The Mouse Courts George Lucas

Animation insiders are reporting that Disney is in heavy courtship mode to get broadcast rights for George Lucas’ much anticipated CG-animated series Clone Wars. Jim Hill Media (www.jimhillmedia.com) recently posted a piece about Lucas’ upcoming meetings with senior execs at Walt Disney Imagineering to review the work that’s been completed on Star Tours 2.0 and how Lucasfilm is expected to increase its presence at Disneyland.

Jim Hill believes that Disney wants to turn a portion of Tomorrowland to Lucas so that new Star Wars-related attractions (as well as theme shops and restaurants) can be added to the theme park. Lucas’ beloved sci-fi classic characters already play a significant part at the park. Last October, Tomorrowland introduced a Jedi Training Academy show where fans can learn how to take the Jedi oath, master Lightsaber techniques and leaern how to joust, parry and block and fight the Dark Side forces.

However, John Singh, spokesperson for LucasFilm, tells us that that his company continues it relationship with Disney, and there really have been no stepped-up or additional talks with the Mouse House, despite the Jim Hill report.

The CG-animated Clone Wars series is expected to be ready for broadcast by the fall of 2008. The project’s High-Def animation work is divided between the Lucas Animation studio in Singapore and the company’s northern California facilility. At the recent Star Wars Celebration IV event in Los Angeles, it was revealed that Lucas and producer Catherine Winder are developing the scripts with various episode writers. Each episode will be 22-minutes long and the general direction of the series will follow Star Wars: Episode IV’A New Hope, packed with action sequences as well as lighter moments and comic relief. Fans will learn more about Boba Fett, General Grievous and other characters throughout the series. Lucas has said that he wants to produce at least 100 episodes of the new toon.

The animation exhibited in the trailer which can be found on www.starwars.com appears to be a hybrid of the stylized 2D work done by Genndy Tartakovsky and crew on the Cartoon Network Clone Wars microseries and the more photo-realistic animated elements seen in the three prequel films. Supervising director Dave Filoni, who previously worked on Nickelodeon’s wildly successful, anime-inspired series Avatar: The Last Airbender, tells the Los Angeles Times that a main goal with the animation is to avoid the so-called ‘uncanny valley’ effect where digital humans look real but have a vacancy to them. In addition to Disney, Fox and HBO are rumored to be interested in picking up broadcast rights for the show.

But wait, there’s more! Lucas is also developing a live-action Star Wars TV series that will take place between the days after Episode 3 and 4. The project will showcase minor characters from the prequel trilogy as well. Audiences won’t get to see the live-action version at least until the fall of 2009. Producer Rick McCallum told fans at the Star Wars Celebration event, ‘It is going to be much darker, much grittier, it’s much more character-based.’