Clone Wars Weekly Dispatch: Writer Henry Gilroy

Clone Wars: Henry Gilroy

You know you’re dealing with a true believer when he remembers this:

“I saw Star Wars: A New Hope at Mann's Chinese in Hollywood back in '77 when I was 10 years old,” reminiscences Henry Gilroy. “Since then I've been a huge fan. I loved the world, the characters, the story, everything about it…except I was extremely disappointed that Darth Vader got away at the end!

“Later, I was really thankful he did. One thing I loved about Star Wars was my mom liked it, my dad liked it, my sister liked it (she hated my comics). It had something for everyone. Magic, fantasy, humor, action, adventure, even politics. I realized that early on as a writer, Star Wars blended many storytelling elements together very well and I liked to do that too. In my experience, the best stories are inspired by many sources.”

Now, as head writer for The Clone Wars, Gilroy’s main ambition is to carry what he loved about that day in 1977 to the new series.

“George [Lucas] did such a tremendous job creating this universe that allows the telling of all kinds of stories,” says Gilroy, “so we're keeping that storytelling tradition alive. The Clone Wars will include many different genres as well. There's war drama, spy, mystery, romance, horror, even comedy. The stories have fantastic planets, strange creatures, weird aliens, light saber duels, space battles, Jedi using the Force, all that stuff from the movies that we love. Supervising Director, Dave Filoni, and I really worked to get away from the serious, intense tone of the prequels and bring back to the fun swashbuckling tone from the original trilogy.”

As it turns out, Gilroy could very well be just the right man for the job. His writers resume goes as far back as the early ‘90s, where he was a staff writer for Batman: The Animated Series on the episode “Nothing to Fear.” From there he worked on a highly diverse series of projects.

“I worked primarily in animation,” he said. “My television animation credits include work on series like Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, the Bionicle films to comedy like The Tick, Lilo and Stitch and Mickey and Donald Duck cartoons. So the action adventure, epic fantasy and character and comedy in those shows gave me tools. All the jobs I had previously helped prepare me for Clone Wars.”

But as it turned out, it was his knowledge of the Star Wars universe that helped him get the job. It also didn’t hurt that he worked on a few Star Wars comics for Dark Horse.

“I met with series producer Catherine Winder back in the spring of 2005, before Revenge of the Sith came out,” says Gilroy. “She had been hired to put together the creative team for Clone Wars. I was very excited about the idea of working on the series and brought along a one page synopsis of Clone Wars where I described it as ‘Band of Brothers with Jedi.’ She liked that I knew the Star Wars universe well enough to show up with something prepared. My animation experience combined with my Star Wars comics work is what convinced her to give me the job.”

This knowledge didn’t make the job easy though, at least at the begging. As intimated, Gilroy came in when the series was a start-up. If that wasn’t enough, when he started the animation division was more dream than reality. This leads to some interesting situations.

“There was a lot logistics work to figure out,” Gilroy remembers. “What the show was going to be and how we were going to make it. I think I was in the first couple dozen people to start at the ranch as we started developing the show from content to technology.

“As a matter of fact, my first office was in a tiny room previously occupied by a Xerox machine. It was barely big enough for the desk, it was 7 feet by 6 feet and everyone used to make fun of 'the writer locked in the closet.' You can imagine the jokes, cartoonists tend to be cruel to writers. Anyway, it wasn't long before a very talented crew of artists, both cg and traditional were assembled that would make the show. I also got out of the closet and into a bigger office!”

Even with a bigger, better office, Gilroy still had his work set out for him.

“It's very challenging,” he said. “Working at other established studios on animated series, most often the infrastructure is already there. For example Disney, if they decide to do a new show, all you do is insert the show into the system, with a few tweaks here and there, and it generally goes pretty smoothly. For Lucasfilm it was starting at the ground up so the infrastructure had to be created, everything from email to copiers to how art would be created and how it would flow, etc...

“Our VPs, Gail Currey and Catherine Winder did a great job of getting the studio rolling, they chose a team of people who were great collaborators, you can never over appreciate the make-up of a great crew. It doesn't happen by accident.

“Then because George wanted Clone Wars to really set a new standard and create a new visual style, technology had to be created to make it happen, then a pipeline to execute that for television. All in all it was a monumental task for a lot of people who pulled off a miracle. The best part was that George wanted it to be good and he was behind the creative team the whole time to make the show the best and always pushed us to be more ambitious. After we would have some story meeting where he would add new planets and characters and leave us wondering how we were going to do it all, he would always add, ‘Dare to be great!’ before he left. That was a kind of endorsement to just go for it. We always did.”

Next Column: Gilroy talks about setting up the Clone Wars bible and universe.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuts on Friday October 3rd on Cartoon Network


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  

Twitter activity