This week, Lucasfilm and Disney announced what many fans had been suspecting for some time; after pulling the plug on Star Wars: The Clone Wars earlier this year, Disney has greenlit a new animated series called Star Wars Rebels to air on Disney XD in fall 2014. In fact, the series has already begun production, and will be debuting preview footage at Star Wars Celebration in Europe this summer.Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class) will serve as an executive producer on the new series, and is writing the pilot.
Dave Filoni, who was the supervising director and lead creative force on Star Wars: The Clone Wars will also serve a executive producer, along with Greg Weisman, producer of fanboy favorite animated series like Young Justice,The Spectacular Spider-Man and Gargoyles. This animation dream team are setting the show during the "Dark Times" between Episode III and IV, and will be using the concept art from Ralph McQuarrie for the classic trilogy as a jumping off point for designing the look of the show. So far, all of this news takes a lot of the sting away from losing Clone Wars so abruptly.
Regardless of what one thinks of the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars animated series ended up being the best Star Wars anything since the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Series producer David Filoni took the lemons of the prequels and gave fans sweet lemonade in exchange, with over one hundred episodes showcasing the best CG action animation on television. Within months of Disney buying Lucasfilm, they cancelled Clone Wars, probably not wanting a Disney owned property on the Time-Warner owned Cartoon Network. Several episodes were already produced for a sixth season, but it seems that Disney was more interested in launching an all-new Star Wars series for their Disney XD channel than playing out one last season of an older show.
The fact that Rebels follows up Clone Wars chronologically means that this new show can be a sequel series in most respects,addressing the dangling plot points left hanging by the abrupt end of the Clone Wars this year, while still being its own show. Star Wars: Rebels can give fans a show set in the beloved timeline of the original movies (or at least closer to it) and please younger fans, for whom the animated series is the only Star Wars they know. And to start things off on a positive note, here are the five characters I most want to see return on Star Wars: Rebels when it makes its debut next year.
5. Darth Maul
When last seen in the final season of Clone Wars, a resurrected Darth Maul was waging his own war on the galaxy as its newest crime lord, along with his brother Savage Oppress. (Yeah, Savage Oppress was a stupid name, but he was actually a cool character.) Of course, Darth Sidious didn't quite like his former apprentice mucking up his plans for the galaxy, and had already replaced him with Dooku, so in a rather awesome fight sequence, Sidious killed Maul's brother and subjected Maul to the old lightning torture routine. We are led to believe this would be the inglorious ending for Maul, but in a surprise twist, Palpatine decided to leave Maul alive for his own, as yet unknown purposes. I can only expect that Filoni had plans for Darth Maul in season six of Clone Wars, as Maul was obviously nowhere to be found in Revenge of the Sith, much less the original trilogy.
So, what if the Emperor's secret plan for Darth Maul was to use him to help the Empire hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi? And what if this puts him into conflict with Palpatine's official Sith apprentice, Darth Vader? The prospect of Darth Maul and Darth Vader, scouring the galaxy for hidden Jedi Knights, then eventually coming into conflict with each other, has to be too good of a prospect for Dave Filoni and the production crew to pass up. It's Star Wars fanboy porn, and it would address one of the biggest loose plot threads left over from the end of the last series.
4. Princess Leia Organa
The inclusion of this character of course depends of course on just when the series takes place; if Rebels takes place say, five years past Revenge of the Sith, then it doesn't make sense, as Princess Leia would still be a little kid. But if they choose to place the series fifteen years after? We could showcase a teenage rebel Leia, learning the ropes of being a badass, maybe even from Ahsoka Tano herself, who is kind of her "aunt" in a way, after all.
Of course, if Leia is around on this new show, that probably means her droids R2 and 3PO will be in tow as well. After Clone Wars, it is hard to imagine a Star Wars cartoon without them. In A New Hope they made mention of having been in several battles in service of the Rebellion...maybe this show could chronicle those early battles, at least in part? Luke gets a lot of credit as the central character of the Star Wars saga, with Han Solo a close second, but the truth is Leia was fighting the good fight long before Luke was, and didn't need to be pushed into doing so by watching her parental figures die an ugly death (although that would happen anyway. Tough break, kid.) If done correctly, a teenage Princess Leia would be an awesome addition to the show.
