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TV Preview: 3-minute cartoons to fill out 'Star Wars' story

Thursday, November 06, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Whatever misgivings "Star Wars" fans have about the quality of recent journeys to that world that existed "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," they may still be intrigued by the latest iteration in the decades-old saga: "Star Wars: Clone Wars."


'Star Wars: Clone Wars'

WHEN: 8 p.m. tomorrow and succeeding weeknights at 8 through Nov. 21 Entire series will air throughout prime time Nov. 21, 7p.m. to midnight, on Cartoon Network.


Premiering tomorrow on Cartoon Network, the first 10 of an anticipated 20 three-minute "micro-episodes" fills in some gaps in the story between "Star Wars: Episode Two -- Attack of the Clones" and "Star Wars: Episode Three," due in theaters in 2005. (The second 10 "Clone Wars" shorts will air next year.) Cartoon Network did not make "Clone Wars" available for review.

Some fans may even breathe a sigh of relief knowing that although "Star Wars" creator George Lucas OK'd this animated adventure, he didn't write it. That task fell to 33-year-old Genndy Tartakovsky, who was a child when the original "Star Wars" films were released and went on to create Cartoon Network's "Samurai Jack" and "Dexter's Laboratory."

"It's the mythology, the sincere science-fiction of it," Tartakovsky said of the enduring "Star Wars" appeal. "With other science fiction it kind of feels fake, but because this universe is so old and we've grown up with it, it feels legitimate."

At first, Lucas just wanted one-minute stories that could keep the franchise alive in some form between films, but Tartakovsky couldn't imagine doing anything substantial in such a short cartoon clip. Lucas ultimately agreed to three-minute shorts, but that was still cause for concern, so Tartakovsky took several episodes of "Samurai Jack" and cut them down to three minutes to see how they'd play.

"The more we got into it, the more we realized all we could do was give juicy, juicy bits without any fat," he said. "Every shot had to be like a money shot. You couldn't waste any time. On first viewing, they definitely go by fast. If you watch it twice or three times over, it slows down and is really comfortable to watch."

The spine that the "Clone Wars" episodes cling to is a battle on the planet Muunilinst with the Republic forces led by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin Skywalker leads the Clone Army in a space battle and ultimately disobeys Kenobi's orders, again foreshadowing Skywalker's turn to the dark side that will see him become Darth Vader. On the water planet Mon Calmari, the Jedi Kit Fisto -- first seen in "Attack of the Clones" -- gets into an underwater light-saber battle. The insufferable Jar-Jar Binks is nowhere to be seen.

"He didn't have a place," Tartakovsky said generously.

In preparation for "Clone Wars," Tartakovsky watched episodes from the 1980s-era ABC Saturday morning cartoons "Droids" and "Ewoks," but he found them to be "kind of lackluster."

"I didn't want to do 'Star Wars: The Animated Series'; we wanted to do 'Star Wars' in animation," he said. "We wanted to have that same 'Star Wars' feel."

"Clone Wars" uses the famous John Williams "Star Wars" score but relies on different voice actors for the familiar characters with the exception of Anthony Daniels, who returns as fussbudget robot C-3PO.

Tartakovsky compared "Clone Wars" to HBO's World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers," which presented the Allied campaign in Europe as a series of day-in-the-life stories. And he said he thinks "Clone Wars" will fit nicely in the "Star Wars" canon.

"I don't think it will be out of sync, but I'll be very surprised if [these events will] be mentioned in the third movie," he said.

A "Star Wars" fan who grew up with the original trilogy, Tartakovsky said it was a dream to work on a project of this scope. He was also drawn to the idea of telling stories of Jedis, those knights of the "Star Wars" universe.

"I'm a big samurai fan, so the whole idea of the Jedi is similar to samurais having that code and honor and a higher force above guiding them. That's really appealing to me. But it all really boils down to a cool shot of a cool spaceship flying by."

Rob Owen can be reached at or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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