Star Wars: The Clone Wars has recently begun its third season on Cartoon Network on Fridays at 9:00 pm. In fact, the fourth episode, "Sphere of Influence," airs this week, featuring Papanoida (from Revenge of the Sith) who is modeled after creator George Lucas. This season "secrets are revealed, truths are questioned and alliances are betrayed," so director Dave Filoni  fills us in on how the series has evolved.
Bill Desowitz: What's new in season three?
Dave Filoni: I think this season, more than any other, we have a much grander scope; we stopped avoiding things like water, which, as you know, can be very hard to sim and we attacked a lot of these things head on. Visually, I think it's far more stunning and really getting to the caliber that Star Wars  fans are used to in the feature films. We've hit a stride and I'm pretty happy with the way things are looking. Storytelling wise, we learned so much after doing two seasons of this show. What we all liked; what we didn't like. And George has keenly been involved in that with the writers and me.
BD: How have you managed to raise the animation bar?
DF: I think it's the culmination of my artists becoming more experienced working together. I've been at Lucasfilm Animation for five years now and I have some really strong relationships with the artists here. My CG Supervisor, Joel Aron, is a 17-year veteran at Industrial Light & Magic, and he's brought a lot of trickery to The Clone Wars. He worked on A Perfect Storm, where they did an immense amount of water, so challenging him to bring that in a fashion to television was really fun for him, but the water planet, Kamino, which is where all the clones are born, we never could've done in the first two seasons because of the complexity of the environment. And now you're going to see the birth world of the clones in all its glory inside the barracks where they train; the massive battle where the Separatists attack the facilities; we under the water; we're over the water; we have crashing waves. It's all done in a way that the water will be the least thing that you recognize. It becomes a part of the story and a part of the planet, which is the best kind of effect.
BD: What else can we see more fully this season?
DF: Well, I think the environments as a whole and the improved facial expressions of the characters carry over from season two. The characters breathe more now, which is critical for a computer-animated show: to see air coming in and out of the body makes them look much more alive. So that's a big leap. And we also wanted to take the environments further. There's far more particles in the air. We're getting little details like trash on the ground; more of a softness to the environments, especially the organic environments. We're really challenging ourselves with organic environments to break some of the polygonic tendencies of the backgrounds and make these places feel lived in because that's something that Star Wars struck quite naturally: the lived in feeling of this galaxy, where you believed the depth of the histories from the way the costumes looked and the equipment was worn down. And now it rains anywhere we want and that came about from snow. Again, these are things when you are in the animation industry that you appreciate the level of attention going on.
BD: How have you improved the performances?
BD: Where is the story going this season?
DF: Well, I have to say that this season, more than any other, George really came with some really incredible ideas, which, as a Star Wars fan, were exciting. We're going to deal with Anakin as the chosen one and getting into more of what that means. We're going to get back to the Clones and that they're not all the same. Right off the bat we come on strong with these two Kamino episodes where we see these Clones more in their daily life and training, more as the everyman, instead of the Jedi, which are more like the Knights of the Roundtable. People seem to really identity with the Clones and we challenge the perspective of them being this prefabricated army.
They become ARC Troopers, which is something new this season. It's an advanced type of trooper: Advanced Recon Commando. We get more into the bizarre side stories: I always call them the Jabba's palace stories. When I was a kid and would watch Return of the Jedi, it was almost two movies to me: Jabba's palace, which is this crazy Muppet show of riff-raff folks in the galaxy that are hiding from the Empire or working with it, just the colorful side of Star Wars. Then there was bleak Empire, which was very black-and-white and imperial. So we have new episodes with Ziro the Hut and Cad Bane. And all throughout season three we have these classic connections to the original trilogy. I'll keep those secret for now, but fans of the original movies will definitely see things and that's going to be really interesting and revealing along the way.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.