Did you know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens at one point bore the title Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire?
This is significant for fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (R.I.P.) as it’s very close to “Shadows of the Empire,” which was the title of a book and a video game that were both released in 1996.
The connection between the expanded universe and Force Awakens starts and ends with the since-changed title. Shadows of the Empire was an early example of “transmedia” entertainment from back when that concept was still a corporate buzzword and not the accepted norm for multimedia franchises.
The book and game (and a number of other products) established a set of connected stories between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They served as the test case that Lucasfilm needed to gauge the worth of creating new Star Wars films, and the campaign’s success is at least partially responsible(/at fault) for the series big screen return in the Prequel Trilogy.
Don’t be too mad. Shadows might have indirectly wrought Jar Jar and midichlorians, but without the Prequels, who knows if Disney would have ever stepped up to acquire Lucasfilm in 2012?
There’s one very vague connection between the original Shadows of the Empire and the new Star Wars canon, at least. The ’90s Shadows introduced Black Sun, a galaxy-spanning criminal organization that is essentially a Star Wars take on the Italian Mafia. While Black Sun isn’t ever mentioned in The Force Awakens, it has been established as part of the new canon and should hopefully continue to be a presence in Star Wars stories for years to come.
This isn’t much more than a fun, little factoid for serious geeks to chew on, but it at least gives us something to talk about during the long, painful roughly year-and-a-half wait until Episode VIII.