Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019: The Clone Wars Sneak Peek

When the six seasons of The Clone Wars animated series came to an end in 2014, fans hoped that the dozen remaining unproduced story arcs developed by George Lucas and Dave Filoni might someday be told. The novel Dark Disciple portrayed the resolution of Asajj Ventress’ story, while the Son of Dathomir comic adaptation revealed the aftermath of Maul’s defeat by Sidious at Mandalore and the fate of Mother Talzin. Filoni also released on the unfinished story reels for a four-episode arc with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker investigating a Separatist plot to obtain massive kyber crystals on Utapau. Beyond these, though, fans have only seen glimpses of story reels, animatics, and concept art during Filoni’s panels on The Clone Wars at each of the three previous Star Wars Celebration conventions.

At last summer’s tenth anniversary panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Filoni announced the shocking news that The Clone Wars would return on the Disney+ streaming service for twelve more episodes. Since then, fans have wondered what these new episodes would bring, and how they would compare to the previously revealed information about the unproduced stories. At the Celebration Chicago panel on Sunday, April 14, many of our questions were answered. Filoni confirmed that the new episodes comprise three story arcs, each one drawing a big cheer from the audience in attendance. He also remarked that, in the course of rebuilding The Clone Wars production team and process to make these episodes, the animation quality will be better than it has ever been in the series.

Although it includes Anakin and Obi-Wan, as well as other Prequel Trilogy movie characters, ultimately The Clone Wars series is the story of Ahsoka Tano from Skywalker’s eager apprentice to solemn Jedi exile, and the numerous clone troopers who fought and died for the Republic in the war. It makes perfect sense, then, that Filoni chose story arcs centered on these characters for the new episodes.

The first arc is “The Bad Batch,” referring to an elite squad of four genetically enhanced super-soldier clones. Capable of feats exceeding the usual troopers, they also have unique personalities and more distinct independence and autonomy. The short clip showing the team in action definitely made the point of how skilled the Bad Batch troopers are. Filoni also mentioned that the antagonist in the arc is also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, essentially giving the fan-favorite voice actor a full story arc to display his amazing range and depth. Baker referenced inspiration taken from the 1980’s series The A-Team, which focused on the antics of former Special Forces members cast out of the military for specific quirks who join together to fight for underdogs.

The second arc takes place shortly after Ahsoka’s departure from the Jedi Order, when she has to abruptly adjust to life on her own, without any of the resources or support networks she spent her whole life to date relying on. At Celebration Europe in London in 2016, Filoni had shared an animatic of Ahsoka flying a speeder bike that suffers an engine malfunctioning, forcing Ahsoka to somehow find a way to set it down safely. In the Celebration Chicago panel, fans saw the final version of this clip, fully animated with visuals, sound, and voice. In London, Filoni and Ashley Eckstein had discussed this arc – which takes Ahsoka to the underworld level 1313 on Coruscant – as involving a young man, Nyx Okami, with whom Ahsoka shares a whirlwind romantic storyline. In Chicago, however, Filoni revealed that the story has been revised so that Ahsoka instead meets and befriends two sisters, Trace and Rafa Martez, as she adjusts to her new life. For all its strengths, The Clone Wars at times struggled with problematic tropes, especially involving female characters, and it is not hard to imagine that Ahsoka’s interactions with Okami might have presented similar issues. Similarly, while “The Bad Batch” centers on four male clones, the 1313 arc apparently now revolves around three female characters – including two new women of color, largely missing in The Clone Wars previously – to provide a more even balance in the new episodes.

The third arc is the long-awaited and much-anticipated “Siege of Mandalore,” the story arc designed as the final episodes of the entire series. At the London panel, Filoni shared some highlights of this story, including how it occurs concurrently with the events of Revenge of the Sith to show how Ahsoka and Rex play a key role in assisting Bo-Katan’s forces in liberating Mandalore from Maul’s rule – before facing the horror of Order 66. Although he did not provide specifics, Filoni mentioned that these episodes also have been somewhat revised from their original incarnation when produced for the Disney+ release. One particularly exciting reveal was that actor Ray Park performed motion-capture combat to provide the physicality for Maul’s duel with Ahsoka at Mandalore.

For all of the enthusiasm surrounding the information about these new episodes, however, the true highlight of the panel was something entirely different. In the course of discussing the secrecy surrounding the return of The Clone Wars, Ashley Eckstein and Dee Bradley Baker read aloud a text message exchange when Dee, who learned about it from Filoni first at an event for the Star Wars Rebels cast, tried his best to obliquely hint at the news to Ashley before finally sharing what he’d heard. Their narration was perfect – but even better was the reaction from Filoni, who could only lower his head and cover his face with a hand. The cheers from the audience, though, reaffirmed for everyone the admiration the fans hold for all three of them.

The panel did not disclose an official launch date on Disney+ for The Clone Wars new episodes. It did, though, offer a new trailer, including an especially appropriate line of dialogue from Maul.

Watch the full The Clone Wars panel here:

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B.J. Priester has been a Star Wars fan since he played with the original Kenner action figures as a young boy. His fandom passion returned after watching Attack of the Clones in 2002 and reading the entire New Jedi Order series in 2003. He voraciously caught up on the novels and comics in the Expanded Universe in addition to writing fanfiction, frequently co-authoring with Tricia. B.J. has served as editor of FANgirl Blog from its inception, as well as contributing reviews and posts on a range of topics. He edited Tricia’s novel Wynde, and is collaborating with her on several future projects set in that original universe. Currently a tenured law professor in Florida, B.J. has been a practicing lawyer in Washington, D.C., a law clerk to a federal appeals court judge, and a law journal editor-in-chief. He is also a proud geek dad whose son who is a big fan of Star Wars and The Clone Wars.