In the years following Return of the Jedi, most Star Wars fans had to rely on a variety of novels and comic books to learn more about their favorite characters, while also meeting all-new heroes and villains. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, they made the bold directive to erase anything that didn't appear in the six live-action films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars from official canon, to the dismay of many fans. Leland Chee, who helps maintain the canon elements of the series as a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group, says one big factor was that Chewbacca had died in a 1999 novel.
"For me, it came down to simply that we had killed Chewbacca in the Legends — a big moon had fallen on him," Chee revealed to The Fandom Files. "Part of that [original decision] was Chewbacca, because he can't speak and just speaks in growls, he was a challenging character to write for in novels. Publishing had decided they needed to kill somebody, and it was Chewbacca."
There's an important distinction between these non-canonical stories, now referred to as "Legends," and the original, non-special edition versions of the original trilogy. The Legends comics and novels still exist and are available to purchase, they just don't exist as part of the saga's official narrative. The unaltered original films, on the other hand, are no longer considered in line with George Lucas' vision and will seemingly never receive an official release.
The similarity between the Legends stories and original trilogy is that neither are sanctioned Lucas himself, with a variety of writers and artists interpreting the saga in whichever ways they saw fit.
"But if you have the opportunity to bring back Chewbacca into a live-action film, you're not gonna deprive fans that," Chee pointed out. "There's no way that I'd want to do an Episode VII that didn't have Chewbacca in it and have to explain that Chewbacca had a moon fall on his head. And if we were going to overturn a monumental decision like that, everything else was really just minor in comparison."
Prior to being a member of the Story Group, Chee had been with Lucasfilm since 1997 and helped maintain the massive database of information related to the saga. Chee helped create the "Holocron," the internal name given to the database that collects information about the saga, which reportedly had roughly 30,000 entries in 2008. Currently, Chee says the Holocron now has closer to 80,000 entries.
"Right now we're up to nearly 80,000 entries in the Holocron," Chee confessed. "So that's 80,000 different characters, vehicles, planets, locations, events, and even different Star Wars slang that will get their own entry. And each entry has dozens of fields, though most of those fields don't apply to every entry."
You can see the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, in theaters now.