The End of The Clone Wars

Lucasfilm announced today that its animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not getting a sixth season. It's not completely done and over with, because Lucasfilm Animation still plans to release "bonus content" based on the episodes they produced for Season 6. As a big fan of the series, I wanted to share my thoughts about what this means for me, for fans, and for the franchise in general.

I'll start where I ended in my report for TFN:

For five years, The Clone Wars kept Star Wars alive on-screen and brought in legions of new fans. It undoubtedly altered the landscape of the franchise, introducing us to new characters, expanding on the darkness of the Prequel era, and breaking boundaries in animated television thanks to the hard work of Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound. Over the past few years, I've met many of the talented people whose voices and other talents brought The Clone Wars to life. I've also had the pleasure and the privilege of reviewing the show for TheForce.Net since 2009. I will miss it very much.

It is indeed sad to know that I won't be reviewing a sixth season of The Clone Wars. We don't even know what form the bonus content will take. Some fans are assuming that Lucasfilm will release full "bonus" episodes for streaming on StarWars.com. Business insanity aside, that's not a given at this point. Why would Lucasfilm call it "bonus content" if the plan is to simply distribute more complete, twenty-two-minute stories, albeit in a different venue? When it comes to the length and format of this "bonus content," the jury is still out, and that's worrisome.

Six years of The Clone Wars has rejuvenated Star Wars in a way that few projects could. The premiere of the series in 2008 coincided with a massive increase in online fan activity. Twitter and Facebook took off right around that time. Large portions of the Star Wars community moved from circa-1990s forums to these 21st century platforms. With the direct access to celebrities that Twitter provided, fans could reach out to actors and other familiar faces and have real conversations with them. TCW benefited immensely from this trend, and Star Wars benefited immensely as a result. Young viewers and their parents could pose questions directly to voice actors like Ashley Eckstein, whose character of Ahsoka Tano was tepidly received at first but soon became a fan favorite because of her growth and maturity.

I've had several conversations with folks like Ashley and her co-star James Arnold Taylor (the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi). I was always left with the impression that these were talented and dedicated people who loved Star Wars as much as I did. That's insanely important for a franchise as old as Star Wars. You want talented performers, but you also want interested ones. The more they love what they're doing, the more likely the audience is to love it too. Supervising director Dave Filoni, who became a sort of apprentice to George Lucas for several years while he shepherded The Clone Wars along, epitomized this desired combination of skill and engagement. It was always heartening to hear Dave talk about his work. He cared so much about getting it right, and that translated into trust on the part of Star Wars fans that he knew what he was doing. We may have disputed an occasional decision that he made, but we didn't dispute his love for the Star Wars saga.

As conversations with the show's stars took off across social media, so too did the popularity of the show itself. The series introduced characters, such as the pirate Hondo Ohnaka, who became fan favorites almost immediately because they represented unique aspects of the Star Wars galaxy while  still fitting nicely into the overall story. Ahsoka, as I already noted, became a major part of Star Wars thanks to her relationship with her mentor, Anakin Skywalker. Other characters, in particular the Dark Side assassin Asajj Ventress, underwent major changes that broke them out of existing molds and gave them multifaceted personalities that appealed to fans without retreading familiar ground. As Season 5 ended a few weeks ago, I remarked in one of my reviews that the revision and expansion of Asajj's path in life was one of the show's major triumphs. It was this ability to take familiar aspects of Star Wars and give them new life that attracted so many fans to The Clone Wars over the years.

The result of this groundswell of attention directed at TCW was that fans treated it as the next evolution in the franchise, and rightly so. There have always been books and comics (and I love reading them), but there's nothing like an on-screen presence to keep a decades-old franchise feeling fresh and exciting. Before we learned about the Sequel Trilogy in October 2012, we expected that TCW would be the future of the saga for an indeterminate period of time. When Episode VII was announced, we expected the series' lifespan to shorten somewhat to make room for the sequels, but I don't know how many people really thought Season 5 would be its last.

Today's news reinforces the fact that Disney wants to focus all possible energy and attention on the sequels. That's understandable. It's a business, after all, and businesses make decisions based on profit. Despite the fact that nothing lasts forever, I wasn't prepared to see TCW go. I know that five seasons is a rare feat for an animated series, especially one heavily rooted in a science-fiction franchise -- but then, Star Wars has always defied the odds. I just wish TCW could have done so for one more season.

At the end of the day, while I think The Clone Wars still had lots of life and story potential left in it, I can't be too angry. I am, of course, immensely excited to see the "bonus content" that Lucasfilm Animation has for us. After that, I'm looking forward to the next phase of the saga: Star Wars Episode VII.

Eric Geller

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.

2 comments:

  1. great comments on the TCW. Will miss reading your reviews.. It sounds like they are really serious about the new animated series. The way it reads it would seem they already have a vision. I do agree, I hope the "bonus content" is done properly..

    on a side note, can you increase your font size??

    Thanks againG

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  2. This day has seen the end of the Clone Wars and soon the end of the rebellion.

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