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Dave Filoni Talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The epic battles of the Clone Wars were briefly mentioned back in 1977 in STAR WARS: EPISODE IV -- A NEW HOPE, and now that conflict may end up with more screen time than anything else in the STAR WARS saga. Before a screening of the new 3D animated film STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, director Dave Filoni talked about the look of the film, integrating the storyline into the larger saga and the upcoming animated series on Cartoon Network.

Telling the tale of a time when the Jedi were at the peak of their power, the story takes place between EPISODE II and III.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, in theaters now, will whet fans' appetite for more, when the 22-episode series debuts in October. "We pushed hard; we wanted every episode to feel like a 22-minute movie," Filoni said. "George [Lucas] was reviewing the footage on a big screen and he decided at that point to make it a theatrical release as well. And if you know George, you know he finds a way to make what he wants happen."

The film was also a proving ground for the TV show, and a chance for Filoni's vision of the style of the work to shine. "We wanted to get away from the photorealism of the prequels," Filoni said. "We couldn't do that at a TV show pace, so we gave it more of an illustrated look, getting away from specular highlights and reflectors. It's a painted look."

Indeed, the planets, droids and ships all look identical to those presented in the prequels, but all the human (and Hutt) characters have an unmistakable sharp look, distinguishing it from previous work.

Moderator John Knoll, vfx supervisor for ILM, was involved in the CG work on the STAR WARS prequels, unknowingly giving Filoni and his team a lot to work with for the animated movie and series. "There was some terrific design work in the prequels, and it's good to see those worlds more fully realized," Knoll said.

The film introduces a new padawan learner, Ahsoko Tano, to Anakin Skywalker as they fight in the Clone Wars alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi and rescue Jabba the Hutt's young son from an evil kidnapping plot. Filoni said the new material "has no direct connection" to the previous 2D animated series from 2003-2005, STAR WARS: CLONE WARS, although they worked to make sure the stories all align.

With the addition of a new female hero, Ahsoko, as well as a female villain, Filoni added some estrogen to the proceedings. "We didn't want another story about Luke or Anakin and boys hanging out with boys. With Ahsoko and Anakin and Obi-Wan, later in the show, you get a dynamic more of Leia-with-Luke-and-Han, where she can call them out. Filoni said they have a plan for the character, who is not in the picture by the time the story reaches the third prequel, REVENGE OF THE SITH. "I love how fans have already killed her off in several ingenious ways," Filoni said, but refused to say what will happen to Ahsoko.

Filoni, a traditional 2D animator on shows like KING OF THE HILL and AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, used to joke around that the only way he'd leave AVATAR was if "George Lucas to call me up and ask me to do a STAR WARS cartoon," he said. "I thought it was a funny joke." When producer Catherine Winder called asking for a meeting, "I thought I'd show up and there would be my buddies in Stormtrooper costumes laughing at me. In animation, that type of thing really can happen." Instead, Filoni had been suggested by a friend for the job, paving the way for his dream to become a reality.

Filoni has big plans for the show. "We start at one place and we keep moving forward. We never concern ourselves with it being a TV show."

--By AWN News Editor Annemarie Moody

Read AWN Managing Editor Rick DeMott's review of the film at Animation Blogspot.