‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

Sept. 28, 2012 | 3:15 p.m.
dave filoni1 Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

As supervising director of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," Dave Filoni has completed a staggering personal arc from "Star Wars" fan to having a major hand in steering one of the franchise's most important projects. While several of the major characters on the "Clone Wars" series were well known already (Yoda, R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi), the series has introduced several other new fan favorites over its previous four seasons. Here Filoni share his thoughts on some of the more notable "Clone Wars" characters.

clone wars asohka Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

AHSOKA TANO -- Ahsoka's presence is "something that’s grown and grown each year. I think at first, people weren’t that concerned with her. They thought, 'Who’s this kid? And why is she in my "Star Wars" movie?' It’s like having a kid sister appear that you didn’t have before. Each year, we’ve made her a little more mature and grown her as a character. Now, I even have dads coming up saying ,'Hey, so what’s going to happen to Ahsoka? It’s for my little girl. She’s really worried.' I’m like, 'Uh-huh. I don’t believe you.' " (Lucasfilm)

clone wars ventress Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

ASAJJ VENTRESS -- "She started out as a sketch done for 'Attack of the Clones.' She was a concept Sith villain. This is before they landed on Count Dooku. She was just in the pile of sketches. The [creators of the] comic books saw he ....They were the first to develop her as a Sith assassin .... She's now out in a gray area. She's been ousted by Dooku and reborn as a new character. We'll deal with her again this season." (Lucasfilm)

clone wars savage Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

SAVAGE OPRESS -- "Clancy Brown was an actor I wanted to hire for quite some time. I always enjoyed his role in 'Highlander.' I found out from Dee Baker [voice of the clone troopers] that he was a fan of the show, but there was always a question of having a character good enough to have Clancy play. When we had Savage Opress, I thought, 'Bingo. This is our big Kurgon-like character.' At first glance, he’s just a brute force kind of guy. But, not unlike Anakin, he’s trying to do the good thing .... He can do terrible things, but it wouldn’t be outside Savage’s realm to hand a little girl a flower." (Lucasfilm)

clone wars rex cody Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

CAPTAIN REX and COMMANDER CODY -- "Very early on I asked Dee Baker, the guy who voice acts the clones, 'You’re Rex, but do you want to play all these guys? How is that even going to work?' He and I weren’t really sure. But he does an amazing job in the episodes. You really don’t think about the fact that it’s all one guy. You get into the fact that it’s Rex, it’s Cody, it’s whoever he’s voicing at that moment. One thing you’ll see in certain episodes this season is how color starts to get drawn out of this world .... The clones who are more affiliated with the Tarkins of the world are red with white or just plain white. Eventually, they'll be the stormtroopers." (Lucasfilm)

clone wars plo koon Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

PLO KOON -- "He was in the films, but you wouldn’t notice because he just sits in the chair on the Jedi Council. For some reason, as a fan when the movies were coming out, I had it in my mind that I was going to pick one of the Jedi Council and say, 'This is going to be my guy.' He’s only on screen for a couple of minutes. But in those couple of minutes I decided that Plo Koon was the coolest-looking one, ergo, he will be my favorite one. Among many reasons to like him, it was a great way to cut down on how much 'Star Wars' stuff you had to buy. Let’s face it, they didn’t license a lot of Plo Koon merchandise. I think he scares most kids." (Lucasfilm)

clone wars fisto Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

KIT FISTO -- "Much to my chagrin, no matter what I do about it, Kit Fisto still knocks out Plo Koon, in terms of popularity. Kit Fisto smiles. Plo Koon cannot smile. That winning smile of Kit Fisto always seems to put him over the top with kids. He gets the cooler toys." (Lucasfilm)

clone wars bane Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

CAD BANE -- "Cad is one of our best inclusions. Corey Burton does a masterful job voicing him. George was the one who said, 'I want to create this bounty hunter called Cad Bane.' He’s filled the shadowy, mysterious villain role that Boba Fett filled when I was a kid .... I'm very excited about his character and where it goes in the future. Anything that comes from George is all connected. So if you see George involved, then there’s going to be continuity [to other parts of the 'Star Wars' franchise]."

When animator Dave Filoni was handed the reins of George Lucas’ computer animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” back in 2006, he thought he knew what to expect.

Lucas, the creator and mastermind of the entire multibillion-dollar “Star Wars” operation, would give some initial guidance, notes and feedback and quickly fade away, moving on to tend to other aspects of his Lucasfilm empire. After all, it was a cartoon series aimed a kids, airing on Cartoon Network and regarded by many of the franchise’s older hardcore fans as a nice, but hardly essential, extension of the “Star Wars” experience.

