Star Wars Rebels is almost here, and with it the official launch of the Disney era of Star Wars. Lucasfilm Animation brought members of the cast and crew to Comic-Con International: San Diego to talk about the series.
The panel started with a clip from the show with the Inquisitor fighting two members of the cast (we won't spoil too much for you).
David Collins, formerly of Lucasfilm, moderated the panel. He brought out Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Tiya Sircar, and Steve Blum.
The spinning lightsaber wielded by the Inquisitor was a relic from Star Wars: Force Unleashed that hadn't been used, which they salvaged for the series.
When they began writing and creating the show, Simon Kinberg said "we had to decide what time it would take place. So we decided it would be pre- A New Hope and really be the origin story of the Rebels. It gave us the opportunity to do some really new things that the movies haven't done before."
Do you pretend to hold a lightsaber while recording? "I really do! They'll attest to that," Prinze said. "The scar on my face is from playing Star Wars as a kid."
Vanessa Marshall is "the biggest Star Wars fan on the cast," they unanimously agreed, though.
How many lightsaber fights will there be? "There are pivotal lightsaber fights that are meaningful to the characters," Filoni said. "Kanan doesn't want to be out in the open. The Jedi that are alive don't want to be out in the open. But the force hasn't gone away - kids are still being born that can use the force. So part of our story is explaining that side of things, that doesn't have anything to do with Luke. The lightsaber fights will be saved for the pivotal moments, though."
Ezra’s relationships with the crew will be a major focus. “Kanan is his master, but when Ezra first meets the Rebels crew he doesn’t want anything to do with them,” Gray said.
Collins asked if Ezra had a good relationship with Zeb? "I'm just going to put hints out there, you guys have to do the research," Blum said, "but no one who likes Star Wars stuff does research, right?" He joked with a laugh.
Another clip was played, with Ezra on the run from Stormtroopers. Zeb flew in - in a TIE Fighter!
There are comedy elements to the series, something Collins praised and asked for Filoni and Kinberg to elaborate on.
"Comedy was a big part of the original films, and it came from character," said Kinberg. "For us, the comedy in this comes from those character dynamics as well. We started this show and we thought of this crew as a family. Family is such a big part of the original as well, and there's a lot of comedy that just comes from being familiar in a space - whether it's a house or a spaceship. We wanted it to come from the character, not to just have comedy for the sake of it."
Filoni said, "When you talk about the family thing, I think a lot about the central group in Star Wars. It's something we connected with as fans and invested in. In Clone Wars we were so compartmentalied in 3 episodes, 4 episodes, and it was hard to make it feel like it was all character the whole time."
The cast has been recording for about a year, and record their scenes together radio-play style.
"When we get to be there together, I can see how Taylor reacts to me," said Prinze. "Kanan's a tricky guy cause he's a cocky Jedi. it's sorta like Jumbo Shrimp, right? So the way they write is subtle, they don't want to smash you in the face with a line. It's comedy but I'm not Cliff Huxtable!"
Marshall said, "the comedy moved so quickly in the original trilogy, and it's the same sort of thing. We can see the action in our minds, and it's so much more vivid when we're together."
"As we've been getting to know each other more," Sircar said, "we've all started embodying our characters. Hera is maternal, and so is Vanessa - she's making sure we all have snacks and water. Kanan is the big bro, and so is Freddie. Steve is the class clown, and we all give Taylor a lot of crap and kind of pick on him!"
While Dave Filoni “encourages” the team to take liberty with dialogue if they really feel like they need to, they don't think they need to do it much.
The cast talked about Steve's roles as multiple Stormtroopers in games for years. "The sounds that he can make is disturbing," Sircar said. "We had to make a bunch of sounds where we're being punched in the face, punched in the stomach, stabbed, and we let Steve go first to delineate it," Marshall said.
Talking about Dave Filoni’s influence in the recording studio, Prinze said he gives them so many details about everything with the world and the people there. "We get a great setup each episode."
