George Lucas Had A Hard Time Selling Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Dave Filoni’s experience on “The Last Airbender” came in handy with “The Clone Wars,” a computer-animated series that embraced a similar anime-inspired aesthetic. This would stand in contrast to later cartoon shows like “Star Wars Rebels,” which took its cues from the rounder designs and earthy tones of Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual art for the original “Star Wars” film trilogy. More pertinent to this discussion, this set “The Clone Wars” even further apart visually from “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” a short 2D animated series developed by Genndy Tartakovsky and realized in a highly kinetic, harder-edged style reminiscent of the animation maestro’s other action-driven, dialogue-sparse creations like “Samurai Jack” and eventually “Primal.”

Despite having broadcast Tartakovsky’s animated “Star Wars” short series from 2003 to 2005 (or perhaps because they aired it), the NY Times described Cartoon Network as originally being “lukewarm” on “The Clone Wars.” Fox Broadcasting, whose sister company had released George Lucas’ original and prequel film trilogies in theaters, wasn’t biting either, even with most of the show’s first 22-episode season already nearly done. It’s certainly possible the initial response to Lucas’ prequel films was to blame, although the filmmaker himself felt it had more to do with the show’s tone. “It didn’t fit any of the molds that everybody had. It’s not ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ but at the same time it’s also not ‘Family Guy,'” he reasoned.

Lucas had a point. “The Clone Wars” started out way more kid-friendly and light-hearted than it became in later seasons, but at its core it was always a show about war and the toll it takes on civilizations. Slapstick-y droid antics and clownish alien villains could only do so much to lighten the sights of terrified civilians being taken hostage by aggressive robo-soldiers or desperately fleeing active combat zones.

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