Last weekend was Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida. To help kick off the weekend, Dave Filoni and some of the other folks behind Clone Wars premiered the first episode of Season 5 to a very excited audience. As a surprise, he also showed them an exclusive trailer that included clips from the entire season. The following day, Wikia's own Eric Moro sat down with Dave and got some really amazing insight to the creation of the show and what is to come. Enjoy!
Eric: First, I must say that the premiere was fantastic and the trailer you showed for the fifth season looked amazing. One thing that caught my eye in the trailer was that Hondo is still alive and kicking, despite his defeats throughout the series...
Dave: Hondo is a character that brings a lot of levity and comedy to situations that can otherwise get dark. It's really important for Star Wars to have that comedy action going on, but the bottom line is that we showed the trailer to give the audience a better look at the whole picture of what's coming and the complexity of the plot and the overall wow factor. It's not often I have a captive audience in a theater and I thought a lot of them probably won't get into the panel Saturday or Sunday so I rewarded them for getting in there last night with the trailer. You gotta see this stuff on the big screen.
Eric: Exactly, seeing it on the big screen is the way to go. Is there an opportunity to do another Clone Wars film?
Dave: I never know. Luckily I'm not involved in any of that aspect. I just get to tell the stories and make the show. For my crew and I, our whole goal is to dare to be great. We told George Lucas, let's make this so good, like daring them to try not putting this back up on the screen. In other words, we want to make it very difficult for them to say no to that. We do screenings for fans throughout the year at the Presidio in California. We bring fans in to the digital screen at LucasFilm, and they get to watch premieres there. Those local fans get to see it all the time on the big screen. We usually do the beginning of the season and the end of the season on the big screen. We do it in L.A., New York, and it keeps finding its way back up there, and that's all because George loves it up there. He watches it with us on a big screen every week. He knows the value of it, I think, projected as nicely as it can be. One never ever knows. I didn't think the first time it was up there it was gonna be a movie. It wasn't supposed to be, so it wouldn't surprise me if it happens again. We've left our aspect ratio so that when it is projected, it's extremely cinematic.
Eric: You’ve said in the past that viewers this season will start to see a “bridging of the gap” between the events of The Clone Wars television series and the movie Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. How so?
Dave: Visually I think the show is a lot closer to Revenge of the Sith than it has ever been. That's one big stride. The fans will have picked up on the Jedi interceptors in the trailer, which is a fighter you only saw in the Revenge of the Sith. The clones look much more in their rendering like Revenge of the Sith and their models have just gotten so much better. The animation quality is better, it has a more live action sensibility to it, but the stories have consequences this year. They're not just adventures. It takes a lot of characters that you've known and it makes significant things happen to them. It puts them through a lot of trials and in that way you feel like you're escalating more towards some type of completion as opposed to the past seasons, where there was a lot of big adventure and big action, but you felt like you're moving through a middle period. We are getting really close in tone to the third film.
Eric: You’ve also said that this is going to be a big season for Ahsoka Tano. There were fans in the audience last night screaming, "Keep Ahsoka!" What can we expect?
Dave: For me it's quite an experience because when we started with her I knew as a fan that she was gonna be a difficult sell. You take one of the most popular characters in Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker, and you give him a teenage girl sidekick, I mean, that could have been death in so many ways, but we all knew it. George once told me, "this is something where we are right on the knife's edge, it will really work or really not work." Initially the audience acted like we predicted- like an older brother who just got a younger sister, like, why is this girl hanging out with us? And if you go back and watch Season 1 now, she does come across as really young and naive, but we see her performance this year and it's astounding how far the character has come, how much more mature she is. I think people appreciate this type of genesis. It's not unlike Luke when you compare "A New Hope" to Return of the Jedi. He seems like such a younger kid in "A New Hope" in every possible way.
It's a challenging year for Ahsoka, but I think it's a good thing. When you challenge your characters that's when they really evolve. We're not just going through the motions and saying here's another adventure. These are adventures with a lot more purpose because when she comes out on the other side of them it's like a new day for her. She is constantly looking at the world around her with a different lens. I think that's what's most interesting for the character because looming above it all is what is ultimately going to happen?
Eric: We know what eventually happens to all the Jedi, but for all of us who are connected with Ahsoka now, can you in theory alter her story somehow and say she has escaped, for example?
Dave: Nothing is written in stone and that is the fun of being creative. The answer of what happens to her lies in how creative we can be, and that's the challenge. I think that if we had a creative scenario that was just phenomenal and she ended up dying, then that's the way we'll go. If we have a creative way to twist her out of that, then that's the way we will go. This debate has gone back and forth for years. I've always sat more on one side, and George in a lot of ways has sat on the other, but that's why I think we work together so well, because we can devil's advocate each other, but he wins a lot more than I do. The character has evolved and people wanna hear me say, "I've always known from the beginning." I think that when people who write stories tell you that, there is some marginal truth, but when you have been working on something for as long as we have, seven years we've been working on this show, so many things have happened in between that I couldn't have predicted anything story-wise.
We've told so many different kinds of stories, it's affected the character in so many ways that it would be like shoe-horning her back on to her alleged original purpose if I forced the original ending that I thought of years ago on to now. Now there are new developments which you will see this year which dramatically change things, and I think for the better. All the while, I have the confidence in knowing that ultimately I can go to George and say, "What do you think of that?" Or, "Is this the way you really want it?" And I'll change it if he doesn't like it!