Filoni said bringing TIE fighters back to the screen was a dream come true. "Killian Plunkett and I - we loved playing in the Clone Wars area. But we sat down one day and drew Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters and it was just like 'man, we're drawing Stormtroopers!' It's really special seeing these things come to life again. All our vehicles are moving toward the Ralph MacQuarrie versions of things - that makes it different from the movies that are coming out.
"It is incredibly special. The crew who works with me, most of whom were on Clone Wars, there's no fatigue there. We fought the Clone Wars and now we're leading the Rebellion!"
Kinberg said that typing "Stormtrooper" and "Obi-Wan Kenobi" in the dialogue of scripts made him flash back to being a kid.
Collins followed up by asking him about what this franchise is different to him compared to others.
"When I was a kid I could never imagine I'd have anything to do with creating a new Star Wars - my dream was to SEE a new Star Wars. I've worked on a lot of things I loved like X-Men and now Fantastic Four, but Star Wars is a religion. For me, the fun of Rebels is being able to return to the original films - they're the reason I wanted to be a filmmaker."
Marshall said there's no pressure being in Star Wars, "No, because the writing is so phenomenal."
Sircar, "Also, the fans have been so overwhelmingly wonderful on twitter and in person - initially I was really intimidated. But people who haven't even seen the show yet have been so wonderful and supportive. I can't wait for them to see the show."
Marshall and Sircar were inducted as honorary Mandelorian Mercs last night, and Marshall said, "I think I almost had a heart attack." Sircar said she gets tweets and messages in Mando and is trying to learn the language "as quickly as possible."
The pair's relationship is "nice - sort of an older sister, younger sister relationship," Sircar said. "Hera and Kanan run the show. Sabine trusts them entirely."
"I think Hera gathered these people for particular reasons," Marshall said. "If you read in A New Dawn (the upcoming novel) it explains Hera and Kanan's relationship a lot. Hera has a lot of respect for Sabine, and we learn from each other."
Next was a clip about Sabine and Hera exploring some wreckage in an abandoned base with some kind of animal in it - turns out it's a whole nest and they run from the battle.
"The great thing about Star Wars is you can tell any kind of story," Filoni said. "The threat and the tension is real. It's what we're always balancing like Geroge did with the original films. It can be light hearted, but the tension needs to be there. When Vader came on screen in the movies, it's no joke - you get out of the building! We haven't had that in a long time. So we need to establish that now, there's a hierarchy to what these heroes can do and the threats they're facing."
Collins asked the panel what it means to be a Rebel in this timeframe.
Kinberg said, "It's the very beginning - this is the origin story of the Rebel Alliance. These are people who are not part of an alliance. These are just four people, then five and a mech who are trying to claw back a little bit of territory from the Empire. If you told a story of the American Revolution and it was just five guys in a barn saying they were taking land from the British, that's what this is.
"We know that one day - maybe after their lifetimes - they'll win. But this is day one."
Marshall echoed, "Things are very secret. The idea that you can make a decision, decide to do the right thing, and then you get two people together, then three and four, and suddenly have a movement. That's really inspiring."
Filoni, "When the Empire takes over there isn't just instantly a rebellion. Palpatine has total control and the Jedi are labeled as traitors - they're not a beacon of hope or justice. There's a time when the Empire has complete control of the galaxy, and people were tired of war so they just accepted it."
Prinze said, "you'll see in the episodes people getting abused and manipulated by the Empire and gives you a reason to hate them."
Kanan will have a fiery side, but "There's a lot of stuff I just can't say. Going back to what you said earlier, I feel a lot of pressure," Prinze said. "I said 'May the Force Be With You' as many times as I said 'Hey' in the fifth grade. My grandfather always let me watch these old samurai movies, and I've tried to bring a lot of that passion to Kanan.
