DESIGNING A NEW GALAXY
It's Still Long Ago and Far, Far Away, But the World of THE CLONE WARS Is Unlike Anything That's Come Before
The STAR WARS Saga introduced a galaxy that has become one of the most distinctive and instantly identifiable in movie history. Its iconic lightsabers, spaceships, costumes, droids and planets created a singular look that has endured through three decades and generations of fans. To translate the star wars aesthetic to an all-new format for THE CLONE WARS, the crews at Lucasfilm Animation faced a rare challenge.
"Our goal was to produce a movie unlike anything else in animation," says STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS director Dave Filoni. "But we also had to stay true to star wars, to honor everything that George Lucas has created. That's easier said than done, and it took us a long time to figure out exactly how to develop the look, style and feel of an animated star wars."
It was Lucas himself who urged that THE CLONE WARS should forge its own distinctive visual style, separating itself from what had come before. Setting the story before Anakin's descent into darkness, Lucas and Filoni felt animation could inject THE CLONE WARS with a rousing spirit of fun, highlighting the young Jedi's heroism rather than his forbidding destiny. By visually distinguishing everything in its universe - from the battles to the characters themselves - THE CLONE WARS establishes itself as both a bold departure and a return to form for the Saga.
"George wanted the characters to live on their own, separate from the recognizable actors who portrayed them in the previous films," says Filoni. "To do that, we really had to find the essence of the characters, and to bring them to life in a way that wasn't just a reproduction of their live-action counterparts. We wanted to break free of any preconceived notions of what star wars should be."
This meant eschewing photo-realism and embracing an entirely new look, different than almost anything else in cinematic animation. Of course, there were precedents for bringing the "galaxy far, far away" to the animated arena, including a 2004-2005 Cartoon Network "micro-series" about the Clone Wars period.
"We loved the look of the micro-series, and when we began to see the maquettes that were licensed on its behalf, it was a neat glimpse into what those designs might look like in a 3-D space," says Catherine Winder, the film's producer. "But we wanted to take it much further, to do something dramatically different with star wars and animation. Working in computer graphics, we incorporated those stylistic aspects into a world with an entirely different depth, physicality and scope. From there, it really began to grow and evolve into what's on screen."
The radical redesign involved a reinvention of the visual dynamic that fans have traditionally associated with the series. Drawing from a myriad of influences, Lucasfilm Animation experimented with an extreme shooting style, using aggressive lighting and framing to set the stage for the stylized new look of the characters themselves.
"I've always been a big fan of the anime look; Japanese animation and manga tend to push the envelope with really innovative composition, so we followed that lead," says Filoni. "That said, animation is a vast field, and it's too filled with possibilities for us to limit ourselves to one style. We also took inspiration from Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds, which was shot in the 1960s using marionettes. So we really took these disparate influences and fused them into something pretty unique."
Filoni believes the creative risks that Lucasfilm Animation has taken, encouraged by executive producer Lucas, will please longtime fans and excite new ones. "In STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, we've got new characters, new planets, new vehicles, new battles and a new story, and it's animated with a completely new style," he says. "It really is Star Wars like you've never seen it before - in every way possible."