Monday, March 11, 2013

Lucasfilm: Clone Wars Series to "Wind Down", Detours Postponed

By Chris Seekell

Today, Lucasfilm released an article on entitled "A New Direction for Lucasfilm Animation". The two most consequential points made in the short release, were that the current Clone Wars TV series that left Cartoon Network this spring will be winding down, and the Star Wars Detours series that was still under development will be put on hold. Similar to the reasoning behind the postponement of the prequel 3D theatrical re-releases that was announced earlier this year, Lucasfilm cited a focus on Episode VII. However, the article also stated that production on multiple arcs of the Clone Wars show is still continuing, and an announcement is pending concerning when and where this "bonus content" will be released. The article was capped off by a preview clip depicting Anakin and 501st troopers engaging the seemingly resurrected Admiral Trench in a ground battle, and hinted at Order 66 programming and possible ramifications of General Krell's betrayal.

This announcement has seen widely varying responses from fans, ranging from outrage, to dismay, to excitement. Over the past few weeks, there had been a great deal of debate among fans about the future of the series, and rumors about its cancellation abounded. It seems that those on either side of this debate were both partially wrong, and partially right. While the series has not necessarily been cancelled, the production has been halted about 2 seasons earlier than expected by the staff. It is unclear how smoothly the Clone Wars series will wrap up. The Star Wars Underworld has been told by various sources that the series was set to end with a transitional arc to the Battle of Coruscant and Episode III. Foreshadowing of Order 66 in the preview clip suggests that perhaps the last few planned seasons of the show may be condensed into several key arcs that will provide closure to main character and story arcs.

Concerning Detours, the future seems to be more bleak. While a significant amount of material must exist, it looks like there are no plans to release it. This surprises me since the plot of the series seemed to be extremely disjointed based on the preview clips released this past summer. The postponement of the Green-Senreich production appears to be more about branding than logistics. This was supported by Lucasfilm's statement that it "has reconsidered whether launching an animated comedy prior to the launch of Episode VII makes sense."

Looking at the big picture, it has always been clear to me that all of these television projects were not the final future of the Star Wars franchise, but merely tools to breathe new life into the universe and further develop Lucasfilm's production capabilities in the downtime between feature films. It will probably be always unknown how Detours would have affected the audience, but the Clone Wars proved to be vastly more successful than first anticipated, even spawning talk of a spin-off series at one point. For the past five years, the Clone Wars has dominated Star Wars news, and has held an increasingly stronger presence at fan conventions and events. Even before Disney's acquisition of Lucasflm, the Clone Wars was a major attraction in Disney parks, through events like Disney Star Wars Weekends. It can only be assumed that the series brought the two companies closer together.

However zooming in a bit, the strength of Star Wars has been in its quality, and the only thing up in the air is whether ending the series in this manner will prove to be the most compelling story-wise. It was obvious that the series had to wrap-up at some point, due to its cramped timeline between Episodes II and III, yet the writers of the series were planning to stretch the overall story out over several more seasons. Personally, I hope that rather than seeing the series end with merely several arcs slotted for Season 6, resources will be concentrated to focus on the production of tent-pole arcs that are currently earlier in development and slated for future seasons, especially the long anticipated Episode III transition arc.

If this is done right, with special attention paid to the overall character arcs and continuity with the films, the Clone Wars series can end with perhaps a dozen more episodes and still seem complete and properly paced. All fans can do now is be hopeful that this winding down period is handled properly. We certainly can expect George Lucas and Dave Filoni to positively influence this change in direction, however ultimately the buck stops with Disney now.

This article includes the opinion and views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.


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