In 1971, after completing work on his first full-length feature film, THX 1138, George Lucas had the idea for a space-fantasy film. As the story goes, Lucas wanted to adapt the Flash Gordon comics into his own films. However, after failing to secure the rights to Flash Gordon, the young George Lucas began writing his masterpiece in January 1973, eight hours a day, five days a week. By taking small notes and inventing odd names, Lucas would eventually develop the saga that is Star Wars. Following a long and tumultuous journey to theaters, it’s safe to say Star Wars: A New Hope changed the film industry forever.
Originally planned as a theatrical trilogy, the Star Wars franchise has grown in ways maybe even the multitalented creator could not have imagined. Notably, into the television medium. While recent additions to the canon like The Mandalorian control a majority of the conversation, animated shows have long been expanding the galaxy. With the creation of Disney+, The Clone Wars and Rebels have never been more accessible to fans of the saga. However, considering the future of Star Wars, what exactly do these two classic animated hits bring to the table? Full Circle Cinema’s Danny O’Brien and Christian Hubbard look to explore how these two animated shows only enhance the Star Wars viewing experience.
READ: The Journey Of Luke Skywalker: How ‘The Last Jedi’ & ‘The Mandalorian’ Blend Together Perfectly
The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars began life as a theatrical film released in 2008. Despite its unfavorable reception, it would ignite a wildfire of new Star Wars stories for audiences to enjoy. Running all the way from 2008-2020, Star Wars: The Clone Wars expanded upon the era of the prequel trilogy in spectacular fashion. We came to know the once expendable Clones. Fan-favorite characters were revisited. Most importantly, however, the world was introduced to Anakin’s apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. Filling in the three-year gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars expanded the galaxy in ways that were both exceptionally executed and enormously satisfying.
George Lucas and Dave Filoni would devote vast amounts of tenderness and care into crafting new elements of Star Wars lore. Characters and worlds previously seen in passing glances were revisited in grand fashion. Plo Koon, Kit Fisto, Shaak Ti, and other legendary Jedi Knights were given entire storylines of their own. As a result, we came to care about faces once known only as obscure background figures. The clones, who were once nameless faces on the battlefield, became our favorite Star Wars heroes. Rex, Echo, Fives, and more slowly worked their way into our hearts. New heroes like Saw Gerrera and Bo Katan would become cherished pieces of Star Wars history, eventually making the jump into live-action media. Seeing these characters in an entirely different format speaks volumes about their impact. Furthermore, it evokes a feeling, not unlike that of seeing an old friend.
Star Wars is famous for its deeply mythical themes, and The Clone Wars built upon those foundations in incredible ways. The series would find our heroes confronting spiritual trials of the Force, exploring both the light and the dark. Season 6 grants Yoda an entire arc of his own. His curiosity about the Force takes him on a journey of mysticism and intrigue. Season 3 introduces the realm of Mortis, where legends say the Force itself may have been birthed. By introducing Mortis and its inhabitants, fans were given an entirely new perspective of the Force and its place in the ever-expanding lore. Moreover, it adds a fantastic new layer to an established world full of characters. Characters we’ve already come to know and love.
Speaking of familiar faces, Clone Wars famously revived fan-favorite Sith, Darth Maul. Maul was slain by Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace and presumed dead. However, Clone Wars propels Palpatine’s fallen apprentice into critically acclaimed stardom. Alongside Maul, new villains were brought to the forefront of enthralling new tales across the galaxy. Dooku’s sinister student Asajj Ventress, bounty hunter Cad Bane, and lovable scoundrel Hondo Ohnaka round out a diverse crew of adversaries for our heroes to confront. Of course, one can’t discuss the series without mentioning the now-beloved Ahsoka Tano. Anakin’s padawan rose from eager young student to the Jedi loner we meet in The Mandalorian. Her journey has unfolded across many forms of Star Wars media, but The Clone Wars is where we fell in love with her story. However, for every feel-good moment, there’s also heartbreak.
One of the more tragic elements in Star Wars is the fallout between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Their relationship received limited development in the prequel trilogy, but Clone Wars gave audiences time to truly invest in the brotherhood they shared. Throughout the series, we accompany the pair on a number of adventures. We see them share arguments, laughs, and perilous Jedi exploits across the stars. When all is said and done, it ultimately makes Revenge of the Sith a more rewarding experience. Order 66, the sudden purge of the Jedi, became even more terrifying with the added scope of The Clone Wars. The finale wraps the series up with a beautifully haunting conclusion. Characters we’d come to love must deal with chaos and uncertainty, setting the stage for a spark of rebellion to ignite the emotionally moving tales of Star Wars Rebels. – Danny O’Brien
Star Wars: Rebels
Created by Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg, Star Wars Rebels helped usher in an entirely new era in the history of Star Wars. The series premiered as a one-hour television film, Spark of Rebellion, on Disney Channel prior to the premiere of the series on Disney XD. Promising to fill in some gaps between the rise of the Empire and the evergrowing Rebellion, Rebels introduces us to an all-new cast of characters, including never-before-seen Jedi. The series adds an extra dimension to the canon and plays around with familiar characters like Maul and Darth Vader. However, the true shining jewel of Rebels is its main character, Ezra Bridger.
