Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic until May 2022, this iteration of Celebration Anaheim marked the first Star Wars convention since Dave Filoni’s promotion to the title of Executive Creative Director at Lucasfilm in the summer of 2020. (The credits to Obi-Wan Kenobi list Filoni’s title as Executive Creative Counsel; the website retains Director.) His extensive participation on panels at the convention befitted this new role. Given his significant involvement in Star Wars stories already told – including The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and The Mandalorian – as well as his influence on the future of the franchise – in the near term Ahsoka, the remainder of The Mandalorian, and Tales of the Jedi – it is worth examining the ideas and themes Filoni emphasized over the course of his appearances.
One consistent message of Filoni’s remarks was the importance of understanding and preserving the value of Star Wars characters and their legacy. On the Live Stage on Sunday, he explained:
Filoni was equally consistent in emphasizing that the responsibility of safeguarding the franchise is not his alone, but is shared with the teams producing the stories. He specifically noted the important contributions of executives Carrie Beck and Athena Portillo not only in delivering the resources and support to make the productions possible, but also in providing feedback and input to ensure their storytelling success. In addition, Filoni repeatedly described a pay-it-forward perspective: just as he learned so much about Star Wars by working directly with George Lucas, now Filoni carries on that legacy by passing along his knowledge and insight to the people working with him. On the Tales of the Jedi panel, he said:
Filoni noted that Murray had asked about directing an episode back on The Clone Wars, but more seasoned animation directors had been brought in to finish Lucas’ stories. When the opportunity to make Tales of the Jedi arose, Filoni had found the right time to fulfill Murray’s request. On the same panel, Filoni commented:
Another member of Lucas’ writers room on The Clone Wars, Matt Michnovetz, serves as writer and story editor for The Bad Batch. He provides a conduit to Lucas’ perspective on Star Wars during the daily grind of making The Bad Batch, freeing Filoni to focus on projects like The Mandalorian and Ahsoka.
The responsibility for taking care of the franchise extends beyond the executives, writers, and directors. On the Tales of the Jedi panel, Filoni introduced Janina Gavankar, previously lauded for her voice acting work as Iden Versio in the Battlefront II videogame, as the voice actor for Ahsoka’s mother. He trusted her with such an emotionally significant role because he understood her commitment to always doing right by Star Wars. He elaborated:
On the Mando+ panel, Filoni and Favreau invited to the stage numerous luminaries from The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, including Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Brendan Wayne (Din Djarin), Lateef Crowder (Din Djarin), Carl Weathers (Greef Carga), Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon), Emily Swallow (The Armorer), Katee Sackhoff (Bo-Katan Kryze), and Rick Famuyiwa (writer and director, and executive producer on Season Three of The Mandalorian), as well as Rosario Dawson (Ahsoka Tano) and Natasha Liu Bordizzo (Sabine Wren) from Ahsoka. With everyone on stage nodding in agreement, Filoni affirmed that this same passion for Star Wars is shared by the entire team on their series:
Filoni also made several smaller, yet equally noteworthy, points about his perspective on Star Wars over the course of the convention. On the Tales of the Jedi panel he acknowledged a weak point in the franchise that FANgirl Blog and Fangirls Going Rogue have critiqued on many occasions previously:
On the Live Stage on Sunday, Filoni clarified that his commitment to respecting the legacy of Star Wars characters encompasses not only the films and animation, but also the characters created by others in the Star Wars Legends stories:
Filoni also recognizes that Star Wars is not merely entertainment storytelling, but also modern myth that imparts lessons and values to its audience. On the Tales of the Jedi panel, he directly connected the technological progression of Star Wars animation to a famous teaching of Yoda’s from The Empire Strikes Back, and then to what it signifies for everyday life:
Although the convention began with the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase panel, one of Filoni’s very first comments upon taking the stage reflects the humility and empathy that pervaded the remainder of his appearances at the convention. As visibly excited as he was to talk about the live action series, he first emphasized: