If you’re a fan of the expanded universe of the Star Wars canon, then you’re likely to be aware that this week we had to wipe away the tears as we big farewell to Star Wars Rebels. It would have been easy to write up a review of Star Wars Rebels, but I want to go deeper, to really appreciate Star Wars in animation and the incredible Universe that Dave Filoni has helped to craft.
First off, I want to make it clear that when Filoni’s first venture into Star Wars animation, The Clone Wars, came out I didn’t actually watch it. I think it was around the time that Disney bought LucasFilm that my interest in the series was reinvigorated and I went back and watched everything that I could. What I found wasn’t some children’s TV show that focused on toilet humour and weakly constructed storylines (Although, admittedly, Filoni’s work isn’t impervious to this content). Instead I found a complex and bold programme that incorporated the best aspects of the Prequels and Original trilogy and used them to help build character and story.
Rather than being overly bogged down in the politics of the prequels, Filoni knew where the fine line lay for The Clone Wars, incorporating what made the politics in the prequels interesting, but doing so in a way that it never felt overwhelming. Mixing that with the large scale action that, rightly, dominated that era of the Universe and Filoni had achieved what many wanted the Prequel film trilogy to be.
Furthermore, rather than playing it safe and having the series only revolve around pre-established characters, Filoni took chances and had characters such as Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano (A brand new character of his creation), Jedi Master Plo-Koon and Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore take on important roles in the series.
It’s been 10 years since The Clone Wars Movie hit theaters, and the gradual growth of Ahsoka Tano as a character is perhaps the greatest success of Filoni’s time spearheading the LucasFilm foray into the animated medium. A character who was initially hated by fans when she was first depicted on the big screen, coming across as a petulant child who was far more suited to the Prequel Trilogy films than the seasons on television that were to come. Ahsoka has grown into one of the most popular Star Wars characters of all time, not just among fans, but in the heart of Dave Filoni himself.
Stating on multiple occasions his close ties to the character, Filoni has seemingly become protective of the former-Jedi and it’s not hard to argue that she acts as the anchor across all of Star Wars animation. After first appearing in The Clone Wars, Ahsoka later debuted in the wildly popular Star Wars Rebels, the first animated show since the Disney takeover of LucasFilm.
Rebels itself has helped to introduce an entirely new generation to the world of Star Wars. The people who grew up too early or too late to fully appreciate The Clone Wars finally had their outlet, a series that documented not a large-scale war that spanned hundreds of planets, but instead a more family orientated story that told the beginnings of the Rebellion.
Relying almost entirely on brand new characters, it would have been far easier for Rebels to fail where The Clone Wars had succeeded, but Filoni proved once again why many consider him to be the heir apparent to the legendary George Lucas. The emotional connection that fans built to the crew of the Ghost was real, and as we now find ourselves saying our goodbyes to the series, it is easy to say that Filoni has crafted a lasting legacy.
Characters such as Sabine Wren, Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger are now treated by many fans as equals alongside the classic characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa.
Forces of Destiny is perhaps too new to critically judge on the long form axis that this article has adopted, but it should be noted that whilst the show faces more criticism than the other two animated series, it has also staked a claim for its importance to the women in Star Wars, both in-canon and the fans. That may be a topic that I as a white man am not best qualified to talk about, so I implore you to go out there and find someone who is and hear their thoughts on the matter.
As such the animated content of Star Wars is perhaps LucasFilm’s best kept secret. It alludes the general public, but for those who watch it isn’t rare to see the compliment that the TV shows often eclipse the quality of the film series. But those voices are only growing louder. What that means for the future of Dave Filoni and the Star Wars animation is as of yet unclear. At the time of this writing we do not yet know what Filoni’s next venture is, whether it be another animated series, a live action TV show or even a Star Wars movie. But what we do know is that should Filoni decide to step away from animation now, he has already done more for the Star Wars universe than arguably anyone other than George Lucas himself, and that’s not something we should be overlooking anymore.