Avid fans of the critically-acclaimed Star Wars: The Clone Wars will probably already know that Ahsoka Tano was discovered by Plo Koon and brought to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant at the tender age of three.
Until recently, everything we knew about Ahsoka’s childhood was limited to a couple of lines of dialogue and a flashback scene. But during the Ahsoka’s Untold Tales panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016, we learnt that Dave Filoni (Supervising Director of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels) had worked on a fable of sorts that would have explored Ahsoka’s early years and shown how the Jedi came to find her on her homeworld, Shili.
As fellow panellist Pablo Hidalgo (Lucasfilm Story Group) pointed out, “Dave has done a lot of exploration regarding where Ahsoka came from. You’ve seen a little bit of this”.
He then showed a still from the flashback scene from the opening montage of the Clone Wars season 5 episode, ‘The Gathering’. “This actually appeared in one of the episodes. This was the finding of Ahsoka Tano by Plo Koon”.
It’s no secret that Filoni has always been brainstorming potential stories involving Ahsoka, exploring her past, and sketching possible scenarios. And while many of these may never be animated or developed further, he was gracious enough to share some of these concepts with the audience.
“I wanted to show kids a different take on how Jedi find kids. It’s not always that they’re in a terrible situation and that they’re growing up in a horrible life”, Filoni explained, no doubt referring to Anakin Skywalker’s rough childhood as a slave on Tatooine. “She (Ahsoka) might have come from a town that seemed to be excited about her being taken by the Jedi and being initiated to become a Jedi”, positing that this could be “something that would uplift the whole town”.
Looking at those adorable sketches of Ahsoka as a toddler really makes me wish they’d delved into her Togruta heritage a little more in the series. We never really see her interact with other Togruta or even talk about “her people” until season 4’s “Zygerrian slavers” arc and, even then, the subject was barely touched upon.
As someone who has lived abroad for most of her adult life, I can’t help but wonder: Does Ahsoka ever feel homesick? How does her heritage shape who she is as a person and, more specifically, as a Jedi? Perhaps the upcoming novel will shed some more light on this matter. But I digress…
Coming back to the panel itself, Filoni talked about how he had planned to explore Ahsoka’s early years. “So, I actually wrote a story, a fable, about what it was like for her to grow up in that situation, before the Jedi came to get her.” A born storyteller, Filoni likes to make sure his Star Wars stories have clear messages for the audience and, in this particular tale, he had planned to reinforce the notion that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
At this point, we were introduced to Latrans, a character Filoni had conceived for this cautionary tale. “So this here was a character called Latrans that I was investigating, developing, and it was a Jedi that appeared very fair and seemed very kind and had all the things you’d like to attribute to a Jedi. The flowing robes, kind of long, graceful hair, a beautiful alien look. But actually…”
Filoni cut to the next slide, “…it was a bounty hunter in disguise. And I had surmised that because Jedi children were very rare and imbued with the Force, there would be people in the galaxy that would want to kidnap them and take them away”. In fact, we’ve seen this happen in The Clone Wars’ second season, when bounty hunter Cad Bane was hired to kidnap Force-sensitive children for Darth Sidious, and in Star Wars Rebels.
I don’t know about you but I get a bit of a Lara Croft vibe from that sketch in the centre. Must be the backpack, twin blasters, and long ponytail. I wonder if Filoni’s a closet Tomb Raider fan.
“So”, he continued, “while the town had really recognized that Ahsoka was a potential Jedi and they thought this would be great for the town and make them famous in their little sector, it was also dangerous. Because if people intercepted the message to the Jedi, they would come and try to kidnap her. And the town, not ever having seen a Jedi, wouldn’t know a Jedi from a non-Jedi”.
While we never got to see Latrans on the show due to a number of reasons (some financial, some practical), her character design wasn’t completely ditched. Filoni used her features as the inspiration for the Zygerrians and, more specifically, for the Queen of Zygerria, Miraj Scintel.
“She (Miraj) looks a little more rat-like or mousey there and I wanted Lantras to be more like a coyote person, a trickster, someone who is deceptive”. The theme of coyotes as cunning tricksters is one that is common across various Native American cultures and the character name “Latrans” was probably derived from the coyote’s scientific name, Canis latrans.
