Clone Wars Weekly - From Big Screen to Small

Clone Wars Weekly #2

This edition of Clone Wars Weekly was almost entitled “To Bravely Go Where…” After all, SW:CW will not be the first time George Lucas and company has forayed into television. Still, television production is a relatively "new frontier" for them.

But there's still some unfinished business in regards to the film. As previously reported, the big-screen half of the Clone Wars equation came in third at the North American box office last weekend. Obviously one must not under estimate the power of Robert Downey Jr., even in black face. Tropic Thunder came in first with, $26 million. Batman: The Dark Knight got one step closer to sinking the #1 spot held by James Cameron’s Titanic with an additional $16.5 million. SW:CW took the bronze with $15.5 million. As of Wednesday SWCW’s total box office gross is approximately $18.4 million.

Some observers might assume "third place" in a debut weekend for anything with "Star Wars" in its title will cause a disturbance in the Force. So are the guys as LucasFilm concerned? Actually, they told me us they were pleased. And it didn't sound like Hollywood double-speak, either

Which brings us back to that very important second leg to this entire project. That’s a TV series that will launch on Cartoon Network this fall. The TV version of SWCW will be part of a weekend block that will include Ben 10: Alien Force as well as the debuts of Batman: Brave and the Bold and new series Secret Saturdays.

Ben 10: AF is already an established CN hit, and deservedly so. It seems that every Batman animated series is virtually bulletproof, especially when you have a creative team lead by James Tucker (JLU, Legion of Super Heroes) in the mix. And considering the premise and creator of Secret Saturdays , Jay Stephens, don't be be surprised if that does well, too. It’s already got a viral campaign that appears to be taking root.

Also, this isn’t the first time that a movie was used to launch an animated TV series. Admittedly, the results have been mixed, but it can pay off handsomely.

The earliest example that comes to mind is one of Filmation’s last series, BraveStarr. Believe it or not, it debuted with a feature film entitled BraveStarr: The Legend in 1987. It has since been released as a DVD on BCI. While the TV series became a cult favorite, the film itself was a box office disaster. As Erika Scheimer, daughter of Filmation founder Lou, would say in the DVD extra content, the film looked awful on the big screen, and that probably did a lot to shoot this highly original, kids-oriented, space (cowboy) opera.

Things went much better over at Disney. When the Mouse Works initially released The Little Mermaid in 1989, it helped launch the animation renaissance we still enjoy today on TV and on the big screen. What some might forget is Disney used this bit of clout to turn the movie into a TV series, which debuted on CBS back in 1992. It would enjoy a two-year run on the Eye.

More important, Disney figured out the formula for converting movies-to-TV series. It wasn’t long thereafter that Aladdin made its debut on the syndicated Disney Afternoon block. From there, we got Timon & Puumba, Hercules and, sorta, 101 Dalmatians. Many of these shows would also air on Saturdays. In fact, one could say the tradition still is alive, with shows like Buzz Lightyear and Emperor’s New Groove continuing to entertain, even if they are primarily in repeats and on cable.

So what’s the point? LucasFilm has two track records to work off of as marketing models. Should you be surprised if they’re mining the Disney example for all it’s worth? Not in the slightest.

As it stands, informed sources inside CN has a marketing team about to get busy with their new block, starting now. They were just waiting for the movie’s release before LucasFilm gave them the greenlight. As previously mentioned, a viral campaign for Secret Saturdays (including a sneak peak on Labor Day) is already in the works.

Also, as mentioned last week, the series is really created for the small screen. The canyons in Yoda’s forehead aren’t as pronounced on TV. The exaggerated motions of the characters become more “realistic.” Also, it isn’t like LucasFilm hasn’t had success with TV in the past. The Tartakovsky micro-series was a ratings winner when it originally aired a few years back.

So, in the coming weeks we'll start focusing on the upcoming TV series. There’s still a lot to cover. Expect to be reading a lot more next week.

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Clone Wars Weekly 1: Director Dave Filoni

Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

George Lucas Meets the Press For Animated 'Clone Wars'

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Game Demo Review

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