a way of indoctrinating a new generation of fans. The results were commercially successful (if creatively controversial, to say the least), and marked a seismic shift in blockbuster filmmaking.

Without Indiana Jones, Star Wars might still be just three films

For decades, the Star Wars expanded universe had to subsist on three films for source material. With all the prequels, sequels, and anthology films available today, it's hard to imagine a universe in which George Lucas' first foray into the famous galaxy far, far away only generated episodes IV, V, and VI. While those three films proved fertile ground for years and years of licensed toys and related media, they also raised some important questions about what happened to the first three chapters, and why Lucas would decide to begin in the middle.

Apparently, the legendary director always had a vision for a nine-part Skywalker Saga, though it would be 16 years before he released the first prequel film, 1999's The Phantom Menace, and another 16 after that before the Disney merger yielded the first proper sequel, 2015's The Force Awakens. Amazing to think that none of it would have happened if work on Indiana Jones hadn't inspired Lucas to return to the Star Wars universe to test his fancy new movie tech.