Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Creating a New Clone Wars

Creating a New Clone Wars

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has caused its share of noise since it debuted two weeks back. One of the biggest sources of said noise being the animation style LucasFilm employed. As it turns out, it was intentional.

“We didn’t want it to look photo-realistic,” George Lucas himself explained back at his initial press conference. “We were working with animation, and we wanted to really utilize the format. That meant shifting our thinking a bit. It’s a whole different way of telling stories, and it gives us the freedom to do things that just aren’t possible in live action.”

As said in the first column, one of the key inspirations for the character design was a maquette based on Genndy Tartakovsky’s micro-series several years back. Another was LucasFilm, rather than hire an outside studio, built its own from the ground up. This new plant only does 3D CGI, and is applying its own ideas into the production.

“We have our own studio, Lucas Animation Singapore, and a Taiwan studio CGCG; both are doing great work,” says supervising director Dave Filoni. “Right now, we are focused completely on the Clone Wars. It’s an ambitious project, and we’ve had enough on our hands with developing the series, launching a new studio and adding a feature film into the production pipeline.

“We design everything here in Marin (County). Killian Plunkett and Darren Marshall really lead that effort with me. I think designs are just changing these days, away from photo realism into something more design-heavy. We don’t use any motion capture at all. We wanted a very stylized look and feel, and part of that involved creating all of the motion by hand. It has a distinctly retro feel, which works with the angular design and the painterly textures. It’s inspired a by a lot of different influences, from anime to Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation, but I think the end result is pretty distinct and unique.”

Another element that distinguishes the series from the first three chapters is the voice cast. The only actors retained from the live action movies are Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace) and Christopher Lee (Dooku).

“Well, it wouldn’t be Star Wars with Anthony as C-3PO,” says Filoni. “Originally, we were operating on a TV production timeline, so we weren’t able to use all of the talent from the live-action films. Sam is very close to the role of Mace, though, and was willing to come on-board. We were very lucky with that. With Christopher Lee, he obviously brings a lot of weight to the role of Dooku.”

While the cast is loaded with animation v.o. veterans ranging from Tom Kane (Yoda) to Dee Bradley Baker (all the clones) on to James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), what truly sets the cast apart is Filoni went for relatively new talent for his two principles, Matt Lanter (Anakin) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka).

Lanter has been making waves for himself in such TV shows as Heroes and Shark. His past experience also includes playing Geena Davis’ son in the series Commander-In-Chief. He recently also starred in the film WarGame: The Dead Code. Graced with some serious good boy looks, he apparently is also becoming a favorite poster king among the teenaged girl set.

Yet when it came to Eckstein, Filoni really opened up. Born Ashley Drane, she changed her name when she married baseball star David Eckstein. Before then, she was already established on the comedy show That’s So Raven.

“Ashley is Ahsoka,” asserts Filoni. “She came in to read for Padme originally, but she had the sound and the spirit that we wanted for the character of Ahsoka. She really embodies that attitude in every way.”

It should come as no surprise that the show rests heavily on the performances of Eckstein and Lanter. The paring of these two actors is critical, particularly considering the upcoming TV series takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Also, TV entertainment tends to be much more character-oriented than feature film. It’s a big time saver to have key characters do their thing over and over again rather than construct new sets all the time. So don’t be surprised if a lot of the show is about still relatively young Anakin having to contend with his new, even younger, padawan. At the same time don’t be surprised if Obi-Wan and Yoda constantly comment on how she behaves a lot like a certain other impetuous young man they know.

“Anakin’s Anakin, so there are definitely parallels to how he was portrayed before,” says Filoni. “but we chose this period so we’d have the opportunity to show a different side of his character, as well. The live-action Skywalker saga is necessarily dark, but what makes it so tragic is that Anakin fell from a place of light. With the movie and the series, we can see him as a hero and a friend. Ahsoka has similarities to Anakin, but she also shares some of the traditional, old-guard training of Obi-Wan. She sort of walks a middle ground between the two, which is a really fun dynamic to explore.”

Next column we’ll start exploring more about these characters and the new universe they now reside in. Until then, as they say over at LucasFilm, may the force be with you.

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