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‘Rebels’ Dave Filoni Talks Animating the Star Wars Universe

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‘Rebels’ Dave Filoni Talks Animating the Star Wars Universe

Star Wars Rebels is back Oct. 14 for the premiere on Disney XD of its second season with a few familiar faces.

The episode sees the crew of the Ghost sent by their new ally Asoka Tano, former Padawan to the fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker, for help from a trio of old friends: Rex, Wolffe and Gregor.

Take a look:

The meeting continues to connect Rebels to the larger Star Wars saga in general and to the franchise’s previous animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

With Dave Filoni supervising director for both series, such connections are far from surprising. But with Star Wars mania about to crest once again with the release Dec. 18 of a new live-action feature film, The Force Awakens, every project related to the galaxy far, far away is ramping up its game.

The second season of Rebels will see some interesting twists, with new cast members like The Seventh Sister, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar, likely to add to the show’s growing appeal.

We caught up with Filoni to talk about making animation in the Star Wars universe.

Animation Magazine: Have things changed with the new movies coming and Disney having a clear overarching structure for the franshise?

Dave Filoni: Everything’s changed but nothing’s really changed in my world. When George Lucas brought us up to start doing Clone Wars, he treated it like he was just continuing his stories. Oftentimes in animation, you have that feeling where they make a live-action movie and then people act like it’s real. And that was never the way George treated us and I have to say that’s transferred to over. Rebels is every bit as much a part of the Star Wars galaxy as The Force Awakens, as Rogue One. With that though comes a responsibility to try to make sure that what you’re doing is at the level creatively and quality wise that can stand next to those things and George was always on us to make sure of that. We’ve been given a great bandwidth by Disney to create this as we need to do it.

Animag: You said in the news conference that production time on an episode of Rebels is significantly shorter than it was for Clone Wars. How have you sped things up?

Filoni: A lot of it comes from just having done it now for a decade. One of the things that did help is that the rigging system on Rebels is simpler than it was on Clone Wars. Clone Wars had a much heavier rig set up for things like facial animation and character movement.

We’ve worked with CGCG (in Taipei) for a long time, so we have a great shorthand between studios. And the show itself, the stories of Rebels are simpler. On Clone Wars we’d have hundreds of assets in a shot, here we have a lot less. That tends to put a lot more importance on individual performance of a character’s acting than it does on say of a massive battle of a hundred Mon Calamari in one shot fighting battle droids.

The answer is it’s not any one thing, but it’s how as a group we’ve decided to move forward and approach the animation rendering and storytelling form experience.

Animag: As with Asoka Tano in Clone Wars, you’ve created characters that are part of the timeline but don’t show up in the movies. Do you think about these characters’ eventual fates?

Filoni: I give a lot of thought to it. I’ve had many different versions in my mind of Asoka’s fate over the years. The way it ended on Clone Wars with her walking way was one of the options I thought about. For Rex, the same thing. In different versions of The Clone Wars Rex didn’t make it out, and Rex perished before the end of the war. Now we exist in a time where that’s definitely not true. But I think the key is there are some unbreakables, that you know this will happen in a story. But as a creative writing it, you always have to be open to the possibilities of where characters can go.

Animag: Are kids connecting with this show or is it mostly older fans?

Filoni: I hope so! I see the 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds and I always refer to them as the client. There’s a strange fascination I’ve been watching where many of the things I grew up with, not just Star Wars, now that fans are creatives driving those things, they’ve moved it into an adult world where now everything is really dark and everything is really violent. And I don’t know what that’s a reaction to because I’m like, if you think back to when you fell in love with this, it was not like that. So I get worried sometimes that we don’t want to rob kids of the right to care about these characters and be invited into that world because we’ve made it so scary. Yes we want it to have intense moments and things can get dark — they did in Empire Strikes Back — but it was never at a level I couldn’t handle. I get asked this question a lot by fans: Are you making this for kids? My answer will always be yes. Of course, yes. Because Star Wars is that magic place that you want kids minds to develop and imagine and dream and that’s why I still dream it that way today. My hope is by inspiring them, they dream on for years later. That’s how you make Star Wars, to me, evergreen and a place of opportunity. But I also hope to tell these stories in a way that the adults watching will go: That was a great story, I identify with that as well.

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

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