EPs Brad Rau and Jennifer Corbett talk cloth simulations, matte paintings, and military dynamics as their hit 3DCG animated series debuts its sophomore season tomorrow, January 4, on Disney+.
In the aftermath following the destruction of Tipoca City, Season 2 of Star Wars: The Bad Batch finds the squad faced with a tough choice: join in a large-scale fight against the empire, where their participation could ensure victory, or take their first and maybe only chance at a peaceful, low-profile life free from battle.
As a sequel story to Dave Filoni’s seven-season series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which premiered in 2008, The Bad Batch spotlights Clone Force 99, also known as the “Bad Batch,” a group of defective but elite clone troopers with genetic mutations – Hunter, Wrecker, Tech, Crosshair, and Echo – who take on daring mercenary missions. Season 1 of The Bad Batch, developed by Star Wars Resistance’s Jennifer Corbett, premiered in May 2021; it returns with an all-new second season tomorrow, January 4, on Disney+.
In the new season, months have passed since the events on Kamino that led to Tipoca falling to the bottom of the ocean, and The Empire assumes the Bad Batch perished in that attack. The five clones and Omega – now older and better trained after her time with the squad – find themselves in a position where, if they keep a low profile, they might be able to live a relatively peaceful life. But with The Empire continuing its expansion across the galaxy, they soon get pulled back into missions that expose them to even greater danger.
As the Bad Batch wrestles with their sense of justice and personal desire for a quiet life, the stakes remain high. But the series still maintains its signature sense of humor.
“It's when the stakes are at the highest that little banter comes out with the Bad Batch members,” says Brad Rau, supervising director and executive producer on The Bad Batch, known for his previous work directing Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars Resistance. “And Dee [Bradley Baker] is so great as all of the Bad Batch that sometimes he'll riff something that we didn't even write. A lot goes into it and, if we do it right, it feels natural.”
One key person responsible for creating the great dynamic between the Bad Batch clones is Corbett herself, also head writer and executive producer on the show, who served as an officer in the United States Navy during Operation Enduring Freedom - the war in Afghanistan.
“The Batch has a shorthand, and there's no questioning one another when it comes to executing a mission, but there's also the fun banter between them at times when you think ‘Now is not the time to joke around,’” she explains “But when you're in a high-pressure situation, whether it's in the military or life, I've witnessed that people tend to get through it through some kind of humor. So I just pulled from being on a ship when we've had to do missions or drills, and the camaraderie that slips through in your everyday life.”
Though the team did enjoy a rhythm – carried over from time spent on The Clone Wars - when it came to creating military tactics used in the show, Corbett also added in her two cents to make sure no detail was neglected.
“We look at a lot of references, like Keanu Reeves doing his training for John Wick, and we’ll send it to our overseas animators at CGCG Inc.,” says Rau. “But there are times when Corbett is like, ‘Hey, Brad. Hunter shouldn't hold his gun like that.’ So then we adjust it.”
On top of producing credible dialogue and combat sequences, show artists were challenged in creating believably weathered clones who also displayed some individual looks. “Even back in The Clone Wars, they were designed – and the way that Dave [Filoni] worked with Dee back in the day to portray the different voices – specifically to make them as different from each other as possible,” notes Rau. “And the fun thing in Season 1 of The Bad Batch, and even more in Season 2, is that a little bit of time has passed. We get to deal with how they look a little more beat up. Their armor they've had to replace or add to with different colored leather, or whatever it might be. Everybody is a little more threadbare, a little older, a little wiser, a little bit more who they are.”
The wardrobes in the show, which serve as defining character traits for clones, were also at the center of the animation technology push for Season 2.
“We wanted to expand our cloth budget in Season 2,” shares Rau. “We see a lot more draped cloth and we wanted to make sure it was moving in a realistic way. The lighting has more fidelity to it; we're always talking about the lens choices.”
He continues, “We actually had cloth simulations. So, if we have a character that has cloth, we'll have keyframes for how that can deform as the character’s moving. It'll go through a whole cloth simulation phase where it’s almost as though real cloth is draped over that character so we can see how it flows and if it’s kinking on the leg a little differently, for example. When you see the difference between what it was like before the cloth sim and after, it’s mind blowing.”
Rau says their team has always approached The Bad Batch with a “more live-action than animation” mindset. Not necessarily in the sense of wanting the 3D animation to look live-action but wanting to approach elements like wardrobe and character performance as if these were live-action stages and performances.
The new season even features more traditional matte paintings, so when viewers are taking in the show’s wide vistas, they’re seeing actual artistry, old fashion paintings, and Rau believes it helps separate the show and give it a unique, tactile feel.
“We're always pushing to get more fidelity and especially a bit more nuance in performances,” he notes. “If we're doing it right, we can tell a lot just by a look that Omega gives to Hunter, perhaps, without any dialogue and without any music. And our animators are at a level, at a caliber, where they could do that. And it gives you a feeling like, ‘Oh my goodness, am I crying?’”
Corbett adds, “There are a few key sequences where, with the end product, I was so shocked that we were able to do it because it was big in scale. And with all the time and effort and love that went into it from the team, I can't wait for people to see it.”