"A part of his life was cut short and taken away from him, so there's going to be an adolescent dark side. That's something that he struggles with. So that's the darker side he has to keep in check. Fortunately, he has Ezra who has no control or discipline, so he learns by teaching. He tries to put it on this kid - at times it's too much! You'll learn that he has limitations as far as patience goes. He has some attitude to him. There's a fine line, and you can't mess up a Jedi! I put a lot of pressure on myself. I try to give these guys what they want!"
Fan questions came next.
Q: How much will we see of James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan in this new series?
Kinberg: "I don't know if we're allowed to say about these original characters, but more than you see in the trailer!"
Filoni: "(Laughs) That's interesting..."
Sircar can now truly say she's an "11 fan on a 1-10," after liking Star Wars as a kid but not really understanding. She's binge-watched everything she can including rewatching the original trilogy several times, plus binge-watching the Clone Wars on Netflix.
Q: If it's a family, what's Chopper?
Filoni: "Artoo is, George is telling me, like a Dog. So Chopper is like a cat. You say, Chopper I need you to fix that, and he'll just walk out of the room."
Blum: "Frankly I'm tired of cleaning his catbox too."
Prinze: "We get to see what the beeps mean, too, the writers have a lot of fun with that in there."
Q: What characters can we expect cameos from the Clone Wars from?
Filoni: "It means a ton to me that you want to see those characters again. It would probably be insane for me to create that show and for absolutely nobody to show up.
"But at the same time I feel very strongly that this new cast and characters need to stand on their own; I have to be fair to this group. But you know, Obi-Wan was in the trailer and he was on Clone Wars so there you go!"
Q: Any of the Expanded Universe coming into this at all?
Kinberg: “Yeah, I think we’re drawing from everywhere, I guess we’d say. Most of the show is Ralph’s art and the original movies, but most of it is really brand new. This will be the point of entry for new Star Wars fans. So we want them to fall in love with this cast of characters like we fell in love with Han, Leia, and Luke. That’s the focus of the show.
Q: If you DO have Clone Wars cameos, would you use the same voice actors?
Filoni: Yes, that would make perfect sense. You guys are breaking me down over the years. But yes.
Q: Is this a more contained story than Clone Wars?
Filoni: Yeah, it's more contained. We are going to be in one local system for the most part. Where on Clone Wars every couple weeks we had to build an entire civilization. We built the entire Mon Cala civilization and then only used it in four episodes and never went back. This will build and build so it's bigger in the story in the end.
Q: Any chance of bringing some of these characters forward into the live action side at all?
Kinberg: "We're all in conversation with each other, and if the right combination of things come together, we'd be thrilled."
Q: (From a young fan) "I'm pretty sure Dave will give the same answer to me - but I'm going to ask anyway. We all saw lots of TK Stormtroopers, but how about some TX or Scouttroopers?"
Filoni: One of the things I loved was seeing things that were new with each movie. I think it's such a fun thing with new episodes to see things like new armors and the new troopers. So I see it as my duty to build lots of new armors for people like the 501st to build. So, if you would like a bunch of new Stormtrooper types and armors and action figures - wer'e going to do our best job making them.
Q: Is it possible that as the seasons go on we’ll see more than just these 5 ragtag guys as the Rebel alliance?
Kinberg: "yeah, there's a lot more of them in Episode IV..."
Q: What's it like working with Greg Weisman?
Filoni: "We couldn't have got this done without Greg. Simon and I had an idea of what we wanted this to be, but Greg came into the room and just focused it."
Kinberg: "His voice really comes into it too.
Sircar: "And he is a lovely person to boot!"
Q: What was your favorite season and why of Clone Wars?
Filoni: We improved every year so much, so I tend to favor the last season. I try not to go back too much. If there's an episode I go back and watch, I watch the two episodes when Ahsoka meets Chewbacca. I love those episodes. And I watch her finale, when she goes out. That character is very important to me, something that George and I created together. I think those represent the best work that our crew did, and I can never separate the work from the people making it.
A final clip closed out the show.
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