Eric: Last season you had a number of two and three-episode story arcs. Can we expect more of that this season?
Dave: Yes, pretty much all of the arcs are four-part arcs. We do four-part arcs because it allows the writing team to break things out a little better so we could make the emotions play out a little stronger. The 1, 2, 3 arcs were getting pretty tight, and the middle one was always feeling like the soft center. 4 lets us break up and tell a more sophisticated story than we have been. And to be honest, they edit into 88 minutes, which is really nice, because then you can put them together and play them like a movie. In past seasons, if we did that, they didn't actually cut together as nicely. Now the episodes that we do are like one sequential story.
Eric: In the past couple of seasons you’ve also introduced a number of “Original Trilogy” characters in the series. We've seen Boba Fett, who is now an official part of it, Chewbacca, Tarkin .. Can we expect anymore in Season 5? In last night's [premiere] episode we saw Blue Snaggletooth...
Dave: I know! That was the little easter egg. I remember those things [the famous Blue Snaggletooth action figures] from my childhood. I leaned over and told the person next to me [at the premiere] that everyone's going to go nuts in a second here. And it's over Blue Snaggletooth! That's what's great about Celebration, it's the one place where people would appreciate that moment. And you can look forward to seeing more characters like that in the background. In this season, however, we only bring back the classic characters that have already appeared. We don't introduce many more. Tarkin will make an appearance with an important role. Those characters will only show up when George says, "I want Chewbacca in the show." And then Chewbacca gets in the show. Otherwise, that's not my way. I'm much more inclined and comfortable in creating a new character. When we use his characters, it's usually his idea for the most part. Tarkin got introduced because we had a situation where we wanted a fleet commander instead of a Jedi general. We asked George if we could use Tarkin, because he would have been around, and George approved. Sometimes characters they get in that way, with an opening and a suggestion. But you never know who is gonna show up anymore and George's creativity is apparent in the stories we get to tell. Seven years, five seasons later, with over 100 episdoes now, and we have so many more stories to tell. It's a big universe, Star Wars. This whole series could have been just about the Clones and we would have been fine, but we've been telling stories about multiple different groups the whole way through, so it's like five series in one.
Eric: Last season, you had a story arc that adapted the comic book series Slaves of the Republic. Any more plans to adapt Expanded Universe material?
Dave: Not really. That story was kind of an aberration because we all know Henry Gilroy and Steve Melching who wrote that Dark Horse comic and George had seen it and saw Henry's name on it and said, "Henry used to work with us and we have this script openings so lets just make these." When we adapted them, if you've read both, we adapted them pretty heavily. Like any book that goes to screen, it got a lot of tweaks and changes. I'd call up Henry and say, "Hey, Ventress is no longer a separatist, so we gotta take her out." We gotta find a way to replace that and change it; we re-tooled it. It was fun to work with Henry because I started the Clone Wars with him back in 2005 and it was nice to have him back on board. He finally got the benefit of all the modernized effects we can do now. Back when he was on the show, we had a box, we had a stick, and a starship and some really wooden characters.
Eric: Well you're bumming me out because I was kind of hoping I could see my favorite character, Jaxxon, on the show.
Dave: Jaxxon the rabbit? Well, you know, we'll have to see. Anything is possible. But be careful what you wish for. Although you might be happy sometime this season, that's all I'll say.
Eric: My last question… I know you have direct access to the source (George Lucas) whenever you have specific Star Wars mythology questions. But do you ever use outside resources like Wookieepedia or The Clone Wars Wiki for reference?
Dave: I do, it's funny. The Internet is everywhere and we will be in these meetings and we'll look up stuff online, like, "What does that character look like again?" It's mostly when we're checking Expanded Universe stuff, as it's not a direct thing of what we have on tap. We have the Essential Guide to Vehicles and the Essential Guide to Planets, all those on our table when we're writing. And we have looked stuff up on Wookieepedia. I'd have to say that Henry Gilroy's story (Slaves of the Republic) was the only time that a story was taken by George from the Expanded Universe and put in. He usually only uses the Expanded Universe visually, not so much for story. But yea, Wookieepedia makes sense. It's such a great name and sounds so official. We will look up planets and it's funny, bringing it up and George will read it and say, "Well, that's not what I meant." But that's subjective because whatever he wants it to be, it will be. But I get it, I've tried really hard to keep aware of all of the Clone Wars media happening. If you just take the Clone Wars and how much is being creatively produced in comics, novels, video games, everything, it's almost impossible to keep up with. I don't know how George could have kept up with everything going. Ultimately what you have to do is watch the show, watch the movies, see what we're doing, and try to stay in that, be creative, have fun.
If someone attempted to write an ending for say Cad Bane, and then years later we decide well we are going to film that, we would probably look at that if it was a comic or novel, but it doesn't mean we would do that. To be honest, I'll tell you what I would do in that case- I would just source Sergio Leone and make the best cowboy movie possible around Cad Bane. You know Star Wars is so unique and it's so vast, so global, with so many fans. It never slows down with games, novels, comics, and it's crowded with people. We didn't have a big release this summer, but we have our animated show and there is nothing else like it. As a creator in it now, I do look at as many resources as I can get to see what people like and what they enjoy, but ultimately I take it from the guy who created the word Wookiee and he tells me what works and what doesn't.
Eric: Alright Dave, thank you so much. It was nice meeting you and I'll keep my eyes open for that rabbit.
Dave: Like I said, be careful what you wish for! Haha, Jaxxon, you will see!