The Star Wars: The Clone Wars 10th anniversary panel in San Diego Comic-Con had a mix of walking down memory lane and giving fans a look at the bright future ahead of us.
Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe, Managing Editor of Nerdist.com, the panel featured executive producer Dave Filoni, producer Athena Portillo, voice actors Ashley Eckstein and Matt Lanter, and composer Kevin Kiner.
When talking about the past, we normally turn to how it all started. For the lucky few at Celebration IV in 2007, it began with a simple trailer of a new animated series. The early footage was put together days before Celebration IV kicked off, and those in attendance at the 10th anniversary panel were treated to that same footage, momentarily taking us back to the beginning—back to the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated feature film, which led into the now popular and fan-favorite animated television series.
But why did George Lucas start an animated series in the first place?
“I think it was just to explore the many different stories that he had in mind over the years,” said Filoni. The prequels from 1999-2005 helped set the stage for the Clone War, but there’s only so much you can cover in a two-hour movie, so an animated television series was the best way to take the audience deeper into the world Lucas created. “He had so many ideas and he knew that he was focused on the Anakin Skywalker story for the films. He wanted to go down and see what all these other characters were about and introduce new characters and look at Anakin sometimes in a more in-depth way than he had in the films and show the different personalities of him.”
That’s one of the many things Star Wars: The Clone Wars was successful at doing, specifically showing viewers the many different sides of Anakin Skywalker and expounding on what was shown on the big screen. For many fans, this animated show helped bridge the gap and added clarity to that character’s actions in the prequel films. It was also fascinating to see how he handled his responsibilities as a Master to Ahsoka as well as his growing attachment to her.
The series, however, didn’t immediately start off with the idea of giving Anakin Skywalker a Padawan. Those involved in development first had to figure out the character makeup of the show.
“When I was working early on with Henry Gilroy, we were trying to figure out what the character makeup of the show was going to be and how we could produce a TV series based in the time period of Clone Wars because the Clone Wars is so vast,” expressed Filoni. “It would require literally thousands of clones battling thousands of battle droids. And so, we were shooting around more of an original trilogy idea of a crew: two Jedi that worked with these smugglers in the black market. … Frankly, that character makeup is very similar to what we ended up with in Rebels. That dynamic. So it just goes to show you that those ideas don’t really die.”
In a way, the original trilogy idea did stick around because even though Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduced a range of new characters and shifted around the galaxy from week to week, the main three protagonists were Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka. It’s a similar setup as Luke, Han, and Leia as well as Rey, Finn, and Poe. While the idea of a crew would have been interesting to see in The Clone Wars, it worked better in Rebels, given the dark times period the characters lived in and the need to focus on one crew’s point of view.
Of course, none of that would have been realized without a variety of factors, including Athena Portillo’s essential role as producer and CGCG’s incredible work in animation, both of which deserve more recognition and received praise and thanks at the panel.
“After a writer’s conference, what happens in production land is we then receive the scripts,” Portillo said, giving fans a brief glimpse at what she does at Lucasfilm. “We go through the scripts and we break down everything from vehicles, characters, props, and sets, and we set parameters. So within that timeframe, we get together with Filoni and the supervisors to make sure we stay within parameters. … If we get to a point where we have to go over parameters, I never believe in saying no. No one in production believes in saying no. We believe in making sure that we never ruin the integrity of what it is the creative is trying to produce and put on air, so we always work together to get to that point.”
The animation in particular is something that fans will always have an opinion on because it’s the aspect that they’re exposed to the most. It’s also highly subjective. When Star Wars: The Clone Wars first started, many criticized the look of the series, and as the years passed, those opinions changed as the crew and the style evolved.
“[CGCG] is the animation company in Taipei (as seen above) that has been responsible for the vast majority of Clone Wars that you guys have seen,” explained Filoni. “If it wasn’t for CGCG, Clone Wars would never have happened. It was so difficult in the beginning, and they are a fantastic animation studio that really held us together and worked with us all the way through the end. We used to go to Taipei all the time and they’re just wonderful people. If we’re doing an anniversary, we have to bring them up here. They deserve a ton of credit.”
While CGCG handles the bulk of the CG production and several artists are involved in creating concept art and paintings, the episodes first start off as sketches.
“All these drawings that you’re seeing are done on the day when I’m talking to George with the writers present,” said Filoni. “I just start drawing them because I want to be sure that we’re capturing the essence of everything we’re talking about on the day, and as you can tell, like that line-up with Ahsoka (on the right), was drawn on the day and that’s very true to who the characters ended up being in the episodes because you have to have consistency of idea and thought. That way, you’re not wasting time, I’m not wasting money, Athena’s budgeting everything correctly, and the writers get these drawings … so they have something to follow.”
