WARNING: This post references minor spoilers for Season Five of The Clone Wars
With the world premiere of Season Five held at the Digital Stage on Friday night, it was no surprise that The Clone Wars had a major presence at Celebration VI. In addition to the premiere, Lex, Linda, or I attended all three presentations by Dave Filoni and Joel Aron at the Digital Stage. During the four events, fans were treated to the full first episode, the three-minute extended season trailer, a half dozen lengthy teaser clips, and lots of fascinating insight into the making of the show and the stories ahead.
Before getting into the highlights of those presentations, though, I want to talk about a different event in the Star Wars University room: Dave Filoni’s Thursday evening class “Telling a Star Wars Story.” In the much smaller, more intimate setting, Dave whipped out his pens and filled numerous sheets of paper with quickly drawn sketches to illustrate the points he was making about the importance of composition, framing, and screen direction to facilitating the audience’s immersive experience watching a Star Wars film or an episode of The Clone Wars. I noticed EU author Jason Fry in attendance too, and afterward we agreed that although Dave’s focus was on the visual aspects of animation, much of what he talked about also applied to prose fiction, too. For example, three important principles Dave discussed were keeping the story fast, clear, and original. Dave also emphasized that the core of a story is its characters and the emotions that drive them, and then they dress it up in the settings of Star Wars. The class gave me a lot to think about as I finish Wynde and head into another round of serious edits.
The class was about storytelling and relied mostly on spontaneous examples rather than actual scenes from The Clone Wars. At one point, though, Dave sketched a panel of just Ahsoka’s eyes – then informed the audience that we would see a shot like that later in the season “to devastating effect.” At the end, he showed a rough preliminary animation of a scene with the label “602” showing Anakin and Obi-Wan engaged in an apparently emotional conversation at a campfire. Could that have been our first glimpse of Season Six?
Clearly the most shocking moment of the class, though, was Dave removing his trademark black hat because it was getting in the way of the projector lens while he sketched. He cracked up the audience with his mock outrage at the exclamations and gasps. For the record, he’s not bald – he just likes the hat.
Many slivers of information were shared at the Digital Stage panels, but some of the most interesting were the high-level remarks. For example, Dave shared that the show’s team is working on about thirty episodes at any one time, from the earliest stages of concept art to the final steps of post-production. That’s nearly a season and a half – amazing! Dave also told the crowd to keeping expressing to Lucasfilm how much they want to see The Clone Wars on the big screen in movie theaters. No specific plans are in the works, but the more fan interest is generated, the more likely it is to happen. And when he was asked if an endpoint for The Clone Wars had been determined, Dave related an anecdote of telling George Lucas that he was going to keep making the show until George tells him to stop, and George’s response was a simple, “Yep.” Hopefully that day is a long way off.
Joel Aron also shared a lot of great information with the fans. Season Five will bring new character models for Yoda, Artoo, and Hondo Ohnaka, among others. Partly because those characters were still in their Season One models, and partly because they’re going to be used more in Season Five, justifying the effort to make the upgrades. Joel also revealed that the background lava in the Mustafar scenes is actually the exact digital file from ILM for Revenge of the Sith, with slight blurring added to match the visual feel of The Clone Wars. How cool is that? Joel noted that the depiction of the comets in one episode was inspired by the original version of the Disney Star Tours ride and an homage to the style of the recently deceased artist Moebius. Dave revealed another homage too: the armor of Gregor, a Republic Commando, is decorated in the colors of the Boston Bruins, who won the Stanley Cup the spring the episode was in production, and his helmet has tick marks as a nod to the famous Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers, who introduced the now-common idea of painting designs on his mask. And repeatedly throughout each presentation, Dave raved about the constantly improving quality of the animation being delivered by Joel and the rest of the animators. Unlike the first season, Dave joked, now the show could depict a Wookiee on fire leaping from a tree into water – not, he noted, an actual scene from the show.
