Animated rebels with a cause


The Star Wars phenomenon has been raging for eons, manifesting in an array of block-busters, TV movies and series, games, comic books, etc. Now Disney, together with Lucasfilm Animation, have produced Star Wars Rebels, an animated series. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with executive producer Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Avatar, The Last Airbender) to find out more.

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STAR WARS REBELS - Kanan, Zeb and Sabine.  "Star Wars Rebels" is scheduled to premiere in fall 2014 as a one-hour special telecast on Disney Channel, and will be followed by a series on Disney XD channels around the world. (DISNEY XD)
KANAN, ZEB, SABINEINTERGALACTIC EXPERIENCE: Executive producer Dave Filoni delves into the painstaking detail of making the CGI-animated series, Star Wars Rebels.

THE action-packed series bridges the divide between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

This era covers two decades of never-before-explored storytelling centred on the Brave Rebel Alliance. With Order 66 executed, the Empire searches for the last of the Jedi Knights.

A die-hard of the franchise, Dave Filoni says: “It’s funny, I always tell people that when I was a kid I didn’t know there was such a thing as being a Star Wars fan. You were just a kid, and Star Wars was what we had and everybody I knew loved it. It just kind of bridged everybody and their parents. So when we grew up we had Star Wars everything, just like kids today.

“That said, I’ve been a very big fan. I’ve gone to all the movie premieres, to all the midnight madness toy releases. It was just a fun thing to do. My buddy, John Carlo – he actually directed with me on Clone Wars – and I dressed up as Jedi for a movie premiere. So it was all part of the fun and then I had no idea I’d end up where I am today.”

In case you are wondering, one of his two favourite Star Wars characters is Plo Koon, who was on the Jedi council in the prequels.

He points out: “He really did not do anything at all except sit in a chair, but as a kid I always liked the background characters such as all the strange bounty hunters. So when the new movies were coming out, meaning the prequels, I was very keen to see just what the bigger universe George (Lucas) was going to show us was like and I just liked the design of this very bizarre Jedi named Plo Koon. So he’s my favourite prequel character. In the classic trilogy I really love the Atat driver. I mean, what’s better than being the pilot of one of those giant walkers? So they’re my two favourites. You know, it would be so clichéd to say Han Solo. I mean, come on,everybody likes Han of course, but let’s be more obscure, let’s get weird.”

Having worked on an animated TV series before, he sheds light on his new project.

“Well, my job is rather unique in that I followed this right from the very beginning with the spark of ideas all the way to the final picture look and sound design. I’ll have, you know, some story ideas that I’ll have written down and then Simon (Kinberg) and I would get together and kind of discuss where we wanted the stories to go and then we would talk to Greg (Weisman) and Greg would have some ideas.

“So along that part of the process I actually do a bunch of illustrations and character designs before we even have a script just so we can start to have a look at what things might be like visually, because, in working with George, I learnt that Star Wars is a very powerful, visual language. Of course it’s a film, but I think the designs are so important to the look of the whole thing and how the audience relates. So from that I go through all the scripts – I’m going through some today – then give notes, make necessary changes.”

And they had Freddie Prinze jr and Vanessa Marshall do the character voice-overs of Cowboy Jedi Kanan and Hera, respectively.

Filoni says the idea for the series germinated in late 2012.

On engaging with their target market with the show airing on Disney XD and Disney Channel later this year, he says: “Star Wars Rebels is an action adventure show that’s driven by classic Star Wars sensibility. It’s set right before the first film New Hope, episode four, and it tells the story of a band of rebels who are fighting against the Galactic Empire.

“I think because our story takes place closer to those films it made sense to have the tone more like New Hope. I think we are dealing more directly with a small group of characters in this series, just like the original movies dealt with a small group of characters.

“The prequels really dealt with larger galactic issues, big-scale ideas, and we aren’t dealing with those things so much in this show, we’re dealing more with personal relationships and how the galaxy affects these individuals, so it made a little more sense to go this way. Having worked on Clone Wars, I think it’s important to bridge these time periods and always have influences from both sagas, the prequel and the original trilogy in a show like Rebels, to make the galaxy feel like one single place.”

And the force lives on!

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