Welcome, Rebelscum readers! This week we’ll be looking back at one of the first forays into Star Wars animation, the Clone Wars 2D micro-series from Genndy Tartakovsky that aired between 2003 and 2005. We’ll be breaking down the key details today, but stay tuned later this week for a “Character Spotlight” on one of Clone Wars’s most fearsome villains, a “Timeline Breakdown” on the larger Clone Wars era continuity, and a “Force Casting” segment speculating on what future Clone Wars installments could look like. Make sure to check out Bobby’s videos on all the best Clone Wars merch that you’ll want to add to your collection.
Before even Dave Filoni joined Lucasfilm, attempts at Star Wars animation hadn’t really gone anywhere. The famous Boba Fett sequence in The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978 and the children’s shows Droids and Ewoks from the mid-1980s were the only examples. However, shortly after the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002, Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky approached Lucasfilm with a pitch for an experimental action series that explored the war between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems.
Unlike any previous animated projects, Tartakovsky's Clone Wars 2D micro-series received the approval and endorsement of George Lucas himself, who was subsequently inspired to develop Filoni's The Clone Wars computer animated series years later. Clone Wars aired three seasons on Cartoon Network between 2003 and 2005, bridging the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
The first two seasons utilize animation models similar to those in Attack of the Clones, and aired as 3-5 minute episodes showing different corners of the war effort. One episode could focus on Kit Fisto in an underwater battle to save the Calamari Council, another could focus on Yoda’s adventures on Ilum, and another could spotlight Mace Windu as he loses his lightsaber and squares off against the droids with hand-to-hand combat. However, the heart of the story is the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan hunts down the inventive bounty hunter Durge, while Anakin duels with Count Dooku’s new assassin Asajj Ventress.
Fans and Lucasfilm executives were so impressed with the first two seasons (collectively known as “Volume One”) that they decided to do something even more ambitious with the third season (which became known as “Volume Two”). The episodes were extended to 12-15 minutes and told a more cohesive narrative that led directly into the events of Revenge of the Sith.
The third season begins by wrapping up the cliffhanger that concluded the previous season, in which Shaak Ti and her Jedi allies are cornered by General Grievous (making his first appearance). The new episodes explore Anakin’s trial to become a Jedi Knight as he’s haunted by visions that foreshadow his dark destiny. The season also explored the invasion of Coruscant, detailing Grievous's campaign to capture Chancellor Palpatine. The final shot leads directly into the beginning of Revenge of the Sith.
Clone Wars may have been initially pitched as an advertising campaign designed to boost interest in action figures, but the series has an enduring legacy for fans. Many of the voice actors that originated their roles on Tartakovsky's Clone Wars 2D micro-series migrated to Filoni's The Clone Wars computer animated series, including James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Tom Kane (Yoda), Corey Burton (Dooku), and Terrence Carson (Mace Windu). It also introduced many fans to Ventress for the first time, as her previous appearances were only in the Republic comic series.
If you haven’t checked out Clone Wars quite yet, it’s not an extensive binge. Both Volume One and Volume Two were recently added to Disney+ in the Star Wars Vintage collection, and you can watch both parts together for a singular two hour experience. Many fans still cite the show as their favorite Star Wars show yet, but any fans of Filoni's The Clone Wars series will definitely want to check out this earlier entry into the era.
To coincide with the release, Hasbro launched some pretty cool action figures that you definitely will want to look for. An initial line of figures in the same animation style included Anakin (padawan), Anakin (battle-scarred), Ventress, a red Clone Captain, a yellow Clone Commander, a blue Clone Lieutenant, a Clone Trooper, Dooku, Durge, Grievous, Windu, and Yoda. Further figures were bundled in DVD 3-packs, including Obi-Wan (Volume One version) and an ARC Trooper, and Wal-Mart exclusives Obi-Wan (Volume Two version), Anakin (Tattooed), Clone Trooper (Volume Two era), Commander Cody, Grievous, and Saesee Tiin. For more details on this line, check out Bobby’s upcoming video on the subject.
New Clone Wars toys are launching soon. Clone Wars-style characters are coming to the 6-inch Black Series include ARC Trooper, Mace Windu, and General Grievous, and the 3.75-inch Vintage Collection will add Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, Barriss Offee, ARC Trooper Captain, ARC Trooper, and a Battle Droid.
Of course, this was only one of the many Clone Wars era projects released by Lucasfilm in between the release of the last two installments in the prequel trilogy. A series of books, the Republic comic series, a Clone Wars animation-style comic series, video games, and a merchandising line (with figures modeled more closely on their appearances in the films) also debuted between 2002 and 2005. Most of this content is now non-canon, but many of the stories are great and set an exciting precedent for Filoni's The Clone Wars series years later.
Some may try to start a debate as to whether Tartakovsky's Clone Wars series or Filoni's The Clone Wars series is the superior series, but there’s no need to argue. Both take a different approach to the era, and both made valuable contributions to the Star Wars universe. If you're watching it for the first time or you’re like me and you’ve watched the entire series countless times, head on over to Disney+ to check out this underrated animated series. Just make sure to come back to Rebelscum to keep up with our Clone Wars coverage!
What do you think? Did you watch Clone Wars when it first aired? Do you like the style of animation? What are some of your favorite moments? As always, may the Force be with you!