Three-Minute Epics: A Look at Star Wars: Clone Wars
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Three-Minute Epics: A Look at Star Wars: Clone Wars
Genesis and Inspiration
Episode II set the stage with the furious Battle of Geonosis that first pit Jedi-led clone troopers against the seemingly endless ranks of Separatist battle droids. As explosive as that incredible sequence was, it only served to whet the Clone War-appetites of Star Wars fans. Episode III is still years away, but the next engagements of the Clone Wars will come soon enough, on the small screen, in animated episodes that may be short on running time, but are nonetheless large in scope and downright huge in talent. As announced today, Star Wars: Clone Wars is coming to the Cartoon Network this fall.
Leading the war effort is Genndy Tartakovsky, the acclaimed creator of “Samurai Jack” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” for the Cartoon Network. When executives at the Cartoon Network began exploring the possibilities of animated Star Wars adventures, Tartakovsky’s name was at the top of the list of desired talent.
“I was contacted because I’ve always been very vocal that I’m a Star Wars fan and would love to work on it,” says Tartakovsky. “So, the Cartoon Network came up to me and asked me to put a little pitch together. We came up with this idea of doing a Clone Wars-style story with a Band of Brothers-feel to it — where it’s episodes of different battles and strategies during the Clone Wars. We went up to Lucasfilm and pitched it, and everyone enjoyed it, and it just came together.”
The end result will be 20 animated shorts of two-to-three-minutes running time each, telling one continuous story of the Clone Wars, as well as side stories that branch from the main. “A little bit of the story changed here and there since the pitch, but it’s pretty much the same,” says Tartakovsky. “Anakin and Obi-Wan are on Muunilinst, and they’re taking out these factories that the Federation has built. And in our side stories, we have Kit Fisto, another with Mace, another with Yoda and Padmé.”
Tartakovsky is heading up a lean, mean crew of animators, designers and artists, mostly made up of familiar faces from “Samurai Jack,” however that doesn’t mean Star Wars fans will just get “Jack” episodes with lightsabers added. “I didn’t want to do exactly what we did with ‘Samurai Jack.’ One of the guys I’ve been working with the longest time, Paul Rudish, is a huge Star Wars fan. We went with his style, which blends Star Wars with the way we both draw. He designed the look of the characters, based on what the actors look like, but eventually it changes into its own thing. It still retains the feeling of the actors; it has their essence, but it doesn’t look exactly like them.”
Since “Samurai Jack” debuted in 2001, critics and animation buffs have lauded its deft mixture of minimalism and spectacle, and its cinematic scope that evokes feelings of a Kurosawa epic – definitely a far cry from what television animation was just a few years ago. Tartakovsky promises similar attention to detail with Star Wars: Clone Wars. “It’s going to be very high quality,” he says. “It’ll be like little mini-features, because everything is really hand-crafted and we’re really taking our time with everything because we respect Star Wars so much.”
As inspiration, Tartakovsky turned to his library of World War II films. “I’m a big World War II buff, so I looked at a lot of old footage and old movies, like The Longest Day. When doing battle scenes, it was almost a second language to us. I was a big fan of Band of Brothers, and thought that the fighting there was executed really well. Black Hawk Down was another well executed war film. I mean, it’s still going to be robots and droids that get killed in battle, but there will be a few hardcore things. It’s not going to be too gritty,” he says with a smile.
Case in point, for all the cinematic drama of “Samurai Jack,” the show is also quite funny. The three-minute Clone Wars shorts will still pack fun into their brief action-filled running times. “There’s definite visual jokes. For example, we have one where the Republic ARC Troopers are blowing up a cannon, and instead of putting one piece of demolition on it, it’s absolutely lined with bombs. So, it’s kind of absurd and funny, since it wouldn’t really happen like that, but it’s still cool. There are little, subtle things like that.”
This marks the first time Tartakovsky has ever worked on a licensed property. Dexter and Jack were his creations, giving him absolute freedom in crafting their characters. With Star Wars, Tartakovsky has to adhere to the precedent of the Star Wars films, as well as the creative guidance of Lucasfilm — something he notes is going smoothly.
“Ever since I got into animation, I’ve been working with characters that I created or helped create. Now, this is working with somebody else’s character. So, when Anakin’s talking we ask, ‘Well… would he say that?’ And I respond, ‘I don’t know… it’s not my character!’ With Samurai Jack or Dexter, it’s more intuitive. Here, there’s a lot more discussion about it. Would Yoda say it like this, or would he not do that? We have to talk it out, and we don’t have the absolute authority to say, ‘yes, he would say that.’ That was our first stumbling block, but now we’re a lot more comfortable with it,” he says.
“The great thing is George Lucas is a fan of ‘Samurai Jack,'” Tartakovsky notes, “So he said, ‘let them do their job without being too involved.’ I think this is great because we don’t have to copy exactly what the live action is, and we can take Star Wars and interpret it and animate it in our style.”
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