“I never have to push my team.” ~ Dave Filoni
Dave also made frequent mention throughout the convention of the growing presence of female audience and fans for The Clone Wars. Last season, 34% of the audience was girls, a very strong number for an animated show. Even more, Dave emphasized in the panels – and again during the live ForceCast on Sunday – that hiring Ashley Eckstein to voice Ahsoka Tano was the best decision he has made as supervising director. Her portrayal of the Padawan has been incredible, of course, but even more she has exceeded all expectations in her outreach to female fans and her creation of Her Universe to bring even more enthusiasm from girls and women to The Clone Wars and Star Wars in general. Ashley is a great ambassador for Star Wars fangirls, and I was delighted to hear Dave himself give her such strong support.
Some of the other female characters in The Clone Wars received extensive mention from Dave and Joel, as well. The story arc for Asajj Ventress came from George Lucas directly, and we’ll see more of her progression in Season Five. After her turn rescuing Obi-Wan at the end of Season Four, Dave hinted we’ll probably be surprised at who she teams up with this season. He also discussed creating Bo Katan, lieutenant to Death Watch leader Pre Viszla. Dave wanted the show to include more girls who can kick butt, and who would also provide great inspiration for the fandom’s cosplayers. At one panel, Dave brought a Bo Katan cosplayer on stage to show off her costume, describing the moment as bringing the character full circle from his initial sketch to a live-action version at Celebration.
“Everybody deserves a jetpack.” ~ Dave Filoni
Dave played it a little closer to the vest with the main characters of The Clone Wars. We learned that Obi-Wan will have another tough season, and that the guilt he feels about Maul’s return – for not having finished him off completely the first time – becomes an emotional weakness of his own, sometimes leading to impatience or clouded judgment. Anakin, of course, has his own weak point and clouded judgment in his secret marriage to Padmé and his fear for her safety. Season Five looks to test him even further in both directions. Dave hinted that we’ll learn more this season about how much Obi-Wan and Ahsoka really know about Anakin and Padmé. In an epically evil tease, Dave also declared that Matt Lanter’s performance is “spectacular” in the Season Five finale.
At the Saturday morning panel, George Lucas made his surprise appearance with Dave and Joel on the stage. He didn’t share any new information or clips, but fans didn’t care – it was great simply to see The Maker there in person. With the negativity The Clone Wars receives in some quarters, it was nice to see the extended standing ovation for George from the fans in attendance at the panel. The Clone Wars is some of the best Star Wars storytelling we’ve been given, and none of it would be happening without George Lucas’ continued passion for the Galaxy Far Far Away.
Looking back over the trailer and the teaser clips, I think it’s possible we’ve now been teased about as many as 18 of the 22 episodes in Season Five. The season opens with a two-episode arc revisiting the Maul storyline from the end of Season Four. After that, we know there are arcs centered around a story involving Clovis, Padmé, and Anakin; the battle to free Onderon from the Separatists with Ahsoka and Lux Bonteri in key roles; a military operation conducted by R2-D2 and four other droids plus a diminutive alien commanding officer; and another arc featuring Black Sun, an unlikely alliance between Maul and Death Watch (leading Dave to coin the term “Maul-dalorians”), and a combatively angry Darth Sidious. If each of these arcs is four episodes long, then there are only four other episodes remaining in the season. Could those be the ones that include Ahsoka’s devastating eyes and Anakin’s spectacular voice? Only time will tell.
Celebration VI FANgirl Clone Wars Moments:
- Linda and I looking at each other after the Sidious/Maul face-off appeared in the Season Five trailer and squealing in glee.
- Getting to share that spoilerific moment with Ryder Windham, James Luceno, and Jason Fry – and realizing they were just as big of fans as I am.
- Receiving a Wolfpack button from Dave Filoni, and upon telling him I had appeared on a few ForceCast Clone Wars Roundtables getting these words of wisdom: “Keep it honest. Keep it real. We’re doing this all for the fans.”
Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters. She also writes about Star Wars for Random House’s science fiction and fantasy blog Suvudu.com. Her interview with X-Wing: Mercy Kill author Aaron Allston can be found in this month’s Star Wars Insider Issue 135.
In her spare time, Tricia puts the finishing touches on her first novel, Wynde. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.