When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was announced, and Star Wars Rebels was going to be taking place around the same time (or at least in the same general period of "lead-up to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"), fans instantly started speculating how the two might crossover. They weren't disappointed, as several Easter eggs for Star Wars Rebels fans appeared in Rogue One, not the least of which was the main ship from the series, The Ghost. Likewise, the first episodes back after Rogue One's release featured Saw Gerrera and a Death Star tie-in.
For executive producer, story writer, and VFX Supervisor John Knoll (he's a man of many hats on this film), the Rebels tie-in was simply "natural." It was something he had in mind right when he was first pitching the idea of making an entire movie out of two lines of the opening crawl of the original Star Wars.
"Rebels was in development around the same time that I was developing the initial story pitch on this, and the proximity and time seemed like a natural fit, that maybe there needs to be some crossover. At some point in the Rebels show, maybe you'll see some characters from this movie and maybe there's something we can incorporate from Rebels into Rogue One," Knoll told ComicBook.com in an interview.
"I got talking with [Rebels showrunner] Dave Filoni about that, and I asked, 'what are your plans for the show? Would it be appropriate if The Ghost showed up in the space battle?' He was pretty enthusiastic about that, and we got the CG model from him. Obviously it was built for doing an animated show, so it needed a bit of a rebuild and texture and detail upgrade to work in a feature film, but it was really a fun project. It's a nice little gesture to the fans. If you recognize it for what it is, that's great, and if you don't, it's just another bit of variety of ships in the space battle."
The Ghost, for those hunting for it, can be seen a few times in the film. First, the edge of it is seen on a landing platform on Yavin-4 at the Rebel base (Chopper, the surly droid from the show, can be seen at the base, too). Then, it can be seen several times in the Battle of Scarif, coming out of hyperspace right under the Mon Calamari flagship, and zooming in and out of battle. It's clearly Hera Syndulla still piloting the Ghost, as her signature flying style is on display.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."