Saturday, October 19, 2013

NYCC Rebels Panel Transcript

By: Benjamin Hart

Last week Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo hosted the Star Wars Rebels panel at New York Comic Con and he revealed a ton of fascinating info about the series. I wanted to write a report detailing what was talked about, but I wanted to do it in an unconventional way. So after several days of hard work, I am proud to present a transcript of the panel! Please note: The following(that is not in bold or [brackets]) is completely Pablo Hidalgo's words. They are categorized in accordance with the subject matter and not necessarily in the order they were said. It has also been condensed, not to change the meaning, but to bring focus to what's important.


We are now about a year away from the series' debut. It's gonna debut on the Disney channel as an hour long special before moving on to Disney XD as a half hour show.... We're only just kicking off the animation process. In fact, Dave Filoni left earlier this week to go to Asia to work with our overseas animation studios to make sure that they understand what we intend, with the visuals, with the look, with the feel and the tone of Rebels. So he's off doing that. Greg Weisman is writing scripts, he's working with the team of writers to develop scripts as well. Simon Kinberg wrote the premiere and he's consulting on the rest of the scripts. Basically everyone is super busy on it and apparently I'm the only one with free time to come here to New York Comic Con to talk about it.
  • The Animation
The look of Rebels is distinct from Clone Wars, distinct enough that we can't reuse any of the animation models from Clone Wars. Everything has to be created from scratch. The look is a little bit more rounded, less angular than what was developed for Clone Wars.
  • The Tone 
Our touch point for the tone of the show is Episode IV. And Episode IV has a lot of tone shift. There's great comradery, there's great banter, there's moments of absolute great fun. But the villains are villains, and we see them do villainous things. And we're cognoscente of that as we do Rebels.
  • Chronology Of Episodes
The design of the show is for the episodes is to roll out chronologically, we aren't going to be jumping around.
  • The Difference Between Cartoon Network & Disney XD
I'd say the difference comes from it being a different show, but not necessarily as to where it airs. The biggest difference for us right now is schedule, time. This show is being done in a much quicker pace than Clone Wars was done. Because we've learned so much from the development of Clone Wars... In terms of subject matter, no. The big difference is just not having George[Lucas]. The executive producers are now trusted to fill in that gap and tell the kind of stories that he inspires, but they're not coming directly from him.
  • Aliens
There is an opportunity for both species that we know of and brand new species as well. But what's interesting is even when we go with a new species, a new culture, there's a strong possibility that you'll recognize it because Dave's starting point is always to crack open a Ralph McQuarrie art book and look at any of his designs that hasn't been used before. So there were some conceptual aliens that are the starting points for new characters on the show
  • The music
Dave has some things in mind...We're not ready to announce who's involved in the music... When Dave draws Rebels, he listens to some very specific John Williams tracks. And I'm sure that is informing his thought process on what he wants the show to sound like
  • The Endgame
Episode IV is only 5 years away in the timeline, and we know that and we're going to make the most of it.

Ralph McQuarrie's Influence
The show draws a lot of inspiration from Ralph's work. He was the concept artist on the original Star Wars trilogy and he was fundamentally responsible defining the look and feel of those three movies. And it's such inspiration that the art department from Rebels actually went to the Lucasfilm archives and looked at the original pieces, the original paintings, the original sketches to not only just see the art but understand the brush strokes, the paper, the line weight. Really understand that as much as possible because they want to get a true sense of how Ralph achieved what he did.
This is one of the key pieces of art that really kicked off Rebels. It's a concept painting Ralph did in late 1980. It was during the development of what was then called "Revenge Of The Jedi", it was early work on Episode VI and the idea was at that point in the story that the Rebel Alliance was going to have a base on this grassland planet called "Sicemon". Obviously that didn't come to be, but Ralph generated a lot of art for it. The design never made it onto screen. The Expanded Universe actually did use this as the starting point for what they thought Alderaan might look like in one of these coffee table books in the 90's. But as Episode III proved Alderaan doesn't look like that, and that freed up this art for further exploration.
Here's another Ralph painting. He painted these transmission towers for a licensed Star Wars book in the 90's. And it really captures this magic quality that he could create in terms of scale, in terms of lighting, in terms of tone. It's just this magical realism.
Fast forward to now; this is a piece of concept art for Rebels, and you can see that we've taken that design directly and are creating it for the show.
This next painting by Dave Filoni combines all the pieces together. We've got the grasslands, we've got the communications tower, it's all put together in order to create this new planetary environment for the series... the Rebels [animation] models really feature visible brush strokes and detail like that, and that's taken from examination of Ralph McQuarrie's paintings, they really look as brush strokes. As much as possible, theis show is a Ralph McQuarrie painting come to life.


