Dave Filoni Speaks at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022

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:

I’m always working on this massive architecture that goes over all of it. Not just for Ahsoka, but everything else that that will affect. … It’s a tremendous responsibility to do anything with these characters. When it’s our character that we’ve created, it’s a lot easier. You still give it the same attention, but when it’s Luke, it’s a lot more intense because that’s a character that’s iconic the world over. Without Luke, where are we? There’s nothing. And it’s one of George’s characters. You have to take care of those characters, to be very careful about everything they say and everything they do.

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:

People get exposed to the types of stories we tell, and when they know, they take it on. It’s the master-apprentice, the mentor relationship, that they’re a part of it. That [Charles Murray] was there with George [on The Clone Wars] is significant to me because he heard these things directly from George. Because at the end of the day, I try to do what’s best, I try to advise people as best I can, but I don’t really know. I just give my best instinct on it and go for it. None of us will be George. This is really unique to him, it’s his special galaxy that he created. But now it’s our job to take care of it, and further it in ways that are exciting for the next generation. That’s what we try to do.

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:

We have a lot of new people working on The Bad Batch. I got to work with them to show them what I learned from George. It’s helping to tie the tradition together. I want there always to be these animated shows, and they have to feel authentic, they have to feel like they’re a part of Star Wars. All of you, that’s what you’ve come to expect. I don’t want the quality ever to drop.

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:

Anybody we bring in to play these characters for Star Wars, I want them to feel it, I want it to be important to them, because it’s important to everybody here. And I know that whether Jon [Favreau] and I are there or not, or Brad [Rau], Jen [Corbett], and I, or whoever’s created these stories, the actors will take care of the characters. We’ve seen that again and again throughout the saga. From the beginning, no one set that example better than Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, and Harrison [Ford], and Anthony Daniels. At these conventions long before they became this big. They showed up for everybody, and I want people who want to show up and be here for everybody.

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:

They do it not just for themselves but for everyone here, for the audience, for Star Wars. They get what this special. The entire crew with us on set every day also makes these characters come to life. There’s no unimportant person on our shows, not one single person.

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:

I originally started out to write [the story] when Plo Koon finds [Ahsoka]. But when I sat down to write it, I started writing about her mom. Moms are so important. I felt it was more important – because we have not had a lot of that identity in Star Wars, the mother figure – to show that Ahsoka’s first experience with someone telling her “don’t be afraid” is her mother.

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:

Growing up with Star Wars and seeing all the Expanded Universe novels and books over the years – whether it came from George or not, it was part of the community of Star Wars filling in the gaps, and all of us saying “But we like this.” Things like Tim Zahn’s Heir to the Empire were critical for all of us as an adventure and as a story. … We’re very careful, whether it’s animation, whether it’s live action, about what characters we bring in. I think it’s important that they’re treated with respect so that they can be very similar, if not the same character. … I’ll be the first one to say, let’s not use that character, it’s changing too much.

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:

When you look back to 2008, when [The Clone Wars] movie came out, and what that looks like – I can honestly say, what George and I were always trying to do is the way it looks now. But if you don’t ever jump in, if you don’t push that technology, if you don’t do it – see? you don’t try to do it, you do it – you’ll get somewhere. It’s not always maybe as successful as you’d like. I love that the animation is always improving; it’s a learning curve as you go. Nothing’s ever just perfect when it begins. It has to evolve. You do your best, and then you do better, and you learn and you learn. That’s true in so many walks of 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:

I just have to say, I know full well I don’t get to be even making any of these shows, or anything I’ve gotten to do, without the support I’ve gotten from fans and within Lucasfilm. I’m always grateful for that.



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.

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