One of the first moves that Disney made after purchasing Lucasfilm a few years back was to announce the cancellation of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Though many fans were bummed, they shortly announced an ostensible replacement, the upcoming Star Wars Rebels. Recently, Rebels had a panel at WonderCon where we saw some new clips and learned more about what the series will look like when it debuts later this year. Executive producer, Dave Filoni, who served in the same capacity on The Clones Wars, had even more to say about the new show afterwards.
Talking to IGN, Filoni went even deeper than on the panel, touching on a wide range of topics from the origins to the character motivations and more. There’s a ton of information in the interview, which is definitely worth taking a look, but we want to talk about some of the points that stood out most to us.
We know that Rebels takes place between the end of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and that time has gotten even more specific. Following the conclusion of the Clone Wars, Rebels picks up five years before we meet Luke Skywalker and company. With everything going forward in the Star Wars universe—with the Episode movies, the stand alone entries, an upcoming series of books—now part of the official canon, finding a space in which to work became increasingly difficult. Filoni says:
You’re trying to find real estate now and not affect things. I think we’re very aware of the Luke Skywalker timeline and how we don’t want to cross over with that in any way. There are things that are the big pillars that we don’t to interrupt. I’ve always believed the best thing to do is kind of find your own spot and develop that and make new, exciting characters that people can believe in.
Part of the action of Rebels aims to show the beginnings of what will eventually become the Rebel Alliance, which is bound to be a bumpy ride. Filoni says, “[H]ow long does it take them, the Rebel Alliance, to really become something formidable? Are they ever formidable?”
Filoni takes care to remind fans that, at one point, Imperial rule was viewed as a good thing, that the senate was cheering when the Clone Wars finally came to a close. Okay, maybe a good thing is taking it too far, but it wasn’t necessarily viewed as universally evil. There was always some resistance, but that’s why it took the alliance so long to gain traction.
One of the issues that fans have been concerned about is the rumors that Rebels won’t be nearly as dark as The Clone Wars. There’s been quite a bit of rumbling about that, but Filoni does his best to assuage these fears. He references the original trilogy, noting that while there are moments, especially in The Empire Strikes Back, they aren’t super dark and bleak, and says that the new series will follow this pattern and strive for a nice balance. He also takes great pains to assure you that, while you can’t expect a ton of darkness, neither will the show be light and fluffy, which is nice to hear.
I want it to have its epic moments and its mythic moments. I want it to get to places where you know the villains are really villains. But for me at least to kind of map out this show, I think we’ll start in a place, not unlike what we did in Clone Wars, which was that it was a bit more fun in the beginning. I think the bad guys still have their tone, but I think, since we’re coming at it with a boy in the beginning, that it is a little bit lighter in tone. But then as the world kind of rises up around them and things get more serious, I think it allows us to bring everybody into that world, just like Luke did. Things get more and more progressively intense.
With the recent announcement that, moving forward, all Star Wars media releases will be considered official canon, there is a sense of connectivity running through the world that we haven’t felt before. Filoni confirms that everything is linked, though he claims to be in the dark when it comes to J.J. Abrams Star Wars: Episode VII.
Rebels will introduce us to a new cast of characters, and Filoni dishes a bit about the core crew. The action will center on a rogued Jedi Knight named Kanan and his young sidekick, a kid named Ezra. Filoni says that Kanan will provide a new look at what happened to the Jedis after Order 66 came down. This is a period we don’t know much about, but we will theoretically learn things like how many survived, where they went, and what their lives were like after the Clone Wars. Ezra also provides a new point of view.
Hera is a character that has some fans of the Expanded Universe curious, mostly because of her surname. Filoni says:
[O]bviously the fans that know her full name, Hera Syndulla, are making a lot of assumptions about what her connections might be to a character from Clone Wars, Cham Syndulla, which I think is fantastic. I’m all for that connection. I’m not going to give anything away, but it’s nice now that we can go back and look at a history of freedom fighting that went on in that other war and related to the new war. With Hera, we definitely wanted a pilot that was very confident, that could take charge, kind of not giving the Jedi every great thing to do.
Why a bunch of kids from the outer regions of the galaxy would take on the Empire is something Rebels is going to have show us. That’s something that takes some serious motivation.
It’s kind of risky for anybody to be up at arms against the Empire, but in the outworlds, the Outer Rim, you can get away with it a little bit more often than you could anywhere in the core systems. Ezra I think really speaks to me as a kid growing up in this period of the Star Wars Universe, when the Empire is ruling, the governing Jedi, the sense of morality, is fading out of the galaxy. They’re just stories to him. He’s never met a Jedi. He’s never seen a Jedi. He’s just heard about these things, these fantastic events. So it’s a part of his life that… he would never think that he’d meet one.
You can see that Ezra is being set up as a kind of Luke Skywalker figure, a bored kid from sticks with nothing much to do and a big imagination. He has dreams that go far beyond his Podunk little planet, and wants adventure and to find his own path through the universe. And the Empire stands in his way, like a bunch of jerks.
Rebels blasts off this October with an hour-long special on the Disney Channel, before moving to Disney XD for regular weekly installments.