3. Boba Fett
The Clone Wars animated series had a way of making the best out of a crappy situation (usually a situation created by George Lucas in one of the prequels) and they took the whole "little Boba Fett" storyline from Attack of the Clones and made something cool out of it. On Clone Wars, we saw young Boba in as a revenge driven kid, learning the trade from other bounty hunters, in an effort to make the Jedi Order pay for the death of his father. But as interesting as they made his story...he's still a little kid, and little kids can only be made to be so interesting.
A Rebels series allows us to see an adult version of Boba, who is actually the baddest bounty hunter in the galaxy at this point, or at least well on his way to becoming that. Clone Wars also showcased a great assortment of new bounty hunter and pirate characters, like Hondo and Cad Bane. There is no reason that those guys wouldn't be around during the height of the Empire, and that they wouldn't come into conflict with an adult Boba Fett at some point.
2. Darth Vader
And while we are on the subject of popular Star Wars bad guys, does it get more popular than this guy? With this new show being set in the time period between the two trilogies, it is almost impossible to imagine that Darth Vader won't be the main heavy for the series, or at least appear on a frequent basis. Disney couldn't possibly resist the opportunity to market the hell out of the character and image of Darth Vader now that they own it, and Rebels presents them the perfect opportunity to do so. There were rumors earlier this year that Disney was planning on resurrecting Darth Vader for Episode VII; that always sounded incredibly stupid to me from a story point of view, but it could have been that whoever heard this information got their wires crossed, and the real plan is to use Vader for Rebels.
Dave Filoni and company did a much better job at creating a well rounded Anakin Skywalker than the prequels ever did (I know, that's not too hard) so I'd love to see their take on a fully given in to the dark side Lord Vader. Oh, and I seriously hope they at least try to get James Earl Jones to voice him again; he's lent his voice to the character recently for Star Tours 2.0 at the Disney theme parks, so it's not out of the question entirely. (Don't be cheap, Disney: pony up the cash, Mr. Jones deserves it.) But even if he says no, Darth Vader needs to appear in Star Wars: Rebels in some capacity, or fans everywhere will cry foul.
The most badass female character in the entire Star Wars galaxy (sorry Leia. I love ya, but Ahsoka can take you any day.) Ahsoka was originally created for the Clone Wars animated film, which was essentially the pilot for the series, just for the big screen. Fans hated her at first; a young teenage girl as Anakin's apprentice? And one who gave him the super lame nickname of "Skyguy?" You could hear the collective "Ugh" from fans everywhere.
But as the first season progressed, Ahsoka grew into a real character, developing relationships with not only her master Anakin, but other members of the Jedi Order, like Plo Koon. They turned her into a character who became the heart and soul of the series, and one of its most incredible fighters. Most of the best action scenes in the five seasons of the Clone Wars were centered around Ahsoka Tano, And as the only character whose entire future was not mapped out for her by the live-action features, she was provided with the most character growth of any of the principle cast. A huge amount of her endearing qualities have to be attributed to the excellent voice work of Ashley Ecklestein, who embodied Ahsoka's journey from little kid into a young woman.
Since Ahsoka doesn't appear in Revenge of the Sith, for most of the series' run fans simply assumed she would die during the wars. But in a clever twist, the final episodes of the series featured a story where Ahsoka is framed for murder, and becomes a runaway fugitive out to clear her name. At the end of the story she does prove her innocence, but she chooses to leave the Jedi Order anyway, since she didn't feel the Jedi Council had her back during the whole ordeal, and didn't really believe in her. That leaves Ahsoka still out there, somewhere, during the "Dark Times" in between trilogies.
Since she's such a popular character, especially with fangirls, Filoni and Wesiman would be wise to include her in some capacity in Rebels. She may no longer officially be a Jedi, but she can no doubt still swing a lightsaber, and I like the idea of her coming into conflict with her former master, who is now Darth Vader. Besides, a Star Wars series needs some kind of Jedi Knight action in it...and during the Dark Times, with most of the Jedi dead or in hiding, there's not too many options for that anymore. Ahsoka is the logical choice, and is the best bridge between the two animated series.
And now for the characters we hope the producers stay the hell away from, if only to preserve the integrity (or what's left of it) of the Star Wars storyline...