The series takes place about 14 years after the events of Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. And that was when Chancellor Palpatine declared himself the leader of the first Galactic Empire. As we all remember that was met with thunderous applause. And that's something to keep in my mind. For most of, was now, the former Republic, the Empire was a welcomed change from the chaos of the Clone Wars and the uncertainty of Separatist crisis' that preceded that for ten years beforehand. So People wanted stability and security no matter the cost. Especially for many of the inner system worlds, the worlds closer to Coruscant. The Empire inspired fervent patriotism compared to the disillusionment of the decline of the Republic

So one of the principle objectives of an Empire, well any Empire, but especially one ruled by a guy who screams out "unlimited power", is expansion. The Empire wants to grow, it wants more territory. And it does this by pushing out into the unruly outer rim territories where the Republic never really had much of a stay. The Empire wants order and that's where most of the disorder is in the Galaxy. So it's gonna fly a flag there, it's gonna have a presence. And someone like Palpatine can sell that idea pretty easily. 'We're gonna go annex independent worlds in the outer rim territory because the last big war we just suffered through was caused by independent systems. So that's what we have, the Empire moving out onto the frontier and coming across planets like this one.
This is the planet Lothal, and that's going to be one of the principal locations on the show. It's in the outer rim territories, it's been settled for a long time, but it has always existed beyond the borders of Galactic civilization, the Republic. It's a frontier world. Now when the Empire moves into the frontier and decides it wants a planet, and it wants that planet to be an imperial planet, it doesn't do what we kinda automatically assume it does; invades at full force. The Empire actually doesn't have the resources to invade every planet that it wants to control. So the ideal situation if the planet has a civilization, go in and you make sure that that planetary civilization, and Lothal has one, is loyal to the Empire. If that leader isn't loyal, you appoint a guy, or a girl, who is loyal. And that's basically what happened to Lothal, the Empire moves in and it's not necessarily a bad thing at first. Here's another look at the planet...
It's a frontier world. Lothal, like many worlds in the outer rim, is poor. Or at least not good at exploiting the resources it does have. To kinda use a real world example; imagine Lothal as a sleepy town that's poor that sits at the end of a rail spur that no one ever uses. And then here comes a big, rich  empire saying, 'You know what? You're not a dead end anymore. You're gonna be the starting point of a new rail line that's gonna go into the frontier.' A lot of People on Lothal are excited about that idea, and it sounds promising, especially to those capitalizing citizens who wanna make money and seek security. So Lothal did welcome the Empire at first, and the Empire brought with it industry, Lothal's a mineral rich world. The Empire set up factories and mines. But as I said, the Empire is expanding, and part of that expansion is quotas, they need supplies, they need TIE fighters, they need material. Most quotas start at first reasonable, then unreasonable, then difficult, then crushing. It becomes pretty apparent, especially to those with open eyes, that the Empire does not have Lothal's best interest in mind. And that honeymoon period doesn't last. And that allows People with rebellious thoughts to emerge.
In addition to minerals one of Lothal's key resources is People. This is a poster you might find on the streets of Lothal and it's encouraging you to enlist.... The citizens of Lothal are urged to join the TIE fighter or Stormtrooper academies or work at the Sienar fleet systems factory that's in the capitol....

Rebels is definitely a return to the Episode IV mentality of the heroes being underdogs, they're up against some incredible odds, but they've got hope on their side. It's a departure from where we were at Clone Wars for the longest time, because in Clone Wars the heroes were the establishment. If Anakin Skywalker crashed his Jedi Starfighter he could get a new one right away essentially. With our heroes, if they lose an asset, if they lose something valuable, they have to get it back, they have to repair it if it's broken, get a new one, or whatever. They're always scrounging.

The Rebels

  • The Ghost
Another big piece of news to come out of Celebration Europe was the unveiling of what is the principle Starship in Star Wars Rebels, we call it the Ghost. It's the main ship our good guys travel around in. It's a lot like the Millennium Falcon that it's a lite freighter, it may not look like much but it's got it where it counts, it's got a few surprises, and so on, and so on. We'll get to see that in action. And much like a lot of things in Star Wars it draws inspiration from this tapped out, real world history.... The cockpit and the nose turret bubble is very much inspired by the look of a B-17 World War II bomber....
The pilot of the Ghost has called it the Ghost for a very good reason. And there's more to it than what we've seen.

The Empire

  • The Inquisitor

The Inquisitors are brought in to hunt down Jedi. So, you can reason from the fact that there is one in the series means that the Empire has reason to believe that a Jedi is involved... There is a presence for the Jedi in the show. But we are being very cognoscente of the fact that Order 66 signifies something important and we do not want to diminish the importance of Luke Skywalker being the last of the Jedi... The Inquisitor actually was a bit of preexisting lore that actually dates back to the 90's... The idea there being these agents... that were out there making sure that any visage of the Jedi were wiped out.

