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Disney’s greatest strength is about to become its biggest weakness

Star Wars fatigue is here

Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Last Jedi Lucasfilm

Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted at a few new Star Wars series possibly being developed for Disney’s upcoming streaming platform yesterday, leading to concerns over Star Wars fatigue.

Iger’s announcement was bookended by two equally important pieces of news. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are developing their own Star Wars films, and Iger acknowledged that Disney won’t compete with Netflix’s scale when its stand-alone streaming service launches late next year.

The implication is that Disney will focus on producing less original content, striving for quality over quantity, and pay closer attention to the four brands the company prides itself on: Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel Studios and Disney original content.

Although subscribers will have less titles to choose from on Disney’s stand-alone streaming app, they’ll be inundated with a concerning amount of Star Wars and Marvel titles.

How much is too much? When does Star Wars fatigue kick in?

It’s here

Iger told investors during a call yesterday that just because Disney has “the ability to spend less on volume is not to suggest that we’re going to be low” on titles, implying there will be a number of new original series alongside older titles to keep subscribers happy. Disney’s streaming service, which is currently in development, will be the home of new exclusive TV series and films, but it won’t be the only way fans can get their eyes on Marvel or Star Wars projects.

There are about eight Star Wars films in the works right now, nine if you count Solo: A Star Wars Story). There’s an animated series on Disney XD, and Iger confirms at least one live-action series in development for Disney’s streaming service. Marvel Studios is releasing three to four movies a year, and airing even more TV series of its own on numerous networks like Netflix, Hulu, Disney XD and ABC Television.

There’s a lot of Marvel and Star Wars to choose from, and much of the selection is becoming increasingly more boring. The hype for Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t the same level that fans had for Star Wars: The Force Awakens; The Defenders, Iron Fist and Inhumans were all monotonous bores — just take a look at Twitter.

It’s time for Disney to step back and acknowledge how damaging the flood of content is to its core.

The Washington Post’s Brian Fung predicted Star Wars fatigue long before Disney announced Benioff and Weiss’ contribution to the franchise, launching groans heard around the world. Fung wrote that as Disney attempts to create a miniature universe akin to what Marvel Studio spent a decade doing, Star Wars was going to be affected by a similar fatigue.

Disney faces an even greater challenge: developing Star Wars at a pace that won’t exhaust audiences, or the source material, too quickly as executives seek to grow the sci-fi franchise into the size of a small moon. Under Disney’s stewardship, Star Wars is already being compared to the Marvel universe, a sprawling media empire also owned by Disney that has contributed to what some experts call “superhero fatigue.” Although superhero movies still make loads of money, a persistent critique of the genre is their formulaic homogeneity and a relentless firehose of content. And it’s a trap that Star Wars would do well to avoid.

Let things die already

Pop culture has a problem with death; our nostalgia refuses to let cherished relics die. We brought Star Wars back to life — same with Marvel, the Harry Potter universe, and even Shrek. The desire to turn everything into a franchise and change the lore to add in more details isn’t just manipulating the audience, it’s also emotionally exhausting. It’s getting more challenging to care about a new Star Wars movie or Marvel TV series because not a month goes by that I don’t have access to some kind of Star Wars or Marvel experience.

We should have expected this fatigue when Disney announced it wanted to release a new Star Wars movie every single year for the next foreseeable future. We told ourselves that as long as it remained once a year — a movie event — it would be okay. But Solo is coming out just a few months after a contentious release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and while some people are excited, there’s a palpable message floating around the internet, too loud to be ignored: Give us a second to rest.

This type of fatigue is only going to get worse as Disney ramps up for its stand-alone streaming service release in 2019. Disney will need to compete with Netflix and Hulu (a company it will soon own a majority stake in). The only method the company has for competing is offering more of its biggest properties; more Marvel, more Star Wars.

Ironically, Disney’s commitment to its expansive universes may just be the thing that finally turns us away from what we once loved most.

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