Another fascinating detail about his artwork that wasn’t obvious before was the difference between a more solid sketch versus a drawing that he described as “looser.”
“You can tell [the art on the right is] a little looser because we were really trying to find the story more. When the drawings tend to be a lot looser than say like the Quinlan Vos/Dark Disciple drawings (left), it means that there’s a lot probably that will change more, so the drawings become more abstract. It’s showing Athena and the team that there’s going to be battles, multiple characters, a lot of clones, certain sets, but it’s not as grounded. Some stories are more figured out at inception than others and so this one was a little more loose.”
Over the years, some of these sketches have been shared on various panels, but Filoni is also known to shake things up on social media whenever he uploads a drawing for the fan community to see. And while he doesn’t hold the same value for his sketches, many fans have been begging publishers to make a book solely about his art.
Another man’s work of a different kind of art that’s been highly praised for the past decade is that of Kevin Kiner. His compositions and those pieces of music created by his team have emotional stirred fans for years because he always finds a way to surprise us.
“There are a lot of times during show when there’s something brand-new that John [Williams] didn’t explore in the movies,” said Kiner. “I still have to keep it in the Star Wars musical universe, but because John Williams is so steeped in classicism and we all borrow from each other … what I do is go out and borrow from somebody else.”
At the panel, fans were treated to the final moments of the Ahsoka arc, where she and Anakin parted ways. Believe it or not, it still brought most of the audience to tears, so there’s no doubt his work will go down as some of the richest and emotionally eliciting content in Star Wars.
Another relationship that Anakin had throughout the series was his secret marriage to Padmé.
“I used to talk with Matt [Lanter] and Cat Taber about Anakin and Padmé and their relationship and how could we do more,” Filoni said. “It needs to have conflict in it. Any relationship over time would naturally have that so we liked the idea of putting pressure on them and maybe they weren’t this completely utopic couple during the Clone Wars, that they were stretched apart, that they had [to] combat to stay together, that they fought for what they believed in each other.”
While the series did flesh out the relationship between Anakin and Padmé, it also made the events in Revenge of the Sith all the more tragic. There were many times throughout the series when those conflicts that Filoni mentioned should have driven them apart, especially during the Clovis arc. You’d think someone as smart as Padmé would have realized when to step away from a controlling and volatile relationship, but in the end, their relationship helped reinforce that age-old saying: love is blind.
Additionally, Anakin’s story (and Star Wars in general) comes with a multitude of life lessons, one of which Filoni touched on during the panel.
“The point of Anakin Skywalker’s story is that we’re all making those [difficult] choices every day as Anakin Skywalker does. We start out our day, we don’t intend to turn to the dark side, but so quickly we make choices that tunnel us down into a darkness. … When do you feel bad? When you make choices and you’re angry. Maybe you have road rage, and then, I’m sure when you feel rage or anger, you immediately feel bad about it. When you feel good, when you do something selfless, when you give somebody something, something that’s meaningful to them, don’t you feel better? That’s kind of the whole point of Star Wars. You’d be selfless or selfish. I keep saying it at everything that I speak on Star Wars because it’s what George spoke about the most: selfish, selfless. This is what lifts you up, this will tear you down. It’s really that simple and that’s the Force in a nutshell.”
The Force, light versus dark, good versus bad. These are just some of the things fans love about Star Wars, but something else that fans love most? Seeing unfinished stories come back to life again.
In an unprecedented move, Filoni and the crew announced the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the room went wild. The energy was palpable, and it felt like being back in an arena-sized space at Star Wars Celebration.
“Obviously, we wanted to do this,” said Filoni, sharing some final words at the panel. “I think it’s going to be great. It’ll be coming to you in the future on Disney Direct-to-Consumer, so thanks to them for that. The early stuff we’ve been getting in on the show just looks phenomenal. I wasn’t sure if we could ever do it again, but I think the goodwill that you guys have had to believe in the show is shared on the crew and they are so intense about making this thing incredible for you.”
Given the fact that Lucasfilm Animation has been putting some of the best storytelling content out there for the past 10 years, it’s safe to say that these remaining episodes will be just as rich and fulfilling as what came before.
Where were you when the big news was announced? How do you feel about the series coming back for 12 episodes? Share your thoughts about the panel and the announcement in the comments section below.
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