After an underwhelming start, Star Wars: The Clone Wars evolved into an essential piece of Star Wars mythology – introducing a number of fan-favorite storylines and characters into the larger franchise. Some episodes were better than others but, for those who stuck with the series, there’s no question The Clone Wars had added further depth to the people, worlds, and ideas in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. As one of the only pieces of non-live-action filmmaking that survived
Order 66 the sidelining of Expanded Universe (now “Legends”) stories, following the purchase of Lucasfilm, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Disney has used a few returning heroes, not to mention art designs, from Clone Wars in their new animated TV series Rebels.
However, as the studio builds a canonical, multi-medium, plan for Star Wars, including a new live-action trilogy and spinoff films, Disney runs the risk of delivering a bloated and convoluted narrative monster – with certain characters relegated to animation just as others seem to appear only in live action, despite a narrative that begs for everyone to play in the same sandbox.
Speaking to press at New York Comic-Con 2015, Rebels creator Dave Filoni opened-up about interplay between the animation team and live-action film crew – indicating that even if there aren’t always direct connections between the two, there’s no question these characters exist in the same universe. To that end, Filoni suggests that the Lucasfilm story group is committed to telling quality tales across various mediums – outright admitting that the animated series can influence what happens in live-action (and vice-versa):
Everything affects each other as far as their time period is concerned and as far as you think it would echo out – if it makes sense. If someone down the line is creating a story in another medium, it doesn’t have to be a film, and you say “Okay, this is a rebellion story and they have a secret agent for the Rebels leaking information,” the story group is going to say “We have that and we call them Fulcrum here – now does it make sense to call them Fulcrum there?” What’s great is we now have a group of people who are fully aware of all the continuities, so they can reach out to the different creatives and keep them in line.
If there was a movie that was very close to the time period that I was doing, we would be in constant contact. I’ve met all the directors of all the films and talked with them and it’s fun. A lot of that we just do politely but sometimes we talk creatively – because it’s Star Wars. We’re all fans of it, we all grew up with it. This whole generation of lead creatives grew up with Star Wars, so we all just have it in common. The important thing is the story group binds us together and keeps continuity straight. Could it affect the films? Sure. Could the films affect us? Sure. But it works all directions and even the comic books and video games. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s an effort by people who love Star Wars and try to make it all great, all go together. We don’t ever want to put something out that’s just okay. I don’t want to make an animated series and have everyone go: “That one was okay.” You try to make it the best you can – whatever that bar is – so that fans are always equating a high quality to Star Wars.
Briefly responding to a comment about Ahsoka, specifically, appearing in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off Rogue One (which occurs around the same time as Rebels), Filoni made it clear he doesn’t want to see his characters limited to animation: “That would be great, wouldn’t it? That’s when you get me in a dangerous zone. See how I am stopping?”
Filoni stops short of admitting that Clone Wars and Rebels characters will appear in live-action but, given the amount of movie characters appearing in the TV series, it’s inevitable that fans should eventually see Ahsoka Tano and Ezra Bridger on the big screen.
After all, Disney is no stranger to balancing shared universe storytelling across entertainment mediums – ever since the Mouse House green lit production on The Avengers‘ TV tie-in Agents of SHIELD. Despite a rocky first season, the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave SHIELD a serious ratings boost, as well as ambitious story material to explore. Since that time, the series has evolved into an overall strong entry in the live-action canon as well as genuinely entertaining primetime TV viewing.
Of course, bringing an animated character like Ahsoka or Ezra into live-action would be slightly more complicated than getting existing Avengers actors to appear in Agents of SHIELD – since you’re taking lesser-known but still well-loved characters and translating them into flesh-and-blood. It might sound like a no-brainer but Ahsoka, in particular, has become a fan-favorite on TV – meaning that an underwhelming portrayal in live-action could actually hurt Disney’s animated series more than it helps the films (or the larger mythology).
For that reason, if we ever do see previously exclusive Rebels or Clone Wars characters adapted for live-action, it’ll be because Lucasfilm and the story group found the right opportunity for overlap – one that helps advance quality in the Star Wars story across all mediums, not just a single one.
Star Wars Rebels returns with “The Lost Commanders” on October 14th, 2015.
Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode 8 on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.