If Dave Filoni sounds like he hasn’t quite come down to earth, it isn’t difficult to understand why. The supervising director of the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars had just returned from Orlando, Fla. There, he was one of the guests of honor at the annual Star Wars Celebration held every August at Disney World.
“I loved it!’ Filoni exclaims over the phone from Skywalker Ranch. “I have to say I’ve gone to several conventions this year and this was probably one of my favorites. I don’t mean to sound biased, but as a fan it was really a great experience. I got to meet a lot of people with their families. Lucasfilm set up so much to do no one could do it all.”
Yet basking in the glory of devoted Jedi isn’t the only thing Filoni is ecstatic over. The third season of SWCW will blast off on Friday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m. eastern on Cartoon Network with two new episodes. Based on a preview of these two half-hours, they will launch the season of with a bang.
“I think this was due to a couple of factors,” says Filoni. “When the first movie came out, it was very different from the series today. The movie was aimed for a lot younger audience. Also, the execution of the animation was so early for us.
“We’ve really changed dramatically over the last two seasons. It’s now a very different experience from before. In that time we’ve improved as artists. It took us a while to get to this level. Also, I think people understand where the show’s coming from now. I also think we’ve finally risen up to their expectations for the show.”
One reason for this is Filoni is an admittedly hardcore fan of George Lucas’ incredible galaxy-spanning creation, but he’s also got enough critical sensibility left in him to keep his viewers in mind. He openly admits he will question Lucas if he thinks he can, although he also has admitted in past interviews he knows who the boss is.
The man also came with a very sharp set of tools. Before he moved on to Clone Wars, he worked with Mike DiMartino and Bryan Koniezco on their series Avatar: The Last Airbender as an episode director. Before that he built up a rep as a storyboard artist for a number of other shows. In other words, Filoni is a very strong “story man,” as they would say in the animation world. It must utilize that talent to its fullest given the peculiar nature of Clone Wars.
“We’re never short of ideas. We’re always introducing new worlds, new environments,” Filoni admits. “The Star Wars universe is just so much more expansive than just Clones fighting Battle Droids. One thing George said about Revenge of the Sith is that by the time he got to that film he had so many characters competing for film time. Now I have 22 episodes, 22 minutes each, and I still have a number of characters competing for film time. Star Wars is unique in that it seems all the characters develop rabid fans. In Orlando, I was constantly field questions about when one character or another was going to make a return appearance. It’s already more than I can get into one season.
“And it’s really fun. Just to take a character like Boba Fett, who we added in season two, and develop him over three episodes like we did, is something we couldn’t do before. Even getting to write something like that was tremendously fun. Still, being able to work on a classic character like Boba Fett showed that we were ready to take on something like that.”
If anything, re-introducing Fett was an important harbinger for the third season. The two episodes that will air on September 17 have everything to do with the Clones; not Boba though. Filoni actually went back to his first season and decided to do more on the story of the Clones introduced in the episode “Rookies.”
With the first episode, “Clone Cadets,” Filoni actually does kind of a prequel, telling the tale of the rookie team’s origins on their birth planet Kamino. Then, with the next episode “ARC Troopers,” we will meet up with the survivors of the “Rookies” episode, Five and Echo, as they are again called up to protect their brothers on their home world.
“Bringing them back was also a lot of fun,” Filoni admits. “It was also something a lot of our fans wanted us to bring back. They wanted more of that ongoing sensibility the Clones bring with them. We like the idea that if you saw ‘Rookies’ you will automatically know them. It was also show them growing as characters. We also showed their true origins as well. That episode happened not only because of the fan reaction, but George himself expressed he wanted to know more about those Clones and wanted to see more of them.
“So that was something we decided to do very early on when we were developing the series. We knew that there was something about the Clones that resonate with our audience really well. I mean, with the Jedi you know there’s something kind of superhuman about them. Now characters like Captain Rex and Commander Cody are fan favorites because they may be tough guys, but have vulnerabilities. They aren’t going to take on entire armies armed only with a light saber. They are going to dive in and just mix it up, tough it out, more like Band of Brothers.”
This is going to have its own implications about the rest of the season, too, something that Filoni will only foreshadow on.
“The individuality of the Clones is going to have a much more profound effect on the series. Guys like Five, Echo, Rex and Cody are surviving battle after battle. Now one thing that will put pressure on is if you know about Order 66, then you really have to wonder about the execution of that order. How mindless is it to someone like Rex if he were to come across something like that?
“That’s something we will go much more into as the series unfolds. I think the fans will be really surprised to see the reactions of some of the characters as they find 66 out. Also, what effect will that have on this series, knowing the end of it all as we do?
“This is a theme we are going to start touching a lot more on with season three. We’ve touched a lot closer to a lot of the themes of the classic three films as well. The Battle of Kamino will really stand out this year not so much visually, but as a storytelling device for the Clones.”
Filoni has a lot more to say. We will conclude this interview in Part Two.