Just as an aside, I’d also like to point out that a character bearing some similarities to Latrans (and Miraj) can be found in the mobile game, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
The game’s “Jedi Knight Guardian” appears to be Zygerrian in Jedi robes. While I don’t think this was intentional, I still found it quite amusing.
Filoni also shared a couple of sketches he made of Plo Koon while brainstorming his story. “This was Plo Koon when he shows up. Plo Koon’s like the opposite of Latrans. He’s creepy, he’s got the pointy, clawed hand, and he looks really sinister. He’s got like a Kylo Ren vibe to him with his mask”. And as we all know, Master Plo was actually a deeply caring and level-headed Jedi who soon developed a special, almost paternal, bond with the young Ahsoka.
Despite Filoni’s efforts, we’ve yet to see this story told, either through animation or other means. One relatively inexpensive option would be to turn it into a children’s book, as fan Tricia Barr (@fangirlcantina) suggested. It’s certainly an option worth pursuing as it would be a great addition to the Little Golden Books Star Wars collection.
When asked about his sketches, Filoni told host David Collins and the audience that he’d work on his sketches almost anywhere: on flights, during lunch, anywhere he had time to draw and doodle. “It’s all about getting images out of your head and getting them down on paper. And then people can take them somewhere else. I mean, how much of that have I been able to exploit because Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnson and all those artists did so many sketches that they left behind”.
And it’s true. Countless costume designs, character designs, and other concept art created for the original and prequel trilogies were never used in the finished films but have been used in recent years as sources of inspiration for what we’ve seen on The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels as well as in The Force Awakens.
For example, a lot of Ralph McQuarrie’s unused concept art was repurposed for use on Star Wars Rebels. An early version of Chewbacca served as the inspiration for Zeb and the other Lasat, while unused designs for Alderaan’s cities and landscapes became Lothal’s Capital City and its rural outskirts.
Therefore, it’s entirely possible that Filoni’s unused sketches and doodles may inspire a new generation of artists and storytellers. And he’s well aware of this. “I tried to brain-dump as much stuff that George and I talked about or that I’ve thought about so that, you know, who knows in the future…”
At this point, Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano) jumped in to tell the audience that she has a collection of Filoni’s doodles, including one of a breakfast place mat from a meeting years ago. “We’ve been working together since 2006. And during our sessions and events, he’s always doodling. So I literally have a folder of Dave’s doodles from over the years since 2006”.
Collins remarked, jokingly, that “every time I hear you say ‘Dave’s doodles’, I can see a book coming to you in 2018”. Now, all joking aside, I bet a lot of fans would absolutely love to see an “Art of Dave Filoni” book someday. Make it happen, Lucasfilm!
Before moving on to the rest of the hour-long panel, Collins asked Filoni to talk a little about the editing process used on The Clone Wars and how certain story ideas were chosen for further development or disregarded. “You really have to chose, in production, when am I going to get the chance to do that?”, Filoni explained. “The fact is that telling a story about Ahsoka as a very young girl, while I’m excited about that, would that appeal to a mass audience? People want to know that if they invest so much money to produce the show that they’re going to see that back. That’s the reality of film-making”.
While money has always been an issue, that didn’t stop Filoni from finding creative ways to get his ideas into the show. “As a storyteller, I want to tell as many stories as I can. But the reality is that you have to look at it from an economic viewpoint and how am I going to get that told. So I take ideas and start to seed them in. A coyote person exists somewhere in Star Wars because I was able to get them in somewhere.”
“Ahsoka as a little child, the design exists in Clone Wars because I was able to find a way to get in the idea that Plo Koon found her. It’s in the dialogue in the episode ‘Rising Malevolence’ and you see it in a flashback. So I find sneaky ways to get things in and, later on, if we need to develop it into a bigger thing, people have something to look at and go ‘OK, I guess this is what he meant'”.
This article is the first in a series of articles on the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel from Star Wars Celebration Europe. In the next instalment, we’ll be looking at what happened to Ahsoka Tano following her departure from the Jedi Order.