The six films of the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy combine to about 14 hours of Star Wars storytelling. The animated series The Clone Wars, created in collaboration with supervising director Dave Filoni, amounts to over 50 additional hours of Star Wars stories from the imagination, perspective, and values of George Lucas. It should come as no surprise, then, that The Clone Wars continues to project a prominent legacy into the post-Lucas era at Lucasfilm, especially in Star Wars animation.
Three panels at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022 emphasized this enduring legacy. All three were held on the main Celebration Stage in the convention center arena, and each one included personal remarks by Filoni reinforcing the importance of The Clone Wars and animation to the future of Star Wars storytelling. Compared to previous Celebration conventions, the significance of the high profile given to these animation panels cannot be overstated.
In mid-afternoon on Saturday, May 28, the convention schedule included a mysterious panel titled simply Tales of the Jedi. Its minimalist description mentioned “animated anthology shorts” and reported the panel would be “hosted by Amy Ratcliffe with special guest Dave Filoni.” The reveal turned out to be more momentous than advertised: Tales of the Jedi will consist of six new episodes of Star Wars animation created and written by Filoni based on ideas and sketches he generated while passing the time on airplane flights from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area to the studios in greater Los Angeles where The Mandalorian is produced and filmed. Filoni credited Carrie Beck, Lucasfilm’s Senior Vice President for Development & Production, for encouraging him to develop the series and for finding the budgetary funds to support its production. Three of these previously untold tales will center on Ahsoka Tano, while the other three will focus on Count Dooku, including his tutelage of a young Qui-Gon Jinn. In addition to returning The Clone Wars voice actors Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Matt Lanter (Anakin), and James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Filoni announced that Liam Neeson is voicing the adult Qui-Gon and his son is voicing the younger version of the character. The brief trailer for Tales of the Jedi shown at the panel included other familiar characters such as Yoda, Mace Windu, Captain Rex, Bail Organa, and (most surprisingly) Yaddle.
The panel then screened one episode from Tales of the Jedi, which portrays Ahsoka’s birth and an early life lesson about fear that she learns from her mother. As a whole, “Life and Death” aptly fits Filoni’s description of the episodes as “tone poems” that rely more heavily on visuals and less on dialogue. The artistic and thematic inspiration from the films of Hayao Miyazaki was also very apparent. Filoni was coy about whether “Life and Death” will be the first one in the Disney+ release of the series, but he noted that some of the other episodes are considerably darker in tone. Although Tales of the Jedi was described as “shorts,” the episode screened at Celebration had close to the typical 22-minute runtime of other Star Wars animated series (though perhaps some episodes may have smaller runtimes). Likewise, Filoni did not elaborate on the “anthology” description, although it does seem to accurately carry the connotation of loosely connected stories (as opposed to the more interrelated serialized storytelling of a “series”). One also might infer that the Tales of the Jedi label (and Disney+ category) will be available as a home for future untold tales episodes should Filoni have the time and ideas to create them.
With Tales of the Jedi, Filoni seems to be cementing the definitive backstory on certain key characters within the galaxy far far away: notably Ahsoka and Qui-Gon, both “mavericks” from the Jedi Order but truly closer to the ideals of what a Jedi should be from Lucas’ and Filoni’s storytelling perspective. Filoni noted in the panel that he has brought back Charles Murray as a writer on Tales of the Jedi. Murray previously wrote the critical arc of The Clone Wars Season Six when Ahsoka is framed, goes on the run as a fugitive, and ultimately leaves the Jedi Order after her exoneration; he also co-wrote with Filoni the Martez Sisters arc of Season Seven. Filoni’s insightful explanation of Qui-Gon Jinn’s importance in the saga during the Disney Gallery episode for The Mandalorian‘s first season indicates that character has been on his mind lately, too. Dooku, who trained under Yoda and mastered Qui-Gon, falls to the dark side for an entirely different reason than Anakin Skywalker, who selfishly wants to save Padmé. Seeing the truth of the Order’s corruption, Dooku believed renouncing his title of Jedi would free him to make the galaxy a better place. It looks like we’ll find out more about how he came upon this “ends justifies the means” mindset.
In the morning of Sunday, May 29, the animated series The Bad Batch received the premium time slot as the first panel of the day on the Celebration Stage. With the first season already released and the second season coming later this year, the panelists had plenty to discuss. Filoni appeared first, expressing his confidence in the creative team behind The Bad Batch and reiterating a point he made throughout the weekend: just as Lucas trained Filoni in the ways of Star Wars storytelling, Filoni is now passing on what he has learned to a broader array of creators. He then introduced the panelists: supervising director Brad Rau, head writer Jennifer Corbett, story editor Matt Michnovetz (who was part of Lucas’ writer’s room for the later seasons of The Clone Wars), and voice actors Dee Bradley Baker (the clone troopers) and Michelle Ang (Omega). In addition to insightful discussion about the creation of the series and its characters moderated by panel host David Collins, the panel included Baker and Ang live-reading on stage a brief scene from a season one episode. The panelists also shared a short clip from a season two episode and a teaser trailer for the season.
An hour later, the Celebration Stage hosted a special screening of The Siege of Mandalore, the final four episodes of Season Seven of The Clone Wars. These episodes had released on Disney+ in late April and early May of 2020, and it seems likely Lucasfilm would have held a red carpet world premiere screening in Hollywood at that time had the early weeks of COVID-19 pandemic travel and public-gathering restrictions not prevented it. Seeing The Siege of Mandalore on a huge screen with a complementary sound system truly displayed the episodes in all of their glory. Afterward, Collins hosted a brief discussion with Filoni, Beck, and Athena Portillo, who is Vice President of Animation Production. Again Filoni emphasized the indispensable role Beck and Portillo play not only in the logistical production of the animated series, but also in their contributions to the stories being told in them. He drew a chuckle from the audience when he acknowledged that their feedback and constructive criticism often leads him, faux-begrudgingly, to revise scenes to make them better. Filoni also commented that Star Wars animation is always pushing to improve, from the earliest days of The Clone Wars movie that began the series to The Siege of Mandalore than ended it. Filoni rightfully described The Siege of Mandalore, in both animation quality and storytelling caliber, as the best episodes of The Clone Wars series.
Tales of the Jedi and season two of The Bad Batch each were announced to release on Disney+ in Fall 2022.