  • Stormtrooper Blaster

501st members and prop builders will tell you that this is based on a British sterling sub-machine gun. But those who are really detail oriented, I will point out that there is a difference with the Rebels version. There's this little flair on the top of the barrel that you're not gonna find in the real life version. Why is that in there? Because the original Kenner action figure had that little bump on it, and it was kinda like paying homage to that.

  • AT-DP
And here's a new model that you're gonna see. It's the AT-DP pilot. What's an AT-DP? Well we'll get to that. You'll see it's a combination of the AT-AT driver in The Empire Strikes Back and the AT-ST driver from Return Of The Jedi, and some concept art thrown in there. And what they drive around in, well before I get to that I want to talk about another one of the key influential artists of the development of Star Wars, and that's Joe Johnston....
Joe designed the saucer-shaped Millennium Falcon for Episode IV... as well he designed the look of that and the Speeder bikes from Episode VI and the scout walkers from Episode V. But to get the design of the scout walkers he started off with some various different sketches. Here's an early one....
When we found it in the archives the folks on Rebels decided that's gonna be on the show. So this is the AT-DP walker that's gonna be in the series. And that stands for "All Terrain Defense Pod". It's tasked with protecting the assets on Lothal, Imperial operations and installations. And there's a big, heavy laser canon out there on it's chin.
And inside it's got stadium seating. Driver up front, gunner in the back.

  • Speeder Bike
When the Empire needs to get somewhere swiftly it deploys Speeder bikes, of course. These are the speeder bikes you're going to see on Lothal. These are from a Joe Johnston design. The interesting thing about this is it's actually a telescoping design. The forks and the steering vanes actually kinda telescope into the body, so the whole thing kinda compresses for easy stowage.

  • Imperial Troop Transport
When we need to transport a squad of troopers or bring a bunch of prisoners in over land, what vehicle do you use for that? Well, sometimes the old designs are the best...
We are taking this classic design and turning it into a workable ship. In revisiting we had to make some changes, we had to beef it up... So, yes, we will see an Imperial troop transport, and if there was ever any doubt that there are old school fans working on the show, just look at that kenner goodness finally being brought to life.

  • TIE Fighter
Another of the Imperial forces you're going to be seeing on the show; classic TIE fighter pilots.... Based on the Episode IV costume. Just like Stormtroopers these are volunteer forces, they're not Clone pilots.
This piece of art greatly influenced the development of the TIE fighter. It's Ralph[McQuarrie] art, so the proportions of the TIE fighter are different. It's got the larger ball cockpit and the smaller wings. Which coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, is what makes it look like the Kenner toy.
So in this case, the TIE fighter that's gonna be in Star Wars Rebels, and here it is without texture, it's just the geometry of the model... More closely resembles the toy.
But that wasn't by intent, we're basing it off the same piece of artwork we believe the Kenner artist based it off of.... I'm going to go off on a tangent here... I want to illustrate the kind of detail and debate that enters into discussing classic Star Wars stuff...
How does one get into a TIE fighter?... For the show we have to create the interior of the TIE fighter, which means referencing a lot of photography and the film footage that was shot on the set. To which we face our first conundrum, and this happens a lot in Star Wars, in that the interior of a ship does not actually fit the exterior of the model. So there always has to be a creative push and pull.
And a lot of People say, 'you enter in through the top' and that's what this cross section art from an old 1997 cross sections book that was published by DK... And that seems to be the consensus based on memories of the old Kenner toy. But if you look at the original ILM blueprints... The hatch is in the back. You go in and out from the back of it.
And if you look at the set they did some attempt to support that. There's a hexagonal window behind the TIE pilot right there.
And that corresponds to this window in the back of the TIE... So clearly, yeah, you get in through the back.
But the case against that is the fact that they use the same cockpit for Vader.... But if you look at Vader's ship, there's no window back there.
So, that throws in the counter-argument; well that's not a portal, that's gotta be some sort of view screen or something. Thing is, Vader can't get out the door, so Vader must get out through the top. And if Vader can get out through the top why can't everyone get out through the top?
And that's a long way of saying we avoided the whole thing We avoided the whole thing by chickening out and saying this is an earlier version of a TIE fighter anyway.  So we're putting the hatch on the top and that doesn't make any statement whatsoever on what the Episode IV TIE fighters do, since that's five years down the line...