Ezra Bridger is a teenage con artist who finds himself smack dab in the middle of the burgeoning Rebellion. Taken under the wing of soon-to-be Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus, Ezra allows viewers to experience the wonders of Star Wars in real-time. Ezra learns the ways of the Force. He learns of the viciousness of the Empire and even explores the legacy of Mandalore. Ezra is the perfect tour guide of a galaxy far, far away.
Like Anakin, Ezra is also an orphan and gains his education in the Force much later in life than others. Additionally, unlike many other Force-sensitive characters in the Star Wars canon, Ezra trains in both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, via Kanan and Maul, similar to Anakin. However, Ezra’s emotional appeal to Star Wars fans perhaps begins with his training by a Padawan survivor of Order 66. Kanan helps Ezra develop his skills and way of thinking as someone wary of the Jedi’s place in the galaxy. One could argue that it is Ezra, not Luke, who is the true Chosen One as his story is still wide open following a sudden disappearance in the series finale of Rebels.
The connection Rebels has with The Clone Wars is never more evident than when Ahsoka Tano appears in the series. Before fans enjoy the greatness that was season seven of The Clone Wars on Disney+, Ahsoka received some defining character development during the events of Rebels. It is during season two of Rebels where Ahsoka faces the truth about her master, Anakin Skywalker. It is also in the season four finale of Rebels where Ahsoka begins to embark on a journey that is still continuing in the live-action medium in The Mandalorian as Ahsoka vows to find a lost Ezra. Additionally, the search for Ezra will likely be the focus of the upcoming Disney+ series Ahsoka. Through Ahsoka’s inclusion in the series, the lasting impact of Rebels will continue within the Star Wars franchise for years to come.
Star Wars Rebels also features its fair share of powerful women taking charge in the Rebellion. Notably: Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla. During the final moments of the season finale of The Mandalorian, Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon reveals he is in possession of the fabled Darksaber. Rebels fans know all-too-well the power that accompanies that laser sword. Sabine Wren is a Mandalorian warrior and a crucial character in the overall history of Mandalore.
Beginning as a cadet at the Imperial Academy of Mandalore, Sabine creates theoretical weapon blueprints to secure peace for Mandalore. However, feeling an immense sense of guilt, Sabine attempts to destroy those plans. She moves on with different efforts to help. Unfortunately, much to her dismay, the Empire salvages the blueprints. They create those weapons and inadvertently lead Sabine’s own people into harm’s way. This guilt sets the stage for a tragic backstory. This creates a satisfying journey Sabine goes on throughout the four seasons of the series.
Finally, another universe expansion that Rebels does extremely well is further fleshing out the personality traits and desires of notable villains within the Star Wars realm. Notably, both Darth Vader and Maul go through personal journeys of their own during their appearances in the film. On one hand, Vader is and young and vengeful servant of the Emperor. The former Anakin Skywalker is new in his role as a tyrant of the galaxy. He seeks to do nothing but carry out his Master’s mandates. He searches for young Force-sensitive children across the stars. Lord Vader gets his own boots on the ground of Lothal to try and silence the blossoming Rebellion. Vader serves as a looming presence over the series and further expands his terrifying legacy.
On the other hand, Maul arrives during the events of Rebels with clear-cut goals in mind. First, he sees the potential of Ezra Bridger and seeks to corrupt him. He even dubs the young Jedi as his own apprentice. Maul’s battles with Kanan and Ahsoka shine a light on how skilled the former Sith lord is with a lightsaber. Additionally, it shows how his cunning mastery of emotional manipulation often has him at the forefront of several criminal rings. Maul’s true goal, however, is to gain revenge against Obi-Wan Kenobi and earn justice for what the Jedi Master did to him during the events of The Phantom Menace and during their battles during The Clone Wars. Along the way, Maul introduces a new generation of fans to mysterious relics like the aforementioned Darksaber.
Rebels is also the series where the legendary Maul meets his untimely demise during a confrontation with Obi-Wan just miles away from Luke Skywalker on Tatooine. Rebels has no shortage of challenges for the collection of heroes, including the menacing Grand Admiral Thrawn. However, thanks to the inclusion of Vader and Maul, both characters’ intentions become clear and their appearances across Star Wars mean more to those familiar with their arcs in Rebels. – Christian Hubbard
What do you think? Will you add episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels to your annual Star Wars marathon? Let us know what these shows mean to you in the comments below!
All seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels are streaming now on Disney+!
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