At Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 it was clear after attending its three days of panels that the most hype from fans in attendance seemed to be for the next season of Star Wars Rebels. There's no doubt that this is largely because of showrunner Dave Filoni appearing on many of them as one of several charming and exciting ambassadors of Lucasfilm.
Before helping craft Star Wars Rebels, Filoni worked with George Lucas to make The Clone Wars animated series happen and has his hands in almost everything as one of the main division heads at Lucasfilm. After Filoni and team had their Star Wars Rebels season 3 press conference - where they announced fan-fave Legends character Thrawn would join the series - Filoni also participated in a press conference before sitting down with us to talk about the series and the Star Wars universe.
A topic of interest that came up at these events about the dilemma Rebels is quickly having to face. Since it features Jedi characters like Kanan and Ezra, and now introduces major players in the Galactic Empire like Grand Admiral Thrawn, how can these heroes and villains be around for much longer since we know they are not in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and A New Hope?
And on the flip side of that, since these "end points" are already known variables before the show even airs, how far along did Filoni, producer Simon Kinberg, and the creative team plan ahead? This later question stemmed from something Sam Witwer (the voice of Darth Maul) said during the conference where things he was told before the show aired are just now coming to fruition in season 3.
Dave Filoni: We have discussed the end point since the very beginning of the series. As exciting as it is to tell new tales I always say "well okay, what's the end game of this whole thing?" and I'll point out examples: When Frodo gets the ring you know what his ultimate goal was supposed to be. He's supposed to throw it in the fires of Mount Doom. When you have Luke Skywalker you pretty much take that he's going to overthrow the Empire so you have to take a look at what you have promised kids at the beginning of Rebels, you know, what are we saying that Ezra is trying to do?
It looks like a very similar goal to Luke but we know he doesn't have that goal. He is not going to be able to do that. So I've asked myself, and Simon [Kinberg] as well, "what does that mean for Ezra? What can his ultimate goal be that the audience can feel that they've had an experience, a success, a triumph, or not?"
Those are the questions we asked at the very beginning and we've been kind of forging how these things evolve. I would have these big beat outlines to talk with Simon and Keri Hart and say "I think this is what we're doing or this is where we could go" but it wasn't like in season one I said "in season three we'll have Thrawn here." It was never like that. I think we knew would bring Vader in. We just weren't sure when we would do that but that was always planned at the end of one into two. Ahsoka was kind of planned for the end of one into two. Maul was not really on anyone's radar but probably mine because I worked with him the most on Clone Wars and I saw a lot of value in trying to finish out some idea of what's happened to this guy or where he's been because I didn't like leaving a lot of the Clone Wars fans hanging. So, I've trick to pick up and at least tell a story about them, whether it finishes their story or not it at least lets people know 'oh okay, they're there. There's still clones out there.
For all intents and purposes Wolffe and Gregor are out there on a Walker somewhere. That's comforting to fans of Wolffe and Gregor. If you liked Ahsoka it's like 'yay, she's back!' That was the best one because it's like "yay, she's back" and then "oh, noooo." (laughs). Maybe it was better not knowing! You always have to be careful.
The idea of Ahsoka Tano possibly being a dead character due to the conclusion of season 2 was something Filoni poked fun at all weekend, so while we know she's back this season (and not as a Force ghost or in a flashback), her return will need to be short-lived because she cannot be around during the film era since it would contradict the original trilogy of movies.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 will air on Disney XD in fall 2016.