  • Imperial Freighter
When developing ships for Rebels, especially the Imperial forces, we realized we needed something in between the spectrum of TIE fighter and the super large capitol ships that the Empire wields, we needed something mid-sized. And as a starting point, Dave Filoni directed his artists to this freighter design from Episode I... It's a freighter design by Doug Chiang. It's called the Gozanti frieghter... It's one of the few ships in Episode I that really has an original trilogy aesthetic....
We used this ship, kinda bulked it up, stripped it's paint design, added a few bits to make this Imperial freighter.
And you see the wings kinda suggest it has a little design lineage similarity to a Star Destroyer. It's got a TIE fighter rack so it has definite functionality. And any Star Wars fan worth his salt will tell you that a TIE fighter's a short range ship, doesn't have Hyperdrives, so it needs a ship like this. Here's it's belly and you can see the docking tubes underneath, which is yet another case for needing a TIE fighter pilot to go in and out from the top of a ship.

  • Star Destroyer
When our Rebel heroes get in real trouble the Empire calls in the big guns...
We're about five years before Episode IV, so we want to make as many connections as possible to the aesthetics and designs of Episode IV... Joel Aron, our CG effects supervisor is taking that task so seriously that he's actually examining the film stock that Episode IV was shot on to kind of create that look, even though this show is not gonna use film as a CG animated show, he wants to see what can be done to capture that aesthetic. Dave's interest in making a Star Destroyer resemble Episode IV version as much as possible means a little slight art change. If you look at the conning tower it's got that larger X-shaped design on top because Darth Vader's Star Destroyer has that in Episode IV and regular Star Destroyers don't have that in Episode V.
In the Original trilogy... the first Star Destroyer was about three feet long as a model, the second one was six feet long. The Millennium Falcon, the original one was four feet wide, the second one was 2 feet wide. Things are built to their own scale and are scaled accordingly when designing the shot. In CG the Star Destroyer is actually built in real size relative to the model of the Ghost. So that you can stage a scene by throwing in the Ghost, throwing in TIE fighters and throwing in the Star Destroyer and they're all the same size and you set up the camera accordingly... These aren't necessarily scenes that are in Rebels but it's taking the Ghost model and showing the scale.
This is the original model I was telling you about from Episode IV... You can see that the Episode IV Star Destroyer has these extra little details... One of the telltale signs you're dealing with an Episode IV Star Destroyer is these little extra fins on it's engines. In this case we took some creative licence and didn't seek to replicate that. Dave wasn't interested in doing that because he was so struck by this painting that was done for The Empire Strikes Back.
If you'll notice the engines are really nice and smooth, and that's basically what the Rebels ship is going to emulate.

Honorable Mentions

  • Clone Troopers VS Stormtroopers
I guess we can finally confirm long-held speculation, or settle the debate as to what the difference is between a Clone Trooper and a Stormtrooper, because this comes direct from George Lucas. George isn't working on this show, but he really developed the era, he developed a lot of the notes as to what happened between Episodes III and IV, and Rebels gets the benefit from that stuff. And part of the things that he described was the fact that Clone Troopers basically stopped production, Stormtroopers are men and women like you and me, they're citizens that volunteer. It's an interesting commentary from George because the lab grown Clone Troopers actually exhibited too much individuality to be of use to the Empire. And you could actually find better uniformity in fervent patriots who volunteered for service.
  • Clone Troopers In Rebels
Even though the Cloning operations, as we know them from The Clone Wars, stopped, those Clone troopers are still around, and they're aging twice as fast as everyone else... Some of them still believe in the system, still believe in what they know and have gone on to become trainers of Stormtroopers. While others have kinda been discarded by a society that never really appreciated what they were to begin with. George provided all these notes about what happened after the Clone Wars, it's absolutely fascinating. And we're developing Rebels with that in mind, it's not necessarily what the show's gonna be about, but we always are cognoscente of what his idea was as far as what happens after Episode III.
  • Clone Wars Characters In Rebels
Given the People that are involved in the show and given how many Clone Wars veterans are on the show, there's a lot of interest in something like that.
  • Characters To Be focused On
The bad guys definitely have a huge presence, but the focus is on the Rebels that give the show the title. It is on a specific group of heroes that are rebelling against what's happening on Lothal and nearby space. We're not ready to talk about the heroes yet, but I know there's a big appreciation in fandom of the villains, so that's why we decided to come to New York Comic Con and talk about them first. Kinda set the stage, let you understand who they're fighting up against so that when we introduce them you'll have a better appreciation of what they're up against.
  • Bounty Hunters In Rebels
The Underworld influence is part of the series. There are characters of that type to show up. It's not just black and white, Rebels versus Imperials, it logically extrapolates what you would find on a world like Lothal and it's neighboring territories.
  • Vader's Involvement
We know that Vader is around, we know who the Imperial characters are around in this era. But at the same time the story has to develop and we're starting off in a very local area of space, and of the things our heroes will run into is that the more successful they are, the bigger bosses they have to fight, so to speak.


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