On Thursday afternoon at Celebration, Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo joined David Collins on the Digital Stage for a panel titled “The Untold Clone Wars.” Fans of the animated series have known since the show’s cancellation in 2012 that several addition seasons’ worth of material existed in various stages of development, from full-cast voice recordings and animatics to episode scripts and notes from story conferences. Some of those stories have been released, including the Lost Missions sixth-season episodes, the Utapau arc animatics, the Son of Dathomir comic, and the upcoming novel Dark Disciple. Other tales, though, remain hidden in the shadows. Filoni and Hidalgo treated fans with glimpses and hints at the panel; images of all of the disclosed concept art and Filoni sketches are available at the StarWars.com live blog page. Perhaps the most interesting information from the panel, though, was not the plot arcs or character appearances revealed, but the insights about the storytelling ideas that had guided the series toward its endpoint.
The first arc mentioned centers around Boba Fett and Cad Bane. In a storyline inspired by the Western movie The Searchers, the two bounty hunters must work together to locate a Tusken Raider camp on Tatooine to rescue a captive. In a clip, Bane convinces Fett to act as bait, allowing himself to be taken by the Tuskens so that Bane can follow the tracking signal to the camp. More than money motivates the elder bounty hunter, though. Filoni revealed that Bane had been a rival of Jango Fett, the two men always disputing who was the superior bounty hunter. With Jango’s untimely demise in the Battle of Geonosis, however, Bane never got his answer. By training young Boba, passing on all the skills Jango had possessed, Bane finally may have the chance to finally find out which man is better. For all his bravado in the face of the Jedi, and even the Sith, apparently Cad Bane has carried with him a deep-seated insecurity throughout the Clone Wars.
One double arc discussed offers some intriguing connections not just to earlier seasons of The Clone Wars but also to Expanded Universe material. Originally the Kaminoans had believed that all clones with genetic mutations should be discarded, or relegated to menial tasks like the clone Ninety-Nine seen in the Domino Squad episodes. Later in the war, though, the cloners have changed course, deliberately introducing mutations into some clones to give them specialized traits. One such unit calls itself the Bad Batch. Filoni compared them to the supercommandos of EU lore, including videogames, who were known for their independent spirit rather than reflexively following orders. The first four episodes of the Bad Batch storyline were shown in proxy animation form in a separate screening at Celebration; for details, check out the thorough recap by Johnamarie Macias at The Wookiee Gunner.
The second arc with the Bad Batch unit takes place on Kashyyyk. In a clip, the clones team with Wookiee warriors to battle a group of netcasters, web-shooting creatures from the EU that resemble a cross between a spider and a mantis. We also see that the clones serving in Yoda’s battalion have a logo of the Jedi Master’s unique head shape adorning the face of their helmets. Concept art show Wookiees riding giant monkeys into battle – but the mounts are in fact tree spirits. Another sketch shows Tarfful kneeling in prayer, asking permission from the forest to go to war – because the Wookiees will have to set part of the forest ablaze to drive out the Trandoshan invaders. Hidalgo noted that idea of the Wookiees’ deep bond with nature and the Kashyyyk forest goes all the way back to George Lucas interviews in 1977 about the backstory to the first Star Wars movie.
Another double arc also received extensive discussion and a clip. The eight-episode story featuring Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos will be told in Dark Disciple, so little was said about the plotline. Filoni shared that George Lucas was very happy with how Ventress’ arc developed over the span of The Clone Wars, particularly viewing her as a more interesting character once she was no longer Dooku’s Sith acolyte. Katie Lucas, the writer of the episodes, and Filoni both supported the new punk hairdo for Ventress. During the clip she wields her Nightsister energy bow, the last vestige of her heritage. Filoni also credited Ashley Eckstein’s geek couture line from Her Universe with inspiring Ventress’ ball gown, which looks chic while also allowing her to fight effectively. In addition, Filoni noted that Vos’ character model had become much closer to his appearance in the EU comics. Filoni explained that George Lucas had read the comics and liked Vos there. The character model change was made deliberately, in part to acknowledge its importance to EU fans, as well as to mark Vos’ transition from the jocular character in prior seasons to the more brooding figure familiar to EU fans. Still, at the clip’s end Vos makes the mistake of calling Ventress “honey” – which earns him a sucker punch to the face that knocks him unconscious.
After discussing these arcs in depth, Filoni and Hidalgo shared additional concept art and sketches, with accompanying hints and clues. Some of the highlights:
- Like many of the other clone army gunships, the Bad Batch ship has nose art as well – featuring none other than Senator Amidala of Naboo. Needless to say, Anakin Skywalker is not at all pleased by this discovery when he sees it.
- In the real world, many churches and cathedrals are built atop more ancient religious sites. Inspired by this notion, Filoni and George Lucas explored the idea that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was constructed atop ancient ruins. Perhaps deep enough in the catacombs might even be a Sith unholy site…
- With the wide variety of story genres explored within The Clone Wars, one possibility that was considered was an alien abduction tale. The abductors would have been none other than Yuuzhan Vong aboard a scout ship, assessing the strength of the Republic prior to the future galactic invasion. Filoni noted that this story concept never got far into development, but given the importance of the Vong invasion and the New Jedi Order novel series to the Expanded Universe, the fact that such a story was even considered for The Clone Wars is fascinating.
- In the original ending to Ahsoka’s story arc in Season Five, Barriss Offee died when she blew up her prison cell using the same microbots she had used to bomb the Jedi Temple and frame Ahsoka. Filoni changed the ending to spare Offee her demise, though, and noted that he still has plans for Barriss. He emphasized that a lot of what she said about the Jedi, the Republic, and the war was true; it was her actions that were wrong. That reality deeply affected Ahsoka, and will continue to do so.
- When it reached its endpoint, The Clone Wars would have told stories set during Revenge of the Sith and Order 66, including the fates of key players like Ahsoka and Captain Rex during those fateful events. Intriguingly, Filoni shared a sketch of a clone trooper helmet with Ahsoka’s facial markings emblazoned on the front. Even after her departure from the Jedi Order, some clone apparently remained loyal to Commander Tano.
Finally, during the Q&A segment a fan asked if Filoni’s sketchbooks from The Clone Wars story conferences would ever be published. Filoni replied that he would love that, although the art would need contextual notes as well to make it understandable to fans. He encouraged fans to keep asking for it, and Hidalgo agreed that fans should show the interest is there. Through the convention Lucasfilm delivered a consistent theme that Star Wars is for the fans. Although The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars Rebels may be the new stories in the immediate future, if fans continue to show their passion for The Clone Wars, we may yet learn a great deal more about these untold stories.
B.J. Priester is editor of FANgirl Blog and contributes reviews and posts on a range of topics. A longtime Star Wars fandom collaborator with Tricia, he edited her novel Wynde and is collaborating with her on several future projects set in that original universe. He is a law professor in Florida and a proud geek dad.