As many of you have probably noticed, especially those of you who follow me on my personal Twitter account, 2019 was a challenging year for me in many respects. Deaths in the family, financial woes, job-related anxiety, and the loss of my beloved cat Juno all took their toll on me, robbing me of the enthusiasm and energy I needed to run this site.
That’s why I never got around to writing about the Clone Wars panel that was held at Star Wars Celebration Chicago last April. Months have passed and it’s highly likely that I have nothing new to add, but with the new season of The Clone Wars just weeks away from turning us into emotional wrecks, I thought I’d revisit that panel and mention some of my favourite moments.
Disclaimer: These are my own personal highlights from the hour-long panel. Feel free to share yours in the comments section below!
1 – A Mysterious Text Message
When asked how they had found out that The Clone Wars would be returning for one final season, Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex/Clone Troopers) and Ashley Eckstein let the audience in on their little secret: a surreptitious text conversation they had had months earlier. As Ashley explained, the cast members often feel like they have signed their lives away in NDAs, that they’re always keeping secrets and “trying to be a part of [Dave Filoni’s] trust tree”. But she also pointed out that, as a cast, they are very close – “like a family” – and often tell each other things.
So one day, during a day out at Disney World, Ashley received a mysterious text from Dee that read “You won’t believe what Dave just told me. Shhhhhhh.” Anxious to learn more, she replied with “What????”; Dee replied with a tantalising “Don’t dare even tell anyone I even said anything. Please don’t.”
Their conversation continued for some time, with Ashley wondering if this was some sort of trap and telling Dee to inform Dave that she is not that easily fooled. By this point, the audience was laughing raucously at the two actors’ reenactment of that text conversation and at Dave’s visible bewilderment. The Lucasfilm legend had pulled his hat down to obscure his face and shook his head in disbelief, a scene that was perfectly captured in these sketches by artist Melissa Thomas. Eventually, Dee let the Loth-cat out of the bag and told his inquisitive co-star “CW finale, twelve eps, soon.”
Melissa Thomas (@MeltyArtz) April 18, 2019
An amusing anecdote that led to some equally amusing fan art, including Melissa Thomas’ hilarious sketch of Ahsoka and Rex as Ashley and Dee, texting each other and figuratively tearing Dave’s “trust tree” down one branch at a time.
2 – Ahsoka Has Some Engine Trouble
Fans have been curious to know which of the unfinished story arcs would be adapted for this final season. One of them, much to fans’ delight, will be set in the Coruscant underworld and will explore Ahsoka’s struggle to adjust to life outside the Jedi Order… and safely navigate Coruscant’s traffic lanes. Concept art and rough animations of these scenes have been shown at other Celebration panels, most notably 2015’s “Untold Clone Wars” panel and 2016’s “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel, but seeing a near-complete version of that scene, knowing that it would be part of a multi-episode arc, was like a dream come true.
This exclusive clip gave us a good look at the new episodes’ smooth animation and Ahsoka’s brand new speeder bike outfit, which bears only a passing resemblance to the one shown at Celebration London and on the cover of Star Wars: Ahsoka. While I was a fan of the original outfit, Ahsoka’s new jumpsuit is simple, yet stylish and highly practical, an outfit that would make an fine addition to the Her Universe fashion collection. Sadly, the “boot monkey” – the monkey logo added to Ahsoka’s left boot at Ashley’s request – did not survive the redesign.
Of course, Ahsoka’s outfit wasn’t the only thing that underwent a radical redesign. It seems that Nyx, the love interest teased in the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel, was, well, nixxed. Instead, viewers will get to meet two new female characters who live among the denizens of the Coruscant underworld: sisters Trace and Rafa. And it would be remiss of me not to mention the massive cheer from the audience at the mere mention of “1313”. As Dave Filoni remarked, “Only in Star Wars can a level on a city planet get a cheer”. It’s all about the little things, Dave.
3 – “Glad to Have You Back, Commander”
Anakin and Ahsoka’s reunion was teased during the 2016 “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel, moving Ashley Eckstein to tears on stage and sending the Clone Wars fanbase into a flurry of emotion. Who knew that just a few years later, we’d actually get to see a voiced and animated version of that momentous occasion? Well, aside from Dave Filoni and his team, that is.
Filoni addressed the audience, letting them know that the panel exclusive clip featured unfinished animation and a temporary soundtrack. But he also explained that he knew it was something that fans would appreciate, so he wanted them to experience it there at Celebration. I’ll let the clip speak for itself but may I just say how wonderful it is to see the team back together, before the Dark Times, before the Empire?
I’ll be honest: I absolutely adored this clip but seeing those orange helmets paired with the standard 501st armour was a little jarring, probably because I’m accustomed to seeing fans’ interpretations of the 332nd Legion’s armour. In any case, something tells me that we may need to keep a box of tissues handy when we sit down to watch the finished episodes, knowing that the events of Revenge of the Sith are just around the corner. Buckle up, kids. We’re in for a roller-coaster ride of emotion!
4 – Two Mauls Are Better Than One
One of the most fascinating details to emerge from the panel was that Dave Filoni had invited Ray Park to reprise his old role for this season and provide a motion-capture reference for Maul’s duel against Ahsoka on Mandalore. As Filoni put it, “There’s just something unique about the way Ray moves. It’s a skill, it’s an art, it’s truly him”.
Park previously joined forces with voice actor Sam Witwer to bring the fallen Sith apprentice to life in Solo: A Star Wars Story and if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that this is a match made in heaven. Between Witwer’s extraordinary voice talents and Park’s martial arts expertise, fans are in for a real treat later this year.
5 – A New Day, A New Trailer
If you weren’t already hyped for this new season after watching those exclusive clips, this trailer will surely send your excitement levels into hyperdrive. Clones battling droids, Jedi being accused of being warmongers, Ahsoka wandering through the shadowy realms of Coruscant’s lower levels, Rex remembering his fallen brothers, breathtaking action sequences, and, of course, a teaser of what’s to come in the highly anticipated Siege of Mandalore arc. This final season is pulling no punches!
The trailer has yet to be released as a separate, non-watermarked clip (at least officially) but with the new season’s release mere weeks away, it’s only a matter of time until the floodgates of Clone Wars promotional material are flung wide open.
6 – The Fans
Alright, this may sound corny but what Star Wars panel would be complete without an audience of passionate fans? Panel host Warwick Davies took time to highlight some of the wonderful costumes worn by members of the audience but the most touching moment was when Ashley ran over to the VIP seating section to hug an awestruck fan and take a selfie with him.
Throughout the panel, announcements, sneak peeks, and the guests’ banter were met with jubilant cheers, gasps, and applause. These genuine expressions of love for Star Wars can almost make one forget about the petty arguments about “shipping” and directors “ruining Star Wars” that have become all too commonplace on social media. Whenever I feel glum about the state of online fandom, I turn to panels such as these to remember why I continue to run this site and its social media accounts. It’s those moments of sheer joy and celebration; our shared love for that galaxy far, far away, its bevy of beloved characters, and the people that help craft that universe, whether they’re a Lucasfilm employee, a cosplayer bringing a beloved character to life, or a fan artist posting a sketch on Instagram.
Let’s continue to spread that joy when The Clone Wars returns to our screens in February. And, as always, be mindful of others and tag your spoilers accordingly. 😉
The first six seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are now available to stream on Disney Plus. The seventh (and final?) season will be released on a weekly basis starting from February 17, 2020.