“As he saw the first footage coming back, and I think he could sense our excitement levels through the whole thing, he got more and more engaged and excited,” Filoni said. “He just kept coming in. He wouldn’t go away. Which was great for us!”

In the years since its debut, “The Clone Wars,” which will begin its fifth season on the Cartoon Network on Saturday , has gone from just another offshoot of the “Star Wars” phenomenon to one of its essential parts.  At the recent Star Wars Celebration VI this summer in Orlando, Fla., much of the focus was on the series, whose audience has grown far beyond kids.

“Starting around the third season, there was a bit of a shift,” said Jimmy “Mac” McInerney, co-host of The ForceCast, one of the most popular “Star Wars” themed podcasts. “Story lines got darker and more mature. And that brought older fans around to it more.”

While the “Star Wars” prequel films, especially “The Phantom Menace,” were much criticized for being too juvenile in tone, the cartoon series set in the years between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” has been praised for its sophistication. Rather than focus on one or two main characters, the series jumps around the galaxy, telling stories from many different perspectives.

Yes, Obi-Wan and Yoda have their occasional star turns, but tales are also told from the grunt’s-eye view, with formerly anonymous clone troopers getting names and personalities. Story lines spill over from episode to episode, with some stories starting in the middle of the action, and not every story gets tied up neatly in the end.

darth maul1 Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

Darth Maul, left, and his brother Savage Opress in a scene from the Season 5 premiere of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” (Lucasfilm)

At the close of Season 4, events took an even darker turn as Darth Maul, the horned Sith lord who got sliced in half at the end of “Phantom Menace,” returned in a frightening and half-mad form. Dark stuff for a show that airs on Saturday mornings.

“There was zero effort to tone me down,” says actor Sam Witwer, who provides the voice of Maul. “Dave said to me, ‘Show them the dark side. Show them how awful it is.’ ”

The series is also shaking up the way animated series are traditionally handled. Instead of recording the voice actors individually and mixing their lines together after the fact, the cast records together in the style of Lucas’ beloved radio dramas of the past. And rather than use writers with a track record in animation, Filoni employs writers from more adult dramatic fare, such as “Lost,” “The Wire” and “Sons of Anarchy.” In fact, Lucas himself has made appearances in the writers’ room, pitching potential story lines.

“It’s different,” Filoni says. “But as you’ll find with many things with George, he’s just different. He’ll come at things from an angle I often find people haven’t thought of before.”

clone wars1 Star Wars: The Clone Wars brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Clone Wars” (LucasFilm)

As the fifth season begins, even darker  adult moments are promised. The evolution of Anakin Skywalker from the do-gooder Jedi of “Attack of the Clones” moves inexorably toward the dark side in “Revenge of the Sith.”

And as the eventual end of the series looms ever closer, fan anxiety is growing over the fate of a female character named Asohka. Introduced as an apprentice for Anakin in the “Clone Wars” movie, Asohka has become a fan favorite. It has not gone unnoticed that her character is nowhere to be seen in “Revenge of the Sith.”

“Now I get dads coming up to me saying, ‘So what’s going to happen to Asokha? It’s for my little girl. She’s really worried.’ ” Filoni says. “And I’m like, ‘Uh-huh. I don’t believe you.'”

Before the series premiered, Lucas projected that it would run at least 100 episodes. At the end of Season 5, 110 episodes will have aired. And Filoni and company are already at work on a sixth season. So how will it end? And when?

Not anytime soon, apparently.

“Last year I did a big outline of how I thought a whole series of episodes could spiral into the end of this thing,” Filoni said. “[George] read it and said, ‘That’s very nice, but we’re not going to do that yet.’ ”

— Patrick Kevin Day


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5 Responses to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ brings the Dark Side to Saturdays

  1. Govind says:

    While I appreciate this has a good following, one thing that should be noted is that there has been no response to concerns from Star Wars fans about continuity between the other media about the Clone Wars and this series. I would like that to be hopefully addressed.

  2. alekesam says:

    I’m not really all that surprised that The Clone Wars has blossomed into this, let alone that it travels around the galaxy and features a burgeoning cast.

    In many ways, this is what Lucas has wanted to do all along, getting to travel in and show off more of the Star Wars universe. I remember him saying in an interview that in the movies there’s never enough time to really delve into the locales and people and such. A series gives him that luxury.

    Now if we can just get that TV series that suppossed to take place between RotS and ANH out of him…:)

  3. Bachleda says:

    Its starwars, now i want to see who's got it. Marti.

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