Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Writer Henry Gilroy, 2
Creating a New Clone Wars
Last column we met Henry Gilroy, the Star Wars fan who one could say hit the jackpot. He is now the head story man for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie and TV series. Of course, getting the job is only the first step. From there one actually has to do it. In part two of this interview, Gilroy gives us some insight into just setting everything up.As any professional knows, when you work on a project like Star Wars there are things you can do and things you absolutely can’t. You can’t suddenly have Anakin don blue tights and develop a weakness for kryptonite. You can have him be in love with Padme. He must be a certain height, weight and demeanor. Planets not only have specific names, but specific ways to spell said (often-confusing) names.
Everything about the universe, or any other longstanding franchise for that matter, is written down in a series of books called referred to as the “bible.” Rumor has it the Star Wars is a gigantic and fearsome thing. “Well, having read the Dark Horse comics for years and novels and guidebooks, I was already well versed in the Star Wars universe,” says Gilroy. “Early on, George [Lucas] told us he didn't want what had come before in the comics, games and novels to restrict us creatively. We always tried to respect what had come before, but really George has the last word on that stuff. “So yes, to answer your question, I studied the bible intensively... and I ended up writing a 'series bible' for Clone Wars that was about 60 pages long. I got to contribute to the bible you might say, really I was just building on what came before and adding new bits here and there. “Nothing was developed except that George wanted it to take place between Episode 2 and Episode 3 and he wanted it to have a stylized 'anime' look and feel,” says Gilroy. “That's all we had at the beginning.” That didn’t mean Gilroy, or director Dave Filoni, were in the strapped into editorial straight jackets. If anything, it sounds like Lucas gave them plenty of room to move inside his universe. “We had several early meetings with George and he told us he was going to teach director Dave Filoni and I how to make Star Wars and gave us direction for all the things the series could be. Dave and I wanted to give Obi-Wan a replacement padawan for Anakin, who had been made a knight and we suggested a female. “George switched it up and said, ‘Make it Anakin who gets the padawan.’ He did that a lot, coming in with fresh ideas to twist it around. The sky was the limit. We tried not to tread directly on the films, as George had covered that material already. He encouraged us to do different stuff and he made it clear that the previous Clone Wars series, the Genndy series, on Cartoon Network was really just an experiment and he wasn't involved with it very closely. So while we used some visual ideas from it, it was not to impact any work on the stories we were creating. We borrowed characters from the comics and created new ones.” There were other instructions from Lucas. Then again, it is his universe. “George wanted the series to primarily focus around Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka early on,” said Gilroy. “A big part of that was showing another side to Anakin, that fun cocky Jedi hero of the galaxy who is thriving in this environment. We get to see him be funny and charming and likeable. Later on in the series Dave and I got to explore more Jedi Council members, like Plo Koon and Kit Fisto as well as brand new characters, new alien races, bounty hunters, heroes and villains of all kinds.” There still was one important thing Gilroy and company had to consider though. They were starting with a pilot film, then moving on to over 20 episodes of a TV series. A veteran of both mediums, that meant some changes when it came when moving from one to the other. “The animated feature process tends to be more time consuming, complicated and involve more steps than TV,” says Gilroy. “In television, when you complete the final draft of the script, that is usually what you end up producing on screen. In feature, once you complete a final draft, that's just the beginning of the writing process. George especially likes to keep on tweaking the story through the pre-visualization phase as well as in editorial, where he adds gags, dialogue, humor, and even massive action set pieces. Sometimes he'll watch an episode and just decide he wants to tell the story a different way and he will rewrite it in the editing room. “The entire Clone Wars TV series has been written the feature way, which has made it a challenge every step of the way; albeit very worthwhile. It is by far the most cinematic animated series on TV. It feels like a movie, every episode.” NEXT COLUMN: We get down to the details of character development and more in the last part of this interview. Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuts on Cartoon Network on October 3rd. Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Writer Henry Gilroy Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Creating a New Clone Wars Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: From Big Screen to Small Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Director David Filoni Movie Review: Star Wars: Clone Wars