George Lucas Talks ‘Clone Wars’

George Lucas made an appearance at Cartoon Network’s upfront presentation to advertisers and media buyers Thursday morning, previewing his new animated series on the network, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Lucas entered the room flanked by four storm troopers (who gave menacing glares–I think–at people sitting in aisle seats), before taking the stage to show a preview clip from the show and answer questions from Turner Animation president and COO Stuart Snyder about the Clone Wars series.

During the Q&A, Lucas revealed some interesting tidbits about the artistic direction of the series, and how he felt about making the jump to television.

On the art style of the show (Below, Anakin Skywalker is on the right):

“We really just wanted a different take on the animation, a little bit of anime, a little bit of feature animation.”

 “At the same time, when it came to Star Wars, and the look and feel of it, I did want to do something that was a little more in the realm of anime design-wise than what is now currently in television and movies, outside of Japan. I wanted to give it a look and feel of something that is so compact. We picked the Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds to be our inspiration, and you will see it has a very stylized look. I didn’t want it to look like Beowulf, which we could have done, I didn’t want it to look like The Incredibles, when you are doing animation, you have a cast of characters and everyone knows what they look like, you really do have to come up with a very sophisticated and dynamic caricature of those characters.”

“Well, in order to do [the show], one of the things I was able to do was to build a whole new studio in Singapore, and set it up… they really helped us reach our animation ambitions.”

On working in television (notice how he mentions that if you make a mistake it isn’t the end of the world… a reference to Jar Jar Binks perhaps? Or am I thinking too hard):

 “Its great. I have always loved television, I loved doing the Indiana Jones Chronicles. It’s a much freer form than doing a feature film. [In film] it takes you a long long time to do it, and it all comes out on one weekend, in terms of growth. Television, oddly enough, has a longer life, its repeated and repeated, and at the same time you are producing it without having to put the same amount of focus on it. Its much more like the old fashioned studio system, where you create ideas and you execute them– and there are a lot of ideas. If you make a few mistakes or something, the end of the world isn’t going to happen, you can get away with it and no one notices, because of the nature of the fact that it comes out every week, and it moves so fast. It just gives you more creative freedom, to take chances you don’t have in features.”

On why now was the right time to bring Star Wars to television:

“This is a project we have been working on since the end of Revenge of the Sith, I have worked with animation before in film school and with The Land Before Time… I just felt it was time to explore that medium, and at the same time be able to explore a part of the Star Wars [universe] that is so vast, that you can’t only deal with the Luke Skywalker saga and the Anakin Skywalker saga, you get to deal with, in the new shows, the minutiae of the Clone Wars, which has a built in plot.”

“We did some experimentation with Cartoon Network before to see what would happen, how we could do it. That was a success for us, I am really excited to do it, to do an original half hour series. We’re hoping to go for quite a while with this.”

Why Turner?

 “Well, we were looking for a multi-faceted company, and we have taken [Clone Wars] to a lot of companies, and a lot of them scratched their head and said ‘we don’t know what to do with this.’”

“It is Star Wars, and as a result it lands in that area where people anywhere from eight to 80 enjoys it. But in terms to where it is targeted, it is targeted to a sort of 12 year old, and with cartoons [that appeal to] 12 year olds, you need to be able to do adult humor.”

“[Clone Wars] is true family entertainment, in that grandparents can watch it, parents can watch it, kids can watch it.”

The preview clip, which Snyder called “simply amazing” was exactly that. The animation was spectacular, the sound was brilliant. At times the animation looked exactly like the CGI effects from the Star Wars movies, but when a recognizable character appears (cough, Yoda, cough) the artistic style of the show shines through. The series has a totally unique look, and as Lucas said, it is not Beowulf (the CGI movie that was released last year, based on the classic tale), nor is it The Incredibles, it is something totally different, and it works.

I honestly did not know what to expect with the show going into the presentation, but after seeing the clip and hearing Lucas, I am excited. Star Wars is back!