Star Wars: Why the long gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace


George Lucas revealed why there was a nearly 16-year release gap between Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace.

Have you ever wondered why Star Wars’  Original Trilogy was complete by 1983, and the franchise did not go forward with releasing the Prequels until 1999?

Well, George Lucas revealed in a blog on why there was such a long gap.

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According to, Lucas said the following:

"Well, my decision to make Episode I was more or less driven by technology. The first three Star Wars films were designed very, very carefully to be done cheaply. We didn’t go to any big cities, we didn’t have a lot of costumes, we didn’t have a lot of extras. We didn’t have a lot of the things that cost money on a movie like that. So it was really driven by what I could afford. You have to remember, the first film was made for 13 million dollars. Today, that same film costs 300 million dollars. Even in those days, 2001 cost like 25 million dollars. And I think we had more special effects than that did."

That’s interesting, as Lucas makes it clear that technology was one of the main reasons that Star Wars did not go forward after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for nearly 16 years. Of course, money seems to have been a major factor too, as Lucas was able to tell his story of the Original Trilogy with a small budget.

Lucas continued in the article, saying:

"With Episode I, I didn’t want to tell a limited story. I had to go into the politics and the bigger issues of the Republic and that sort of thing. I had to go into bigger issues. And in order to do that, I had to come up with a way of doing it, and that’s what digital technology brought me. I had Yoda but he couldn’t fight. I had cities, but I couldn’t build models that big. I had lots and lots of costumes, but I couldn’t afford to make them. So there were a lot of issues that were just practical — Episode I wasn’t doable for a long time, so I waited until we had the technology to do it."

If you think about it, the technology in the Prequels is certainly far superior than that of the Original Trilogy. As Lucas points out, he wanted to have big cities, Yoda in action, and costumes. Of course, that all costs a lot of money.

With visual effects emerging, it created great opportunities for movies like Star Wars to add factors that are part of what makes their films so great.

Just think about how well done the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker is in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. That credit should go to technology, as making a battle with those kinds of visual effects was probably not possible in the 1980s.

So, as technology within the movie industry continued to improve, Lucas eventually saw an opportunity to keep Star Wars movies going nearly 16 years later.

For those wondering why it took so long for one of the most successful movie franchise’s in history to produce another movie after 1983, there’s your answer. It was mainly due to the rise of technology.

Next. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The 5 best scenes of Episode I. dark

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are on this nugget supplied us with.