Clone Wars Weekly - Director Dave Filoni

Clone Wars Weekly #1

Welcome to the first installment of Clone Wars Weekly. Its first purpose will be to introduce you to many of the creative people behind the upcoming Warner Bros. CGI-animated feature film [opening August 15] and the subsequent Cartoon Network TV series. From there, we will also explore the contemporary state of the the Star War Universe as a whole, adding the comics, novel, and other media as time moves on.

What really matters is LucasFilm has granted Newsarama unique access to this project, and we certainly plan to take advantage of it. So without further ado, let’s get this party started. Here’s the first installment of Clone Wars Weekly!

Let’s be a tad metaphorical.

Obviously, there wouldn’t be a Star Wars: The Clone Wars if George Lucas wasn’t the guiding hand behind both the animated movie as well as the upcoming TV series. But this doesn’t mean he’s slaving over every detail of the project alone.

Lucas is the perhaps the Yoda of The Clone Wars production team. He may not be on the ground at every battle or skirmish, but he sits ahead of the Jedi Council and is certainly aware of all.

But this means there must be someone working as a field general, lightsaber in hand … an Obi-Wan if you will. For Star Wars : The Clone Wars, our Obi-Wan is David Filoni, director supervising producer of the film and supervising director of the TV series. If you hadn’t heard of him before, don’t worry, we're here to rectify that. Also believe us when we say if you're a fan of animation he would have eventually come to your sooner or later.

Filoni originally hails from the same next of the woods as another animation legend, Lou Scheimer - suburban Pittsburgh.

“I went to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania” Filoni recalled. “After I got out of school, I worked at a small Pittsburgh-based animation house. A year out of college I packed up and moved to Los Angeles, where I got lucky and landed a job on King of the Hill. That was actually a big break and the people I met there have influenced my career for the last 10 years.”

Important indeed. From there he worked with Film Roman. He also worked on such shows as Teamo Supremo, Dave the Barbarian, and Mission Hill, primarily as a storyboard artist.

Mission Hill was a lot of fun,” Filoni said. “I still have a standee of the dog Stogie in my garage. It was too bad that after all the work, it was such a short-lived series on TV, but a lot of people have told me how much they enjoy it. I think it's great that the show is finding a second life on Adult Swim. “

Still, his next move would be the critical one in his career. He became an episode director for one of the best animated shows of the decade, Avatar: The Last Airbender. This included the pilot episode, “The Boy in the Iceberg.”

“I love working with Mike (DiMartino) and Brian (Konietzko),” Filoni acknowledged regarding Avatar’s creators. “I met Mike DiMartino on King of the Hill, and then Brian a couple years later. We were all at Film Roman at the time. When I got the chance to work on a project they created, I knew it would be great.“

“I brought a lot of the things I learned watching the Star Wars films to Avatar, and a bunch of us were Star Wars fans. For many of us it was our first chance at action adventure, and I really never thought I would leave the show until the opportunity to make Clone Wars came along, and then a couple people from Avatar came with me to do that.”

Filoni will also say that the Clone Wars/Avatar connection is more than just personnel, too.

“There will always be a strong connection in my mind between the two series. I applied a lot of the ideas I learned on Avatar to The Clone Wars, especially how we worked with an overseas studio. It was a great experience, working on Avatar.”

Of course, another important element in the making of this series is the 2003 animated Clone Wars “micro-series” Cartoon Network and LucasFilm did under the guidance of Genndy Tartakovsky. Filoni acknowledges influences from that previous series but also makes clear the two stand very much on their own.

“There really isn't a timeline that connects the two series,” adds Filoni. “We left some things open, like how Ventress knows Anakin and Obi-Wan, and Anakin's costume is inspired by the Paul Rudish design, but this isn't a continuation of the micro-series.

“I’ve always been a big fan of the anime look, Japanese anime, and manga tend to push the envelope with really innovative composition, so we followed that lead. That said, animation is a vast field, and it’s too filled with possibilities for us to limit ourselves to one style. We also took inspiration from Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds; which was shot in the 1960s using marionettes. So we really took these disparate influences and fused them into something pretty unique.”

“We loved the look of the micro-series,” producer Catherine Winder stated, “and when we began to see the maquettes that were licensed on its behalf, it was a neat glimpse into what those designs would look like in a 3-D space. “But we wanted to take it much further, to do something dramatically different with Star Wars and animation. Working in computer graphics, we incorporated those stylistic aspects into a world with an entirely different depth, physicality and scope. From there, it really began to grow and evolve into what’s on screen.”

Not that every aspect of this project is new. Providing some "continuity" for fans are the voice actors for characters like Mace Windo (reprised by Samuel L. Jackson), as well as Siths General Grievous and Asajj Ventress.

“While Grievous made his first appearance in the micro-series, we now have the film Revenge of the Sith to base his character on,” says Filoni. “Of course, I talk to George directly about it, as with any character from the actual films. When it came to Ventress, she was in the comic books, and was an old concept drawing for Attack of the Clones, so she was even around before the micro-series if you look for her. [Series writer] Henry Gilroy and I had to again talk with George to see how exactly he wanted her to fit into The Clone Wars we were making, especially considering the Sith rule of two and Sidious's plans for Dooku/Anakin.”

Also interesting is bringing in the Togrutans to the mix. The comic book fan in Filoni had his share of fun with them as the race was originally created for the Star Wars comic book-verse.

“[Anakin's padawan] Ahsoka Tano (seen above) is a creation of George Lucas for this films and series. I'm sure other Togrutans are around. Shaak Ti is a Togruta like Ahsoka,” Filoni explained, acknowledging the Dark Horse Comics connection to his new hero. “I thought it would be fun to move one into a more prominent role, as opposed to using a Twi'lek again. Henry and I looked at the comics a bit early on, and again we talked over some of the things with George. There was a large campaign between episodes 2 and 3 regarding the Clone Wars, so I look at it and see where things went, but it doesn’t really influence what we are doing in our part of the Galaxy.”

Still, if you were to ask Filoni what he thinks of his new job, he would be saying he’s having one grand adventure. In fact, one could even say he’s enjoying the best of two universes.

“Yes, I got lucky” Filoni acknowledges. “I didn’t know about the job, but my friend Chris Prynoski recommended me for it because we’d talked so much about Star Wars while he was working on Avatar. After interviewing a couple times, I met George and he hired me to take on the series.

“I’ve been dreaming about Star Wars since I was a kid, playing with the toys in the backyard with my brother. Working on a Star Wars movie is beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s great to work in this world that I love so much, and to do it with George Lucas. Coming from a fan perspective, I also realize how important it is to do it right.”

Now fans themselves will see how he did this Friday, when Star Wars: The Clone Wars hits the big screen.

Upcoming: It takes more than one field general to win a war. Next week we talk with producer Catherine Winder...

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