The Clone Wars may have concluded abruptly at the end of its fifth season in March, but anticipation for the next project from showrunner Dave Filoni is already gaining steam, as evidenced at the Star Wars: Rebels panel held on Saturday at Star Wars Celebration Europe. Filoni and Celebration host Warwick Davis spent an hour discussing the genesis of the show, the roots of its design aesthetic, and the feeling fans can expect from the new animated series.
The series will take place in between Episodes III and IV, a hotbed of storytelling potential, but other details have remained ambiguous until now. Filoni promised that the panel would shed more light on the series but was quick to admit that, unfortunately, there would be no actual footage screened (since none has been produced yet).
Filoni, representing one-third of the braintrust behind the new show, introduced brief recorded messages from his partners: Greg Weisman (former showrunner of Gargoyles and Young Justice) and Simon Kinberg (screenwriter of Sherlock Holmes and producer of X-Men: First Class). The two apologized for not being present, but assured fans they were hard at work making a series that was true to the spirit of the original films.
From the outset, Filoni made it clear that Rebels will be a different series than The Clone Wars, in terms of tone, scope, and appearance. He then proceeded to showcase some pieces of conceptual art. Surprisingly, the initial slides did not feature art created for Rebels, but rather unused pieces from the original Star Wars, paintings which are plenty familiar to many fans who have pored over Star Wars art books throughout the years.
Filoni and his team found early inspiration from this art, produced by conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie. The work features a wealth of designs, particularly from the Episode IV era, that went unrealized on screen. To prepare for the early design work, Filoni said, “We went into the Lucasfilm Archives, looked at the McQuarrie originals, and analyzed them.” Noting that many details in these images are slightly “off” from what made it to screen, Filoni and his design team were able to cannibalize concepts to “create a look that precedes Star Wars.” He showed several images that adapted McQuarrie’s unused concepts into new alien environments.
As for characters, Filoni took some stylistic cues from a recent animated film produced by Lucasfilm’s new parent company. “We were very inspired by Tangled,” Filoni said, pointing towards the fluid look of the movie’s characters and the “roundness” of the animation (as opposed to the sharp, angular look of The Clone Wars). “We took that look, and crossed it with Miyazaki,” Filoni added (creating a fairly high bar for this series in the process!).
Another element that Filoni says sets this series apart was something everyone on his team agreed needed to be in the series—a Millennium Falcon analogue. “We needed a home on a ship,” Filoni said, finding that home in The Ghost, a small craft that will serve as a consistent location in the series.
Filoni also addressed the general appearance of the series, telling the audience that he has been researching the cameras and lenses used during the filming of Star Wars (extensive records are kept on this, he said) and attempting to replicate that look, from image quality to angles to movement.
The floor opened up for audience questions, and one fan asked about the number of episodes Filoni was hoping to produce (the target for The Clone Wars was 100, which it exceeded in season 5). Filoni laughed and replied, “The goal right now is to get it finished on time.”
Another question addressed The Clone Wars’ tendency of telling stories out of order, and Filoni assured fans that Rebels will “start at the beginning and proceed forward” (while also blaming the former series’ occasional lack of a linear narrative on George Lucas and his whimsical interest in establishing backstories).
Potential character appearances were also of interest to the attendees. One question about rotund rebel pilot Jek Porkins (who unceremoniously perished in A New Hope) elicited the somewhat playful response, “It’s actually come up. You know…how’d he get that way?” Another question, about continuing storylines or revisiting characters from The Clone Wars, garnered a much more curious answer.
“My wife says I’m a terrible liar,” Filoni said, grinning wide. He then cryptically offered, “There’s always a special place in my heart for [characters] I had a part in creating.” Judging from the applause in the room, many fans took this to imply that Ahsoka Tano’s story might not yet be finished after all.
There are, of course, still unaired episodes of The Clone Wars out there, as reiterated during Mark Hamill’s panel later in the weekend. When asked about his voicework, Hamill mentioned a character he had voiced for an episode of The Clone Wars that has, thus far, gone unseen. Hamill was coy about the character’s identity, unsure of whether to keep it a secret or not, but divulged that it was “Darth somebody” and said that it was a character tied to the history of the prequel trilogy. Most fans can probably connect the dots on that clue (Darth Plagueis, anyone?), and the revelation only further whetted audience appetites for more Clone Wars.
We may not know when those episodes of The Clone Wars will see the light of day, but for now Star Wars: Rebels is targeting a Fall 2014 premiere.